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!