The audiotape crackles,
brittle 60 years after
dad lugged his reel-to-reel
to the gray Florida farmhouse.
He wanted to capture his immigrant parents –
the scowler in her flower sack housedress,
her sun-baked farmer in his cotton tee –
and hear their stories again.
How they climbed aboard at 19,
lovers in steerage,
rocked across the ocean to Ellis Island
penniless and unconnected.
How they picked their way
through Southern Ohio coalmines,
took in boarders,
hand-washed sooty clothes.
How they landed finally here,
in this tiny Slovak pocket off U.S. 41.
planted pear trees in sandy gray loam,
turned fruit, like water, into wine.
They were in the South
but not of the South,
fried sweet dough into ruskis, sliced salami,
spoke English without all the words.
On this day, attention turns
to an 8-year-old granddaughter.
“What,” the farmer asks,
“will you be all grown up?”
My child voice crawls timid on tape,
heavy with southern drawl.
I guess I’ll teach…
if they’ll have me.
The audiotape crackles.
You not be doctor?
Sixty years later I understand.
He wasn’t kidding.
Pat Snyder Hurley, a recovering attorney, writes a regular humor column, “Balancing Act,” for ThisWeek community newspapers in the Columbus, Ohio area, and has authored a book, The Dog Ate My Planner: Tales and Tips From An Overbooked Life. A former reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal, she has also had essays published in the Cup of Comfort and Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. A new poet, her work has appeared in the literary journal Still Crazy, Common Threads, a journal of the Ohio Poetry Association, and OPA’s ekphrastic poetry anthology A Rustling and Waking Within. She never did become the teacher her 8-year-old self planned to be.