Tag: Western Pennsylvania

Born On the Fourth of July

I love the Fourth of July. As a kid, it was always all about the fun, the games, the cook-outs, the swimming pool, and the fireworks. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized the Fourth of July was more than just a holiday. It is a way of life, and something to be celebrated every day of the year, not just on July 4th. I want to tell you a story about why I love the 4th of July. And the story begins with a little boy. The little boy was born on a small farm in Czechoslovakia in 1927. One year later, he and his parents left their farm and traveled across the Atlantic to begin a new life in a small steel town in Western Pennsylvania and pursue the American Dream. That dream turned into a nightmare one year later when the little boy pulled a pot of scalding chicken soup over him,...

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Excerpt from Mara’s Garden

Recently I picked up a project I began working on about 9 years ago. It was shortly after my parents died, both of them, just 19 days apart. I wanted to write about our family and how my sisters and I grew up, in a family rich with Eastern European heritage and culture. But it was just too soon. However, when I began working on it again it began to take on a life of its own, and I realized I had to go back further in time and dig deeper, including the lives of my parents and how they grew up. Here is an excerpt from “Mara’s Garden”. “I was born on July 9th, 1930, in Aliquippa, a small but thriving steel town in Western Pennsylvania on the banks of the Ohio River. My parents were both working in the garden when my mother suddenly disappeared. Since it was close to...

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Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night!

Merry Christmas! No, I am not daft and I haven’t lost my mind, even though I know that’s what some of you are thinking. As some of you already might know, I grew up in a small steel town in Western Pennsylvania. My father was from Czechoslovakia and immigrated to the good old USA in 1939 at the age of 12. It was actually the second time he came through Ellis Island, but I’ll save that story for another day. Although my mother was born in the States, her parents were from Yugoslavia. Needless to say, I grew up with an interesting heritage and cultural background. Which included celebrating Orthodox Christmas with my mother’s side of the family every year. Woo-hoo! A bonus Christmas. What kid wouldn’t absolutely love that? So, every January 7th, we packed in the...

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Roses in November

I love November. I love the entire fall season, with the weather changing, the leaves turning, the incredible bright blue skies of October. But I have always loved November, and I especially love Thanksgiving. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania where the winters are brutal, and can sometimes start as early as October. But, 10 years ago, the weather was a completely different story. I ought to know, because I was there. Both my parents were ill with leukemia. I know. What are the chances? My 2 older sisters and I spent the entire year of 2010 taking turns “visiting” them for a week to 10 days at a time. They would never accept help if it was offered and would NEVER ask for it, but they were happy to have us “visit.” If we just happened to take them to their treatments,...

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Wishes Are Like Snowflakes

Wishes are like snowflakes. Every one is different, and every one is special. Wishes are dreams that we hope will come true, especially during this special time of year. I love the holidays. There is a magic in the air that seems like anything is possible, and that dreams really can come true. At least, it seems that way as long as you’re not fighting traffic or the crowds at the mall. Or after you discover that some Grinch stole a package from your front porch. Grrrrrrrr. Maybe that’s why it’s harder to believe in the magic as an adult. We didn’t have to concern ourselves with such mundane issues when we were children. Our job was simply to live in the moment, and let our imagination run wild. Especially around the holidays. If we were lucky enough, we would even have some snow to enjoy as...

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Life is Full of Bumps in the Road

Ah, life. It’s not always easy, but it is always wonderful. Even when we hit a few bumps along the way. After all, these bumps in the road of life help us build character. I had my first series of bumps when I was just five years old. That summer before my fifth birthday, our family attended a church picnic at the local amusement park. It was a beautiful day, we were at White Swan Park, and everyone was having a marvelous time. All of us kids were in Heaven as we ran around from ride to ride. Finally, we came to the roller coaster, “The Mad Mouse.” It was the pride of the park, and was always able to strike fear and excitement in the heart of every child. The roller coaster had individual cars rather than a chain of them linked together like a train. It also had a series of bumps at the...

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Memories, and Ghosts of Christmas Past

Memories are the best part of Christmas celebrations. And making those memories are even better. For most of us, Christmas has come and gone. But not for me, it hasn’t. My decorations are still up, along with my tree. My tree is the only one that lights up the neighborhood at night, and my neighbors are probably wondering why I haven’t given it up yet. However, I cling to my decorations as much as I cling to my memories, and the ghosts of Christmas past. I was born into a family that was lucky enough to celebrate Christmas twice in two weeks. My mother’s parents were from Eastern Europe, and were Serbian Orthodox. That’s a tribe (so to speak) that celebrates Christmas on January 7th instead of December 25th. As a child, it was a little confusing, no matter how many times my mother explained...

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Robins and the signs of spring

It’s a sure sign of spring when robins start building their nests. When I was a little girl, a sassy little robin built her nest on the window sill of the bedroom that I shared with my two older sisters. My sisters and I watched her build her nest, lay her eggs, hatch her chicks and feed them. Through the window, we watched her and she watched us. That robin must have found the comings and goings of three little girls equally as fascinating as we found her. Perhaps that’s why she chose that spot to build her nest. One day when I came home from school, my mother told me that  “company” was coming to visit. I found that strange. Who comes to visit in the middle of the day in the middle of the week? Especially when my dad was at work, my two older sisters were in school,...

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Roller Coaster Ride

What kid doesn’t love an amusement park? The rides, the fun, the cotton candy. There was a great amusement park that was popular when I was a kid. A day at White Swan Park was every kid’s perfect outing. You just never knew what would happen there. The summer before my fifth birthday, our church had a family picnic at White Swan Park. All of the kids were in heaven as we ran around from ride to ride with our parents closely supervising us. We came to the pride of the park, the roller coaster, named “The Mad Mouse.” The roller coaster had individual cars, instead of a chain of cars linked together like a train. It also had a series of bumps at the end of the ride, each one a little bigger than the previous one. I was put in a car with my oldest sister. It was great...

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