IF I LIVE TO BE ELEVENTY-FOUR, I'll never quite forget the sounds of home. Quiet evenings back at the homestead, when Father would pull his kobza from his feather-lined briefcase and serenade us with tunes from the old country. Mother would accompany on the timpani, and Baby Lily would sing the songs that made us weep.
On the odd summer evening that was not occupied in song and melody we would watch as Father would perform pantomime acts – he would laboriously apply the white-face and his black beret, and spend hours amusing us by attempting to climb out of a non-existent box or by ringing the doorbell of a non-existent house and then running away when the owner came to answer. As Father performed the pantomime, Mother would give the loudest critique.
“What chicanery!” she would yell, “There is no door and hence no doorbell! Don't quit your day job!”
We would be very amused, but the neighbors would slam their windows shut and sometimes hurl racial epithets.
“Bastard Kaszubs! Go back where you came from! Take your duck's blood soup with you!”
Baby Lily would stop singing, burst into tears and rush into the house. It might be hours before we would be able to lure her out of her room.
Father and Mother would only persist in the art forms of the homeland for so long when such resistance began in the neighborhood. They would mostly save our Kaszubian hoedowns and pantomimes for vacation periods – such as when the entire neighborhood (comprised mostly of immigrant Swedes of Mexican extraction) would empty out during the druidic holy festivals. There in our neighborhood-become-ghost town our little familial Kaszubian orchestra would serenade for hours once again, without oppression and with no neighbors to annoy.
When the music wound down for the evening the whole family would drift indoors to enjoy the sumptuous ethnic feast I had prepared for them. Blood soup, pickled eels, Twinkies and Tang. We would feast ravenously on the delights of the old country, and little Baby Lily would hum a contented tune through bloody,cream-smeared lips.
If I live to be eleventy-four, I'll never quite forget the sounds of home.