Monthly Archives: April 2011

Our Red Dirt Royal Wedding

by Kate

As the coverage of the royal wedding builds to a fever pitch. the Slattery clan is off and rushing towards Oklahoma City by plane train and automobile for the wedding of our own King Rob.

Granted, his domain was limited to a teenaged life spent alternately dominating the basketball courts and lying in bed eating potato chips while bellowing demands for his slavish younger siblings, who were required to serve him hand and foot in exchange for the privilege of spending time in his presence watching his television, which was the only one in the house.  Nevertheless, Rob has always felt like a king. Luckily for him, those basketball skills came in handy to help him find a queen. While realizing his lifelong dream of playing college basketball, Rob met Nicole.

Nicole is a gorgeous blond Oklahoma girl just shy of six feet tall. She and Rob are a striking sight.

Rob is a carpenter, and last fall he was building a barn behind my parents house.

He was also building a plan to get hitched. Nicole was visiting from Oklahoma and early in the morning he took her to a cabin high on a Wisconsin ridge with sweeping views of the whole wide world.

He brought her coffee, the newspaper, breakfast, a dozen yellow roses….

…and an engagement ring.

King Rob was pretty thrilled to have found a future queen.

Nicole was thrilled too, even though she was quickly drafted into manual labor in the squash field.

Somehow this did not deter her from planning a future life on a ridge top in Wisconsin.

This weekend, Rob and Nicole are getting married in Oklahoma City.Then they can set about creating their own private basketball team.

It promises to be one heck of an adventure. Please pray that there are no tornadoes, and that the Amish passenger van carrying my parents and a scattered assortment of old and young people makes it safely across the great plains. We will tell you all about the festivities, with pictures of course, starting next Monday.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Letter to my Brother Rob

by Mary

In the days of childhood, the sky was the limit for our games. Ever the builder, Rob lead us troops (ie) Pat, Raph and I on a hang glider making kick. We used old black plastic and sticks to create homemade gliders that we tested out off our barns roof into the manure pile. Needless to say, this project panned out to be a dangerous disaster, but many other games of self innovation followed suite, generally either set in midwood or in one of Robert’s many elaborate tree houses. Often times we could be spotted with knives, hatchets, and wearing our full indian costumes that my mother made for each of her middle children.

Later on, these games were taken over by the game of basketball, which once again Rob choose and excelled at. Hundreds of hours were spent in the parking lot with a band of brothers, myself, and an orange ball. By high school there were no more imaginative games. In the summer we kids could be found at Rung Hollow swimming. What fun it was to plunge off the barge rope into the cool lake! Winter time provided my family the opportunity to watch my brother’s basketball games.  It was a gift for the household to be able to watch Rob develop as an athlete and to follow his teams ups and downs on long cold Wisconsin winter nights.

As the chronicle of our childhood and teenage years dissipated, Rob became a rambling man. His adventures initially took him south, and than on to Texas where he became a philosophical, two-stepping carpenter. For as long as my memory serves me, he always has had the ability to express logic to me in a way that presented sensibility (depending on my mood). It is no wonder that contingent to his wanderings, Rob applied himself to studying Philosophy and Theology. Of Robert’s theological musings, my favorite has been when he shares insights on the subject of virtue. Upon the quest to obtain knowledge on this principle, my brother packed his black nissan truck and moved to Steubenville Ohio. While studying at the University of Steubenville, he came upon virtue in the form of human flesh…Nicole Naugle.

Nicole is a devout and virtuous women. She has a carefree laugh and honest sincerity. Soon she and Rob will be embarking on the adventure of life as husband and wife.

As a virtual expression of sisterly sentiment, I would like to continue this post with some pictures that depict my brother Robert James Slattery.

Robert: A true chivalrous desperado in desperate need of a haircut.

Behind my fears and insecurities, I always knew that my big brother would protect me from getting hurt. He has always been able to extend a hand to help me up when I am down, or use it to protect me. He has man-handled my arab/shetland pony when she would buck me off faster than I could blink, and taken care of business to an Etrick victim:) 😦

P.S. I am going to tag on the addition of saying that I totally brought the genius of Wranglers into this household, he totally copies me by wearing wranglers, and doesn’t even know it!

Super sweet, super caring, that’s my big bro.

Rob and I do have our battles-we still fight over Mom.

Fortunately, he has found a good woman who exhibits similar qualities to that of my mother.

I have this theory that siblings who are closest in age fight the most and also the most protective of one another. That’s certainly the case with us two. One thing of more of a trivial nature is the disdain I feel towards some horrid shirts that he likes to wear. He really truly sincerely thinks that this worse- than -awful dream shirt, for a 80 year old retiree on a golf coarse in Florida, is GREAT. I should add that he has been wearing it since he was an 18 year old with peroxide blonde hair. Yikes!

I can’t produce a blog post on my brother without mentioning that he has a lot more people then his little sister valuing his company. Rob is a natural leader and has a plethora of friends. As a matter of fact, for the last 2 remaining weeks of his life as an unmarried man, he had 2 friends fly to Wisconsin to spend time with him, followed by a drive to Texas with a slew of guys to farther celebrate his time as a bachelor. The way I put it to my sister Kate was ” gosh, it’s like he is dying of cancer of something…the way those guys are hovering around him!”
Leave it to that popular brother of mine.

Dear Brother Of Mine,
Though the world is a harsh place, and it is especially difficult on men trying to live in this world as a catholic spouse, father and provider, I have no doubt that you will whether all Wisconsin and Worldly storms, and be victorious as a the man and provider God calling you to be. Just get out in the storm and fight with VIRTUE!

Love forever,
your stubborn little sister,

The Mexican Mohawk Mullet

by Kate

This was the Easter of the Mullet.

Let me explain. My husband is a man of many talents- teacher, musician, fire-knife dancer, and aspiring mixed martial arts legend. Sadly he refuses to reprise his youthful days as a strolling six foot five half Mexican mariachi for me, but I have (mostly) accepted this fact. Instead, this year he has devoted himself to excellence in two of his passions. The first is his work as a high school religion teacher. The second is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and the full gamut of mixed martial arts encompassing grappling, judo, muy thai, and sambo among others. The passion for MMA was an important component in the Mullet Adventure.

Casey’s mother is from Mexico, and as a fighter he is inspired by the fiery Mexican Bantamweight Miguel “Angel” Torres.

I think you can see where I am going here. Yes, the power of the Mexican mo-mullet appears to propel Miguel Torres to the heights of victory.

As Casey headed into the home stretch of the school year, he thought that perhaps a dignified hint of a Mexi-mullet might inspire him to greatness in the classroom.

But how, you ask, how is it possible to obtain a dignified religion teacher head of hair with a faint yet powerful hint of a mohawk mullet? No problem! This has been done before. The first time Casey dreamed of this hairstyle, I initially made an appointment at a chic local salon catering to the uberstylish. Then, on my walk home through the neighborhood my eye fell upon the friendly little salon on the main street, almost directly under the apartment where we lived throughout our first year of married life. I realized that the women in this salon were world class experts at the dignified mullet, having been giving them nonstop for the past twenty five years or so. One or two even sported mulletish styles themselves. I canceled the first appointment and made a new one with the down home main street ladies. Everything went smoothly. Casey came out looking sharp with a hint of that fierce mullet of power feeling.

Given this previous experience, it is not surprising that he went back for a repeat experience. This time though, as he relaxed in the chair flanked by blue haired Lawrenceville ladies in curlers, he suddenly felt a bit… bare. He opened his eyes, looked into the mirror, and blinked. Then he asked “You are doing a mullet, not a mohawk…. right?” The beautician gasped, realizing her mistake. Sadly, it was too late. Casey had moved beyond power mullet into some sort of cross between an Aztec warrior and a skunk.

Yes, that is one glorious Mexican mane. To be honest, it still did look quite a bit like Miguel Torres. Miguel, Champion Bantamweight:

Casey. Champion.

I think you will agree though that it was not quite appropriate for a high school religion teacher.

The solution lay up the hill in Italian neighborhood of Bloomfield, in a manly blue and white and red barbershop with a real barbers pole out front. It was so manly that Casey forbid me to enter, but I glanced in the window several times while strolling past and felt confident that Casey was in the right hands. The place was full of men and had an air of clean, military precision.

Forty five minutes later, he emerged a new man, and a respectable citizen again.

But if you look closely you will see that the hint of a Mexican power mo-mullet is still there.

It is my hope that the power will carry him through the end of the school fighting, er, teaching like a champion.

Prepping for the Pilgramage

by Clare

One of the perks of going to a Catholic school is the amount of days you get off from school. While Colleen and James are stuck in their public high school for one more day this week, my school has given us an extra day off to honor Holy Thursday. Finding myself with nothing to do until my mom writes up another dreaded job list, I decided to write a blog post. It’s been 21 days since I last posted something, and my competitive spirit doesn’t like being behind on the number of blog posts each of the sisters has written. Of course, I could try to tell you that I had nothing to write about, but that’s not true. I could have written about the manicure I got as a birthday present from Mary (thank you Mary), or how it’s three days before Easter and there’s snow on the ground. But being the pretty lazy person I am, I didn’t. It seems all I can think about it is the upcoming wedding I am going to attend. More specifically, the trip I will be taking to get to that wedding. Being the kind of person who likes to makes lists and charts in their spare time, I have even assembled a seating chart for the trip which I think could be a very useful. You see, James and I, the two youngest, have been stuck with the runt of transportation to the wedding. The van. The horrible 15-passenger van that will be filled with exactly 15 people. If you haven’t already read it, go ahead and read The Slattery Oklahoma Suburb Rush of 2011. It’ll give you a clear perspective of what exactly I’m talking about. But basically, it will be me in a van with two elderly folks, mom, dad, my poor uncle who we hired to drive (he better be getting paid a lot for this job), my sister-in-law with her four small children, my brother, my 17 year-old cousin, and my other cousin with cerebral palsy. For 14 hours or so. Not including the trip back. Yeah.

I am generally a good traveler. Quite possibly the best in the family. I love getting to sit in a car for hours on end doing just about nothing. I really do. A moving vehicle is my absolute favorite place to read, and so as long as I have a few good books that will last me the trip and some Corn Nuts, the essential travel food, I am a perfectly happy traveler. But this trip, I’m not so sure about. There are just so many elements of it that seem like they could make the trip slightly…horrendous. But it should be quite interesting, and I’ll probably remember it for the rest of my life. And you can be sure you’ll get a very accurate and detailed account of it as soon as I get back. If I ever do get back….

Fumes Have Risen!

by Mary

Though I am known to have a fearless attitude in many circumstances, I have taken on a new phobia: Candles at the Easter Vigil. In the days of old, they have amused me with their drippy wax that is such fun to mold while the church is a glow from soft joyful lighting of the little white sticks.
When Colleen was a young girl, her hair caught on fire from the candle of Clare, who was at the time just a four year old baby of the family. I can’t remember the incident too clearly, but the accident has remained a family joke of sorts every Easter.
Before going to the vigil the other night, I took a curling iron to my long hair and manipulated it into a mass of spiraled subservience with the help of an old can of hairspray left over from Kate’s wedding that was nearly two years ago.
At church I slid into the back pew next to my little brother James, and started preparing for the special mass. Somewhere along the line, I whispered to James “just don’t light my hair on fire”, and drifted into thoughts that had nothing to do with sarcastic joking.
Did I ever come out of this time of personal reflection, when my hair had an inch long orange blaze leaping to life compliments of James! With my hand I batted at it in terror. Thankfully, I managed to smolder the ignited section, but unfortunately, the smell of burnt hair permeated the air. Unsure of what to do next, I started finger raking charred hair out of my curls that were saturated in alcohol due to the spray. My first reaction was to cry, but I hate crying in front of people, so hysterical laughter started bubbling out of me into the silence of the congregation.
I ended up pushing my way out of the pew, past my brother Robert and our family friend Ben. My exit plan was to get to the bathroom. The four inch designer stilettos that I picked up at a thrift store the other month when on a shopping spree for an African Orphanage Shoe Drive, made a noisy calamity on the tiled floor as I bolted.
In the basement of the church I washed  the black soot from my hands and contemplated going to the choir to hide next to my mother upwind from the smell of the fried hair. Later I was informed by Colleen that plan wouldn’t be of merit, for the smoke made it’s way there too.
After some internal debating, I decided to take my old seat, because, after all, everybody already knew that it was my dead hair fuming up the church. The rest of mass was thankfully uneventful, save James loudly bursting out “I am an idiot”, and the dramatized coughing of a man one pew up.
This particular parishioner is known to rarely frequent mass. His wife and kids come without him, and his loyalty seems to be more extended to attending parish softball games.
My guilty conscience imagined him making future excuses to not come to church by saying ” Can’t do it honey, it’s an awful nauseating environment, my lungs just can’t hack it, the headache that I got last time round from that Slattery girl was the heap of burning hair was somethin bad…”
My mortification made me want to apologize to the entire group of people gathered at the Jewel On The Ridge Parish. Save James of course. I guess I will just have to rise above the occasion. Next Easter Vigil I am sure to shy away from
(a) Candles
(b) Using a crazy amount of hairspray on my hair
I will make a point to take in the sweet aroma of easter lilies, incense and oils.
Alleluia! He has risen!
Until next time,

German Churches, Bicycles, and an Easter Baby

by Kate

I have always loved Holy Week. The drama, the pageantry, the depth and richness, the sheer endurance needed to make it through the services which have in my experience ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Growing up and attending the beautiful red brick German St. Peter’s parish across the road from our ridgetop farm, I loved the fact that the appropriateness of the thin, reedy, dirge-like and dragging rendition of “Were You There.” In my 20’s I moved to far flung places and joined church choirs that burst forth in polyphonic brilliance with the Hallelujah chorus at the end of the Vigil service, but there is a special place in my heart for the brave, tiny rural choirs directed by women like my mother and my grandmother, fiercely determined to create passion and drama and beauty and bring to life the rich musical tradition of the church with a rag tag band of eye rolling teens, a couple gruff farmers, quavery sopranos, and a startlingly robust alto or two.

Last year though I wasn’t anywhere near a country choir, but here in the city attending services at our local neighborhood church. Like the church of my childhood, St. Augustine’s is a German built parish, red brick and soaring towards the heavens but on a much grander city sized scale. Here is St. Augustine himself.

St. Augustine’s is a very handsome church, with light streaming through  beautiful stained glass windows.

My favorite, the one which most often captures my gaze and imagination, is St. George with his white steed, glowing with light and color.

During Holy Week last year though, my imagination was not so much captured by St. George as by the fact that I was due to have a baby at any moment. I thought perhaps I would be exempted from my Holy Week duties, but it was not to be. That baby was completely content to stay curled up right where she was. She was determined to experience the whole of Holy Week and the Easter celebration from her warm quiet and cocooned interior cushioned position.

Good Friday last year was warm and sunny, and after I walked home from church with Casey we pulled out the vintage bicycles inherited from my grandparents and older than either of us. Somehow we had never managed to use them until this day, but the sun was shining and it was one of our last days sans infant, so we thought we would set off to explore. Sadly there is no photographic documentation of this event. You will simply have to use your imagination to picture a six foot tall full term pregnant woman with a sun hat on and a long lanky six five husband weaving through the city on vintage early 70’s bicycles. It was a glorious adventure that led through back alleys barely covering hundred year old cobblestones, along the river, through the downtown, out to Point State Park, and back to Lawrenceville. The rugged terrain didn’t faze the happy baby however. She waited till after we had attended Easter morning mass to arrive.

Now I have an Easter baby, which adds another level of joy to Holy Week. This year though she is an Easter toddler, which means that soon I will corral her and cart her off to Good Friday services. I am fairly certain that joy will not be the only emotion I experience. Wish me luck.

Tighten your belt- it’s Triduum Time!

by Colleen

I woke up this morning in the usual way for the last leg of the school year- wishing for more sleep, but knowing there was none to be attained.  But, the sun pouring golden light through my windows was all the incentive I really needed to hop out from under my covers, and the promise of a hot chocolate with breakfast wasn’t too bad either.  What was really on my mind was that today is the day, Holy Thursday, the start of what is known in the Catholic Church as the Triduum. 
These three days, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, lead up to Easter Sunday, and while filled with the potential of many graces and reflection  of one’s relationship with God, are slightly stressful for an organist.  Especially when one is the only organist for a parish.  Especially when that person is me.  I have been known to get a little cranky during these days, a mood that is typically out of character for me.  But, this year being my last year as the chief organist at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, I don’t feel so cranky anymore.  In fact, when I woke of this morning, I was (dare I say it?) excited for the start of this most holy trio of days.  And I’ll try to keep that cheery outlook in place as I lug my six or so accompaniment books across the road for the start of this church marathon.  Wish me luck (and grace) as I make my way towards the starting line!

Field Trip and Foreign Exchange

by Colleen

It seems to me that I do have the misfortune of being too city for the country and too country for the city, as Kate has said of herself as well.  This fact was made even more apparent to me this past weekend when I traveled to Wisconsin’s capitol, the great and liberal city of Madison,  for the State Forensics competition (for those who think I am talking about cutting up bodies and analyzing remains, forensics is basically speech/debate competition).

A busload of Cashton kids was unleashed on the city for a day under iron gray clouds, spitting out bits of cold rain and occasional hail. (Ah!  Beautiful Wisconsin spring weather….but wait ,that is another issue entirely.)  My beautiful Ukrainian friend, Kseniya, was along for the trip, and throughout the day, she was to prove to me just how country I was.

Kseniya is from a large city in Ukraine, and despite being in a place where she is not a native speaker, she can get around better than I can.  Several times throughout the day when we didn’t know where to go, she would simply walk up to the nearest person and ask where something was or how to get into a place, absolutely confident, despite her accent.  This was amazing to me.  Here I was, a person who’s lived in Wisconsin all her life, unable to sum up the courage to ask which way up even was.  Kseniya was astounded, saying, “That’s the reason I love cities!  You can ask anyone a question and they will tell you what you need to know,” and, “Don’t you love being able to smile at random people on the street?” Ummmm, no, because I live on top of a ridge where the main population is Slatterys.

Although I wasn’t used to not being able to jaywalk across the streets and the sheer amount of people all around me, I did love the city.  I loved walking down the street and looking in shop windows, filled with everything from popcorn to high fashion.  Cafes populated almost every corner and spread warm light and the luscious scents of rich coffee and sugary pastries into the rain darkened afternoon, a sore temptation for a Catholic girl with a coffee and bakery fetish in the throes of Lent.

I ultimately returned home late that night with a gold medal for solo acting in Forensics, a severely lightened wallet, and a new appreciation for the braveness of my city friend, Kseniya. I liked the glimpse into city life, but I still don’t know what I am.  Country?  City?  Can I have both?

The Downtown Department Store

by Kate

The presence of a downtown department store in Pittsburgh has always been one of things that makes me feel as though I live in a Big City.

Growing up in the middle of dairy country without a tv made it tough to imagine what a life in City would be like, but plenty of old fashioned books and catching half of Miracle on 31st Street at a holiday party assured me that it definitely involved catching a streetcar and going downtown for the afternoon to visit the Department Store and have a milkshake at the soda fountain. Last Friday, that is (more or less) what we did.

In the absence of streetcars, we went around the corner to catch the bus. It was a glorious sunny spring day, meaning it was time for me to pull out my sunhat.

About the hat. A couple years ago, when I still lived down south, it occurred to me that my Irish skin and the searing summer sun didn’t mix.The problem was that I have an an aversion to the various heavy and nostril assailing sunblock concoctions out there. This did not faze the southern beau I had at the time one bit. “Git you a hat, woman!” said he, and so I did. It was surprisingly good advice. Do I look like an idiot? Yes. A picturesque one, though. It keeps the sun off and the sunblock too.

Today, The Downtown Department store (and our destination) is Macy’s.

This has only been true for a few years. From 1877 until 2006, it was the flagship operation of the famous Kaufmann’s Department store chain. With 12 retail floors, spanning an entire city block,  referred to simply as “The Big Store”. This remains an apt description.

Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned by Edgar Kaufmann to design the executive offices on the top floor. The exterior of the building is a striking Neoclassical Style Revival. Perhaps the most iconic detail is a huge ornamental clock. This clock has been a popular downtown meeting place  for almost a hundred years.

It is the clock that really makes me feel like I have stepped into the storybooks I read growing up, the clock that makes a trip to the department store seem magical.

The clock was much more alluring than the window displays, which hinted that perhaps I would not find my magic inside as they promised. Certainly there seemed to be no chance of finding my magic in knits.

Trenches did not seem promising, either.

Spring 2011 appears to be all about neutrals.

Pale neutrals are a lovely concept, but the sad fact of the matter is that they dramatically reveal coffee stains. This is a deal breaker for me. Also my aforementioned Irish skin is pale enough without being swathed in shades of oatmeal. This color palette tends to make me into a sort of six foot pale neutral person.

The window displays inspired in me the usual terror and qualms that I experience every time I am in or near a department store. I love the idea of these stores, in books, but the reality makes me feel like an awkward ungainly impoverished coffee stained wild haired country bumpkin. Perhaps this is because I am. Taking a deep breath, I bumbled my way through the revolving doors and into a vast expanse of mirrored glass, marble, gleaming surfaces, and a spectacular amount of pink.

There is a wedding coming up (in case you missed it, read more here) and this means that I have given myself permission to go to a real live makeup counter. Due to a mixture of shy terror and complete poverty, I only purchase department store makeup when an upcoming nuptial event gives me the excuse. The last time I bought eyeliner was just before my own wedding two years ago. As a bellydancer who paints on vast quantities every other week, I recently decided to face the fact that my paint pot was drying up and decided this wedding was the perfect excuse to invest in a whopping $21.50 in real makeup, thus earning a Clinique gift bag which would instantly transform me into a chic, clean, classy person ready to attend a wedding.

I am scared of the fancy ladies at the makeup counters, and the men too. The first time I gathered up the courage to visit one and have my face done I was 23 and I will never forget my makeup artist, Bruno, telling me that indeed it was crucial that I wax my eyebrows or I would look like, well, him. His thick black eyebrows were impeccably waxed but that did not disguise the fact that without intervention they would clearly have taken up at least 1/3 of his forehead.

This time, the fancy lady who finally found time to fuss and flutter and dab my lips with various lipsticks was very sweet, and kind. No mention of eyebrows. There were various experiments in the world of color.

I have to be honest and say I am not quite sure how I walked away from the counter with a lipstick called Ginger Flower. It is… bright pink. Very bright reddish pink. Perhaps the word coral is appropriate. Coral lipstick is another thing that sounds great in books, but is a bit challenging to pull off in real life. However, the makeup counter lady assured me that it was stunning. I decided that a springtime wedding would be a great time to look stunning even as I (accurately) predicted that my husband would instead choose to describe the effect as “clown-like”.

My secondary goal on this trip was to sample Chanel No. 5. I recently read a book chronicling the history of this perfume. It was a great book, and a fascinating history full of passion, monasteries, nazis, great escapes, espionage, chic, and luxury. I realized while reading it that I had no idea what the scent born and causing such drama smelled like, so it was imperative that I try it.

Not bad, is my verdict, though I liked the book better than the perfume. Thankfully my husband who was not raised in a free range manner on a farm recently taught me how to sample perfume while loking civilized and avoid spraying it heavily on my body and random passerby while sort of jerking spasmodically in an attempt to wave the scent around. As a result this scent sampling session was almost entirely unembarrassing. I liked the Issey Miyake featured in the picture, too.

The cosmetics and perfume counter is only the beginning of the first floor of eleven at the downtown Macy’s. Although my eyes were already beginning to gloss over and my breath come short at some point, I decided that I must make some attempt to dig deeper into the retail jungle. This meant taking the escalators up to the fifth floor to glance over the 2011 crop of prom dresses. As a harpist, I am always on the lookout for extravagent poufy formal dresses. You never know when they’ll come in handy for an upcoming gig. Sadly, my research revealed that the current model of prom dresses are absolutely useless for a harpist.

Or for someone who would like to sit down at any point while wearing one.

Or for thousands of young women who will deeply regret their prom photos years hence.

Ah well. There are plenty of other formal dresses with skirts in the world, and I almost never buy them till they get to the thrift store anyway.

The prom dresses were more than enough to round out my department store adventure, and I decided it was time to make my way down the escalators, past the soda fountain, and out the revolving doors. The directory reminded me that there are far more mysteries to be explored at a future date- including the Fur Vault, which I definitely don’t have the courage to broach at this point.

Just before I left the store, I spotted a man in a fedora at the bus stop across the street. Just for a second I saw the past juxtaposed on the present, and I felt less lonely in my sunhat.

I am sure that I will return to the downtown department store again someday in the future. Will you meet me at the clock?

Till we meet again,


Post Voting Nostalgia

by Mary

One evening last week I drove the three miles down Hwy 33 to our local Town Hall to vote. Before going inside, I halted and knocked mud off my boots. Not that it really mattered, but I had been euthanizing a bed of dreadfully ugly graveyard flowers (aka, day lilies), and I didn’t want to track mud into the building. When I entered my local town hall, I took a second to reflect on what the environment would look like from a 3rd party perspective.
The hall is very small and always warm. The heat is generated by a old cast iron wood burning stove that even in April was still being utilized. The curtains which hover over the three or four voter booths must have once been white, but are yellow from age. Looking at them made me wonder if a farm wife had sewn them in the 60’s or 70’s? What is most famous to me about the place is the ballot machine that I swear is bulimic! In goes my vote, out it is spit. After one regurgitation, my vote went through, and I was back in my car processing things. From an outsiders view, my world must appear so small.
However, I don’t look at it that way at all. The best way of going about explaining this, would be to start off by stating the I am the daughter of a former journalist. In a sense, my father gave me the world and simultaneously brought it to our door. He did this in many different ways. First off, he introduced us kids to the key that brings the world to life anywhere and everywhere. It’s free (well actually, I have had up to a $40 fine on mine), is less than an inch in length and plastic-a library card. All of my life, I have followed my parents example and read and read and read, That very morning, I had risen at 5:30 with the addiction to squeeze time into my day for a fantastic novel on Nepal and it’s civil war. Through pages of books, the world has been introduced to me in such a raw way.
Being a reporter enabled my Dad to take us kids out into the world with him. Growing up, I attended meetings, conventions, long masses that I had had a notorious time sitting through, and other assignments with Dad. Typically, a few of us kids would pile into a falling apart car with him. We would bring our substance of survival-books, and hope that the place or places we were going would have good food to rush at (Slattery kids are always first in food lines, it’s like a survival thing I think), and that we wouldn’t get into too many scrapes from frowning adults while we “free ranged it” for the day.
My parents exhibit a certain charisma that welcomes the world to their very own doorstep. A quick list of a few of our more cultured (and less crazy) guests would include: My Dad’s best friend, a former American resident, who has been serving overseas with the Peace Corps for the last 20 some years, many Muslims and Hmong families have frequented our farm. Also, Dad has a ton of priest friends who have come from all over. India, Africa, and Mexico are the places of which most would tell you is their home origin. One of my favorite group of guests ever, were 4 Landless Peasants from South America, who came to the States to protest Monsanto. Talk about a learning experience under your very own roof! In the days before my birth, Dad and Mom had somehow befriended a Polish refugee who lived with our family. After Robert was born, he moved out, so I never really got to learn much about his country until later on when my Dad started inviting over Victor Lugalis. Victor was a Orthodox Priest from Lithuania who had wife and three children. The Lugallis family taught my family a whole lot about Soviet History and Mom and Kate even performed in a play that he wrote on Poland.
As a young girl, I was uncomfortable and even resentful due to the level of “weirdness” that I was constantly exposed to. I didn’t get why I had to spend time traversing about the diocese or beyond with my Dad, lugging his camera case and having what seemed like every Priest in the area know my family’s name. I was absolutely confident that knowing poultry words in Hmong and being the only white kid at their celebrations save my brothers, was not fun, nor anything to be proud of.
As the years have ebbed by, I am increasingly grateful for the gift of the world given to me by my Father. I am proud of being able to vote at a tiny town hall that has an ample supply of firewood and a certain peace to it. My roots are here in Wisconsin, I am not and never will be a city person. I hate elevators, can’t drive in city traffic and am in a general state of confusion over how to cross a street in a busy city. But the world as a whole is something that I hold a sacred reverence for…it’s a beautiful puzzle, and I am not afraid of it. Thank you Dad!