"Eating A Mango Over The Kitchen Sink" by Phebe Hanson from Why Still Dance
It's the only way to do it, even though Melody, my Weight Watchers
lecturer, has admonished us against the over-the-sink method of eating:
"Use your best china and silver, sit down, light candles, eat slowly."
But a mango is a different story, impossible to eat except leaning
over the sink, tropical juice dripping down my pale Minnesota
winter wrists as I gaze
out at snow raging against my windows, like the storms of my childhood.
How I used to love them, when everything shut down — schools, stores,
post office, bank, and churches. "I suppose the pool hall's open," my father said,
knowing some in his congregation preferred that haven to church.
Our whole family clustered together, joyful over a free day,
and even my stepmother
seemed happy, made cinnamon toast and cocoa with marshmallows
instead of the slimy oatmeal we all hated but had to eat,
and my father postponed his sermon-writing to join us after supper
in the living room while we listened to Lux Radio Theater,
sermons, the dirty clothes in the basement, waiting on the cement floor.
For once we were all contented, sitting together on our old
davenport, even though not one of us had ever tasted a mango.
and this poem I dedicate to Jens Busmundrud and his brother's great-grandson Odd Busmundrud:
"Close Call" by Phebe Hanson from Why Still Dance
All my life my father refused to talk about
his boyhood in Norway. "No," he'd say when
I cajoled him for details. "I'm an American now."
The only thing he'd ever talk about was how he'd
ended up in Minneapolis at Augsburg Seminary,
the story of his "close call," as he referred to it.
He was the only one of his three brothers and sister
who emigrated. "He broke our mother's heart," my aunt
told me when I visited her in Norway many years later.
She gave me the picture she'd taken the day he left, the
day after Christmas, 1920. He's impossibly young, already
wearing his life-long uniform—black suit, vest, white shirt, tie,
ready to go off to America, even if his mother's
heart is breaking, because he had to fulfill a promise
he made when he got the Spanish Flu, summer of 1918.
"Twenty two million people died," he was fond of telling me,
"twice as many as died in World War I, but I didn't die.
When I was choking and close to death, my mother
called the village doctor who performed a tracheotomy
right on our kitchen table and I promised then I'd serve
God forever if He wouldn't let me die. It was a close call."
Close call, I say, echoing my father, now dead these 20 years.
How close he came to being one of the 22 million, how he
almost didn't make it to America, almost didn't spend a
summer in Duluth, preaching at the Norwegian Seaman's
Mission, almost didn't meet my mother whose youth group
was serving coffee and cake after the service, almost didn't
marry her, almost didn't make love with her that warm June
evening of 1927, the night I was conceived, in the white frame
parsonage in Bagley, Minnesota. Close call. Close call.
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