Whites Bridge

Stay tuned for a full story on the making of a new covered bridge.

Whites Bridge

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Final revisions of Greenwich Meridian memoir

I finally crossed the 51-k word line with the revisions of the Greenwich Meridian Memoir. I have two more chapters to go.

Excerpt

The Haves and the Have Nots

The useless feeling never went away; it intensified with time until it became a monster. I watched this happen between my mom Ella and her younger sister Anna over the years before 1968 and after my parents’ immigration to the USA.  

In 2018, Time published a special edition:1968 The Year That Shaped a Generation with introduction: “Like a knife blade, the year severed past from future.”  

Before 1968, the two sisters were like regular siblings with occasional hard and soft feelings for each other. They even went together on vacations with their spouses to the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. Aunt Anna is also my godmother as was the custom in the old country for the closest relatives to be the Godparents.  

Their parents treated them equally as any parent would. They had similar hopes and dreams. Neither one of them made a lot of money.  

Life before the 1968 “Socialism with a human face” movement started by Alexander Dubcek and the Velvet Revolution in 1989 was simple. 

People enjoyed both the advantages and the disadvantages of socialism; everyone had the right to work. There was no such thing as unemployment. If you were unemployed for more than six weeks, you went to jail. Since the economy was regulated and planned, there was always work, whatever work and any work at any given time. If you wanted a good job, you needed connections or my mom’s long arm. 

That was balanced out by having to stand in long lines for basic items such as toilet paper. However, college education was free, along with healthcare for all and free daycare.  

Travel was more problematic and based on your “profile.” We each had a profile ever since we were old enough to join the Socialist Youth Union at approximately the age of 14. The profile also contained information about your parents. Then volunteer hours on socialist projects were added to the profile. At 18, you were expected to become a member in the Czechoslovak Communist Party and get your red membership card. Soon profile info started to add up in your favor or against you.  

Certain things were unacceptable like if your family was a member of the bourgeoisie, royalty or owned land, you would definitely go nowhere. Based on the bizarre profile criteria, if they were good, you could go to Yugoslavia or maybe somewhere west if you got the exit visa.  

If your profile was bad like mine, because we left the country illegally for the USA, you sat at home. The profile thing continues to puzzle me to this day.  

Like in Hitler’s Germany nothing was ever forgotten or forgiven. That was in an era before computers. The whole socialist machinery was like a self-fulfilling prophecy. You always got what you didn’t wish for, but somebody else wanted it for you. Sometimes you never found out who wanted all that hogwash for you.  

“Oh, we just wanted the best for you,” a voice would say.  

“How do you know what’s best for me?” I asked.  

“Socialism never sleeps,” the voice would persist. “We know what’s best for the country. Look at all the improvements in the last 40 years.”  

Banners hung on buildings proclaiming the “Successes of Socialism” and the bright future for the socialist youth like me.  

We were constantly brainwashed with the socialist youth philosophy, even though they did not want me in the Socialist Youth Union, which was too bad for them.  

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Memoir Revisions

On track with final revisions of the Greenwich Meridian Memoir

Greenwich Meridian Memoir cover designed by Jeanne Boss.

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – As of Saturday, I’ve crossed the 40,000- word mark of the final revisions of the Greenwich Meridian Memoir about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia. I completed the first draft during the NaNoWriMo 2019 challenge and I signed the pledge to revise and revise again.

The memoir spans more than 50 years of trials and tribulations of two generations alternating with victories. The epic story started with the Prague Spring of 1968; it was exacerbated by the presidential amnesty in 1973 for political refugees and it peaked in the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

These are the historical anchors that pitched the characters into action, sometimes against their own will or the will of others.

At each crossroad, the characters had to make major decisions for themselves and for others. Time hasn’t erased some resentments.

Read in: Excerpt from Greenwich Meridian Memoir written in her own words by mom Ella

“Charles, here’s another one with three passports,” he said. 

Charles came and took me and the kids to a room where we waited the entire afternoon. The officials were waiting for other airplanes that spit out similar victims like me. At this moment, I knew there was something wrong; I remembered Vaclav’s friend from Canada warning me not to return, that the amnesty wasn’t working. All the joy from returning home was gone and I kept thinking what’s going to happen with us. 

Around 6 p.m., a man in a dark suit entered the room and took us through  the many hallways and backdoors back on the tarmac. However, there was no plane; instead there was a minivan with six to eight people seated in it. What ensued was the saddest trip through Prague that I will never forget. We were headed into the unknown- that always in the communist system foreshadowed bad things to come.  

I regretted that I had left the peaceful village of Hawkins. I prayed to God to save us from all evil. I thought they were taking us to jail. Looking through the minivan window, I envied each pedestrian walking on the sidewalk his freedom and liberty. We drove through the entire capital Prague and continued south of the city. We were in Trebotov, according to the signs by the road. After a short ride through the city we made a turn to a four-story building. I don’t know what was exactly on the signs on the building, probably some kind of a hospital facility. Two soldiers with guns were guarding the gates. 

The driver opened the doors of the minivan and told us to get out. I was increasingly scared as my heart skipped a beat. Nobody wanted to get out of the minivan; they had to tell us twice. Later we found out that the facility was a hospital for people with long-term illnesses.   

After the declaration of the amnesty in February, that lasted through the end of 1973 and impacted 40,000 to 50,000 Czechoslovaks who fled abroad, the Interior Ministery rented the austere building for the 1968 refugees, who decided to return to the homeland. The officials used an excuse that we may have contracted different diseases in foreign countries and that we needed to undergo health screening. However, during our stay at the quarantine, we never had any tests done, X-rays or blood tests; it was a camouflage for the public.

The cover was designed by graphic artist Jeanne Boss of Rockford. 

To be continued…..

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

writing in Hastings

Hastings, MI – We spent a week in mid January at our son and daughter-in-law’s place south of Hastings, MI. We got in after a snow storm on Sunday with a car and a truck. The roads were bad; no one did the maintenance over the weekend. But, a good neighbor plowed the driveway to the house.

On Monday, backing out of the driveway, I got stuck in an iced-up snow bank. After a while, I rocked the car back and forth out of the snowy ordeal that started right in front of the house.

The city of Hastings wasn’t much better. On our way to the North Eastern Elementary, a van was stuck in a snow bank at a city intersection. The school walking guide Doug told me that he fell on an ice puddle because the sidewalks weren’t cleared. He cleared part of the sidewalk himself.

It wasn’t that the storm was unexpected, after all, we live in deep Midwest in Michigan.

Guys with their snowmobiles have been eagerly waiting for this since December; we had a green Christmas. The same waiting game goes for the ice fishermen back home on Murray Lake.

Finally, the homemade ice skating rink outside froze, but now it’s covered with a foot of snow, but the kids went sledding.

Baby Boom of 2020s

When dropping Dominik off at the daycare at CERC and Hastings High School, we found out that babies born in 2020 were already in the daycare. The kids have been rotating rooms between red and blue to facilitate the influx. Walking to the red room, I saw babies crawling in the baby room.

I noticed a mom this morning still in her pajamas dropping off older kids with the youngest ones waiting in the van. Among seven strollers, there was a stroller for twins parked by the daycare. The car seat carriers were lined up on a shelf by the wall. The red room was already full of kids at play.

Wow, what a crop.

After a short drive on the winding road between Hastings and Kalamazoo, I walked inside the house that reverberated love, peace and warmth with the smell of coffee.

When I glanced outside the window, I saw a big pile of wood covered with snow and the outdoors furnace. An entire crew heads out into the woods to cut tree trunks.

Welcome to Michigan.

I even heard and saw birds chirping in the tree from Josephine’s window. On a day like this, I love being a writer. I get to channel stories that otherwise people would have no access to. No newspaper or TV will ever report on these seemingly ordinary things, except that there is nothing mundane about them. Each moment will never repeat itself.

I worked on the final revisions of the Greenwich Meridian Memoir. I added a chapter about husband Ludek’s escape from former Czechoslovakia via Yugoslavia in 1988. Stay tuned for excerpts.

Earlier in the morning on our way to the high school, we saw an old man bundled up walking in the roadway with a stick in the pinkish morning twilight among the roaring buses.

Why didn’t he wait till daylight? Will he be there tomorrow? Will we see the rising sun or will it be cloudy?

Copyright © 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Greenwich meridian Memoir cover

Cover Design by Jeanne S. Boss

Collage: the story behind the cover

It is said that a long journey starts with the first step.

During the entire process of putting together the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir,” that spans more than 50 years of our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the U.S., I was using a globe as a visual tool.

I got the globe probably at the old Flat River Antique Mall in Lowell when we moved out into the country in 1995. I kept it downstairs in my writing studio, but dragged it upstairs to look at it while on the treadmill.

Putting one foot in front of the other, word after word, page after page, year after year, that’s how the memoir went, often interrupted by life’s events.

After all, travel around the world made an imprint on our lives forever. However, later into the writing process, I realized the story wasn’t just about our nomadic lifestyle prompted by the political events in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

When I first asked mom for info about our immigration, she handed me two small stapled pages from a Best Western notepad with nine bullet points summarizing our life.

As I got deeper into the story and mom cooperated more, it became obvious that looking back at your past can be a painful experience.

Unlike writing fiction, writing the memoir was very emotional, at times depressing. It meant uncovering layers and layers of events, preceeded by decisions; your own decisions and other people’s decisions that impacted your own life and other people’s lives.

Decisions were lurking at every crossroad or a fork on the path to freedom. Mistakes and resentments alternated with victories and elation.

The main characters, mom Ella and dad Vaclav, were the driving forces of the immigration; I picked up two decades later when the Velvet Revolution rolled in 1989.

I found out that the main motivation for dad’s decision to emigrate was his career as a mathematician, while mom clung onto her past pharmacist job and relatives in Czech. And that’s where the characters clashed.

The Prague Spring 1968 movement was the catalyst.

I wanted to express all this on the cover of the memoir using a collage of photos, postcards, mom’s African driver’s license, the Czech coat-of-arms and the globe. There is a postcard with a Vaclav Havel stamp from Czechoslovakia.

Graphic designer Jeanne S. Boss of Rockford captured all of the above on the artistic cover. Boss is the former editor of the Lowell Ledger and the Buyer’s Guide, and a long time friend.

I would like to thank Boss for all the creative work.

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Today’s Free Taurus Daily Horoscope from Tarot.com

I love my Taurus horoscope today, as I move ahead with the Greenwich Meridian Memoir revisions. I’ve added some interesting events to the memoir about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the USA. Watch for excerpts.

Read your free Taurus horoscope for today to get daily advice. Find out what today’s Astrology will mean for Taurus every day from Tarot.com.
— Read on http://www.tarot.com/daily-horoscope/taurus/2020-01-15

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

The three Sundays before Christmas with excerpt

The three Sundays before Christmas in Czech Republic were called: bronze, silver and gold. They were the biggest shopping days of the year. I used to go shopping to the open-air market under the giant chestnut trees in Zlin. I always bought mistletoe. I loved the old ladies from Slovakia with their embroidered linens- a lost art.

Greenwich Meridian memoir excerpt:

By Emma Palova

The yellow place mats with brown embroidery traveled with me to the USA for my second immigration in 1989. I bought them at the Zlin market under the chestnut trees. I loved that market with vendors from Slovakia and Southern Moravia. I marveled at their handiwork eligible for Etsy at any given time.

When I went back to Czech Republic in the footsteps of the past in 2013, I hurried to the market. I was amazed all over again at all the wares the merchants had to offer from far and near. Off course it wasn’t Christmas time, so the farmers didn’t have my favorite silver and gold-coated mistletoe. The coveted mistletoe is sold on the three Sundays before Christmas. Those were the only Sundays that merchants opened their doors on a holiday.

I always looked forward to those three Sundays. They were called bronze, silver and gold Sunday. And as the hype build up, so did the offered goods; that all culminated in a shopping frenzy socialist style. That meant loading up on textile durable bags to haul in stuff for the holidays; everything from Hungarian salami, sausages, smoked cutlets to silver-coated mistletoe, and better wines such as “Klastorne” from Slovakia. The most famous monastery wines are located in Kromeriz- the Archbishop’s Wine Cellars. I visited these cellars during the big trip in 2013. The walls of the cellars are covered with rare silver moulds.

Since, it was a custom to bake every Christmas traditional small desserts, I usually went shopping for the ingredients. I always carried the same old bags that were overused with time. Sometimes, the handle on the bag broke and I had to pick up the rolling tomatoes, apples and bottles.

Shopping meant standing in lines forever; sometimes waiting for the delivery of the products. The stores ran out of stuff like whipped cream, butter and cocoa. Nuts have also been an issue, but many families had their own nuts from the walnut trees in their gardens. I remember having to crack them with my uncle before the big holiday baking.

I barely dragged the bags with groceries home to the apartment. I was glad we had that darn escalator that I had to clean so many times to keep Mr. Chromcak happy. The refrigerators back in Czech were small, so we put food outside on the balconies.

“Where do I put all this stuff?” I asked myself. “Well, first I am going to eat.”

I dropped the bags on the floor and scoured the bottom for some nugget chocolate. Sitting down in the kitchen I munched on the chocolate relentlessly like if it was the last day on this earth. That was my problem then and now; I do everything like today is the last day. True, I do get a lot done that way but I exhaust myself to the max.

Needless to say that I’ve had problems with my weight ever since I hit puberty still back in Hawkins, Texas during our first round of immigration in the early 1970s. My first period was a pain. I laid on the couch crying and twisting with spasms in my lower abdomen thinking it would never pass; it did just like most pains in life it was transitory.

I exercised and exercised some more. And I ate and ate, just like that moment when I dragged the bags inside the apartment. Mom was still at work, so I should probably get ready the dough for the pastries and desserts. But, wait first I have to unpack. I looked outside from the living room to the balcony. It was all snowy, and even though I was hot from hauling all that weight, it was freezing outside. I sorted what I needed for baking and put the rest of the groceries still in the bags on the balcony.

We had an interesting class teacher Mrs. Chudarkova at the prep school Gymnasium Zlin. Every year before Christmas, she let us go early from school, so we could bake.

“Yes, girls you can leave early today,” she smiled. “I know you have to bake to help your mothers.”

That came as a surprise from the strict woman who wore a dark reddish brown wig. Mrs. Chudarkova could have been around 45. I considered her an old woman at the time.

To be continued…….

The feature photo is of small Christmas desserts by CJ Aunt Jarmilka on http://jkarmaskova.wordpress.com

You can still order them from her bakery; email j.karmaskova@seznam.cz

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