Thursday, February 25, 2010

February 25, 1969

Carl Larsson

I'll never forget That Tuesday. I sat at the table in our "apt" studying the biography of Martin Luther "auf deutsch." It was slow going. The book was 800 pages long, and I was getting paper cuts from my German-English dictionary. Finally I decided I would just read and see how much I could absorb from the few words I understood. (Basically, I was inventing his life in my imagination.)

Another Marty

Suddenly I had an epiphany. I moved over to the couch to explain my new insight to Dee:

In the 14th century, church services were spoken only in Latin and the Bible was only in Latin. Martin Luther's congregation spoke German. Stained glass windows illustrated the stories—they were the main translation people had. Since they couldn't understand the Gospel as it was being taught, they had to make up their own version, based on what was familiar to them, just like I was doing with the biography.

Die heilige Familie

Luther got the church all upset because he wanted to hold services in German. Eventually he even translated the Bible into German. At last the scriptures were available to regular folks and they could study things out for themselves. Without understanding most of the words, I had caught the spirit of Marty's life.

As I was telling Dee my thoughts, I started feeling very strange. My heart started racing, and I could feel my pulse pounding. Tears tickled my eyelids like I was going to cry. Suddenly, without a doubt, I knew Dee was going to be my husband. I lost track of what I was talking about, and then I saw Dee looking at me in a very searching way. I said, "I don't know what's happening to me." He said, "I don't know either, but it's happening to me, too." He stood up and said, "I think we're supposed to get married!" in a panic-stricken voice. Then he turned quickly and left.

I have since had other personal inspiration, and I now recognize the pounding heart, the tears, and the overwhelming knowledge of truth that comes. But I had never experienced it before. I don't think this kind of revelation comes to everybody about who they should marry, but it came to us That Tuesday.

After Dee fled the scene, I sat there wrapped up in what I was feeling and what he'd said. One of my first thoughts was, "OK, I know he's The One. I guess we need to get to know each other, and fall in love."

Salzburg in the Rain

I waited all afternoon for him to come back. Finally I went to my room, and then down to dinner. He never showed up. It was pouring rain outside, and I was starting to really worry about him. What if this had given him a heart attack? What if he'd just run away? Had I imagined the whole thing? Maybe he didn't say married . . . he could have said harried, or buried . . . maybe he just thought we both had the flu . . . maybe he had dashed out because he had to throw up. All the certainty of the afternoon was fading into doubt. I'd never heard of this happening.

It was Fasching, the traditional Austrian carnival season, and there was a dance that night. Everyone was going. I didn't know exactly what to do, so I decided to go without Dee. I was outside when a car pulled up and he got out. He rushed over to me and hugged me with one arm. "Everything's fine," he said, and miraculously everything was. On the bus he told me about his day.

He had felt the same sudden knowledge that I had felt. It was scary and unexpected, but definite. Needing to think, he had gone walking. When it started raining, he dropped in on one of our professors.

Doug Tobler, 1969

He didn't know Dr. Tobler very well, but he trusted him, and found himself pouring out his heart about our experience that day. Dr. Tobler didn't seem skeptical, which calmed Dee down a bit. Something similar had happened when he was dating his wife Carole. He said that although they were young and poor, getting married was the best decision he'd ever made. They lived on $5 a week for a while, but didn't regret their choice. He advised Dee to "Go with it. See where it leads. You have a few months. Just see what happens."

A sense of peace settled over us, even though we were overwhelmed with what this meant. It was a little like the Martin Luther book. We didn't really understand it, but we had caught the spirit. We would have to wait to translate it all and decide what to do, but in the meantime we could trust our feelings.

That night at the dance I saw a whole new side of Dee. He was dancing the Twist! (That was way before my time. I danced the Surf.) We had so much to learn about each other, so much to talk about. It was beyond exciting. I'd never felt this way before.

"Sehr schön."

On the bus home we cuddled and whispered. An endearing little lady in a hat with a feather was sitting across from us. She smiled wistfully, and told us love must be wonderful. "Die Liebe müss schön sein." Jawohl.



~Write about the time you just knew the direction you should go.

~Finish the story: "I waited all afternoon for him to come back . . ."

~Remember the day you walked in the rain? Where were you going?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Picture This

It still makes me shutter.

Monday morning I saw Dee at breakfast. He was already sitting with friends so I just said "Hi" in that awkward day-after-the-first-kiss kind of way. After classes, we sat together (with a group) at lunch. It was fun, and we teased and laughed easily. Dee said he was going to study in the "apt" that afternoon. He didn't invite me, but I figured he'd told me because he hoped I'd join him. After about an hour I took a candy bar upstairs. The door was closed so I knocked and then opened it. Dee was sitting on the couch with another girl.

Her name was Susan and they were looking at her camera. How stupid could I be? Of course he'd like a girl with a camera! He loved cameras! I was an idiot to think the kiss meant anything. For all I knew, he'd bet HIS roommate he could kiss ME! I'd told him I had a boyfriend . . . what was I thinking? That he liked me? Who likes a girl who talks about FDR?? Stupid, stupid, stupid!!! And I just walked in on them! Oh, how dumb! I quickly handed him the candy bar, backed out of there, and fled.

Down in my room I could feel tears prickling behind my eyes. Could I be jealous? We were just friends, weren't we? I'd only known him a week. He wasn't even my type! Besides, supposedly I was in love with my boyfriend . . . of course I was. This was just a little fling, after all. What did I expect? I was just embarrassed by the situation—no big deal.

By mid-afternoon I had a roaring headache and an upset stomach. What would I do when I saw him? Just act normal? Act like I didn't notice or care? I couldn't show how humiliated and hurt I felt. It was all a disaster. He didn't like me after all. He'd probably liked Susan all along.

The Infamous Susan

I came down to dinner late and sat with a group at a big table. Dee came and sat in the only seat left, at the other end. I smiled and acted totally put-together and casual. Susan happened to be sitting at the table, too. I ignored her. Everybody was talking and the subject of having kids came up.

"How many kids do you want?" someone asked at my end of the table, and I said "Twelve."

"Marty wants 12 kids!" and then from the other end someone else said "Dee wants 12 kids, too! You guys ought to get together!" It was kind of amazing. This was 1969, birth control was the new thing, population explosion and women's lib—nobody wanted 12 kids! Yet here we had each independently told a group that we did. The conversation went on, but it was like we were the only ones at the table when we smiled at each other.


There was a concert downtown that night, and some of our students were performing with the University orchestra. I came downstairs ready to go and saw Susan walk up to Dee. I kept my distance, and then when a group started to leave I joined them. Right then Dee came up behind me and took my arm, asking if I was ready to go. Part of me felt so relieved and happy I wanted to cry. The other part of me bristled that he was acting like we were a couple, when he had been dallying with another woman all afternoon while my heart was breaking. The relieved part of me won out, I let go of my pride and we strolled downtown together.

Salzburg at night

After the concert we went to the Blaue Gans, a restaurant we have been back to many, many times over the years. Dee bought me dinner, (one of only 2 times the whole semester that we didn't go Dutch) and we had our first "relationship" talk. He asked me what was the matter (I had been less than perky, in that totally annoying, girlie way) and after very little coaxing I told him how embarrassed I'd been to walk in on him and Susan. He told me it was unplanned, that she had just gone to that room to study as well, and it was very uncomfortable for him, too, knowing how it looked to me. We both told each other how much fun we were having together, and reminded ourselves that we already had individual future plans, so we could enjoy our time in Salzburg without strings.

We had weathered the storm. Our friendship was in tact. We walked home feeling at ease, and relaxed. We held hands, but there was no kiss goodnight. We were on solid ground. I hated Susan.


~Your boyfriend caught you with another guy. How did you react?

~How many kids did you want? How many did you have? How did you decide?

~Tell about a time your heart was broken.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Story Time

"One of the advantages of being disorderly,
is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries."
—A. A. Milne

There in my box of treasures I was excited to discover an old friend. When I was very young this volume sat on my bookshelf; it was a Christmas present from my Canadian cousins and it seemed very foreign. The stamps were different, with pictures of the queen, and the book had words like "dressing gown" and "Mummy" and "vespers." The little boy even wore shorts with suspenders. Very exotic, I thought. I quickly memorized the last poem in the book:

"Little boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands, little gold head.
Hush, hush! Whisper, who dares?
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers."

I was developing a crush on Christopher Robin for sure.

Later that same year, Miss McDonough introduced my third grade class to Winnie the Pooh. She read the words easily, with a British accent, and I loved the stories about Pooh and Piglet and the Hundred Acre Wood. Disney had not yet decked the characters out in full costume and makeup and they still seemed of the common make-believe variety.

Hundred-Acre Wood

I wanted to climb down a rabbit hole and move in. "When Rabbit asked, 'Honey or condensed milk with your bread?' Pooh was so excited that he answered, 'Both.' Then, so as not to appear greedy he added, 'But don't bother about the bread, please.'" I could identify with this character!

"My spelling is wobbly. It's good spelling, but it wobbles and the letters get in the wrong places." Isn't this the perfect hero for third-graders? He could sit it my table.

"It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long difficult words, but rather, short easy words like 'What about lunch?'" Pooh stuffed his way into my heart and I knew food would be our topic of choice.

A.A. Milne, Christopher Robin and Pooh

Here's the true story of that tubby little cubby, all stuffed with fluff:

"Winnie—short for Winnipeg—the Pooh was a brave Canadian soldier, of sorts, during World War I. Purchased for $20, the black bear cub was adopted as a mascot by a Canadian infantry brigade and traveled with the soldiers to England. While the infantry was fighting in mainland Europe, Winnie was left in the London Zoo, where he became a favorite attraction.

One of his frequent visitors was A. A. Milne's son, Christopher Robin Milne. Christopher Robin's interactions with his toys—which included a teddy bear, a tiger, a pig, a baby kangaroo, and a donkey with no tail—became the basis for Milne's stories."

by C. Alan Joyce and Sarah Janssen

Are you feeling it yet? Phrases, thoughts, quotes, bedtime stories you've heard or told, books on your shelf, dad's legends, foreign cousins, Christmas presents, your third-grade crush on Miss McDonough? There's a memory making it's way through the fluff to your brain. Something wants to be written. Stop and think about it.

"Did you ever stop to think and forget to start again?"
—A. A. Milne

There's even more to Christopher Robin's world to think about. A.A. was a proper English gentleman, not anxious to be bothered by children who moved about, or spoke out of turn. It bothered his sensibilities. So Christopher was raised by a nanny who brought him below stairs formally three times a day to show-off and be critiqued by his parents. He was sent off to a boarding school when he was finally old enough. His dad thought at 7 he was mature and able to say goodbye to imaginary playmates in a fantasy world. (Of course, his dad continued to make his living there.)

The world inspired by Christopher's toys was not shared with him. As Christopher got older, he was embarrassed to realize he was the little boy in his father's children's stories, and resented his father for making them up about him.

They parted company over this rift when Christopher was a young man, and they remained estranged until A. A. Milne died. Not the cozy, happy ending Milne provided for his readers.

Does this disappoint you, or rejuvenate your desire to write? Seemingly, the wisest, kindest, cuddly father is bugged by own his kid, and sends him off to be raised by strangers while he creates a father/son world of enchantment where animals and boys promise never to leave each other..

Juicy ideas are oozing out of every sentence on many topics. Choose one that speaks to you!


~As a 7 year old, write a letter home from Boarding School. Would you beg to come back home, or would you have a "stiff upper lip?"

~Create a little world for your forgotten stuffed animals, or if they're truly forgotten, use your kids little friends and make up a fantasy story complete with dilemmas and problems solved. Tell it to your kids.

~Imagine that you're home from college and neighbors come to meet you, expecting a grown up version of a child your parents made up, but somebody you never were. (An athlete, a musician, a scholar, a leader . . .) Write a newspaper article about the real you.

“'Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?'
'Supposing it didn't,' said Pooh.
After careful thought Piglet was comforted by this.”
A. A. Milne quote

Monday, February 22, 2010

Salzburg Courtship

Me in Salzburg, 1969

Walking and talking—that's how we fell in love. After our Sunday talk we were together every day. Dee took his camera and asked me along. That first week we hiked to the Festung, "jogged" through the marble quarry, fed the ducks, strolled to the Post Office, and visited the camera store, knipsing photos and nattering all the way. We had such diverse things in common.


Walking over the footbridge to Salzburg, we noticed some men cleaning the banks of the river. Dee told me they were government employees doing welfare work projects. I commented that it sounded like the WPA. Dee couldn't believe that I knew about the WPA, and we had a long, involved conversation about Franklin D. Roosevelt.

I told Dee about a Young Democrats Rally I'd attended at BYU to hear Bobby Kennedy speak. Dee had been president of the Young Democrats at the time. Peter, Paul and Mary were my preferred group; I'd seen them on one of their first tours to Salt Lake City when I was in 9th grade. Dee had a tape of that very concert. His favorite songs from the concert were "Car, Car" and "Le Deserteur" and those were mine, too.

Salzburg Festung

I talked about Herr Bruderer, my German teacher in high school who was zealous about German history, WWII, and linguistics. And Mr. Tolman, my political science teacher who, even as a prisoner of war near Berlin, had come to love the Germanic culture in a roundabout way. Because of these teachers, I was in Austria. Dee was reading history books before kindergarten, and was majoring in European Studies and Geography before he went to Germany for a two-year stint as a Mormon missionary. How many swooning couples can weave these topics into their sweet nothings and find passionate agreement? We were meant for each other!

Marty at Salzburg Shrine

We walked and talked for hours. I made it very clear that I already had a boyfriend, and Dee made it clear that he staying in Europe that summer to work. We both understood there would be no long-lasting romance here, so we totally relaxed into a friendship. Then my roommate Judie bet me that I couldn't get him to kiss me before Saturday. I rose to the challenge.

After six days of walking and talking in Salzburg, we decided to go to Munich. Ray Clifford was a graduate TA and he and his wife Karen lived in The Steinlechner Hotel with us as chaperones. Newlyweds, just a few years older than us, they had bought a VW for the semester. We chipped in for gas, and made the 90-minute trip with them Saturday morning.

Hofbrau Haus, Munich

We bought me a Dirndl, toured the Frauenkirche, saw the Glockenspiel, and went to the Hofbrau for dinner. It was a glorious day, but it was almost over and I was losing my bet.

The drive home was cold, dark and foggy. Dee and I cuddled up in the backseat and he put his arm around me. (Up until then, he hadn't made any moves.) I put my head on his shoulder, and kept my lips puckered up just in case.

Ninety minutes is a long time to stay in kissing position without any action. My charms failed me. Dee said goodnight and Judie met me at the door with her hand out. Secretly, I told myself I admired him for respecting me. Even more secretly, I wondered what was the matter with me. Wasn't I kiss-worthy?

Dee in "The Apt."

Exploring the next night, we found a room in the attic of our hotel. It was tiny, with a couch, table and chair, and a carved wardrobe stuffed with linens. We nicknamed it "The Apt" (for apartment) and claimed it for our study.

Lunch had been special: Wienerschnitzel, Rotkohl, and Cremeschnitte for dessert. Now we had sack suppers, an English newspaper and a quiet evening ahead. Dee unwrapped his cheese sandwich and I took a swig of Quark. It was a sour, chalky tasting substance that looked like yogurt, and I shuddered. Dee laughed. I remember we were standing by the window, and then, very softly, he kissed me. Just once. It was too sweet to gloat over.

I don't think I even told Judie.


~Did he kiss you, or did you kiss him? Write a paragraph about it.

~List five random things about yourself.

~Complete this sentence: "I lost a bet the time I ____________."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Postcard: Oma's Coming

Oma and Benji, 2009

"If your baby is beautiful and perfect, never cries or fusses,
sleeps on schedule and burps on time—you're the grandparent."

We're on the road to prove this theory.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Give Me Some Pointers

I've been empaneled.
(Not by these guys.)
Somebody wants my point of view!

The Casual Blogger Conference
will be held May 28-29 in Salt Lake City .

I'll be discussing Blogging and Religion.
What's your point of view?
Please advise.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Love Language

"Happy Valentine's Day, Vera," I said when she answered the phone.

"Oh, I don't celebrate Valentine's Day. Nobody gives me anything anymore." (Well, I just tried to, I thought.) She continued, "My granddaughter brought me a box of chocolates yesterday. I can't believe she forgot I have diabetes. I gave them right back. She made it clear she was too busy to come on the actual holiday." (And you're so lovable, I thought.) "I guess you want the report," she went on. "None of my ladies called me, as usual. I sat here all day long and waited, but they obviously never consider my schedule. I can't deal with their rudeness much longer."


"Happy Valentine's Day, Florence." I said.

"Oh, Dear, what a delightful way to answer the phone!" she laughed. "After such a sweet greeting, I feel bad about what I have to say: I need to be released as a Visiting Teacher. It breaks my heart. I love the women I visit, and we'll stay friends, but I can't have the responsibility of looking out for them anymore." I glanced down at my roster. Florence was 98-years-old. She continued, "I'm almost blind, you know, and it's all I can do to take care of Ray." Ray is her ailing 103-year-old husband. "I'll just serve as their unofficial sister, take a loaf of bread over, bring up their mail, that kind of thing. I just hope I haven't let you down."


"Happy Valentine's Day, Carol," I said.

Carol made room in the elevator and continued another conversation. "You graduated in 1980?" she said to the girl. "I'd lived my whole life by then." "Well, obviously not," I observed. "You're still here." "You know what I mean," replied Carol. "Life hasn't had much to offer since then." "What about your family, the people you love?" I asked. "Oh," she answered, "I gave up on love after my divorce."


"Happy Valentine's Day, Sarah. Are you doing OK?" I asked.

"The last few months have been lovely for me," she said. I strained to hear her soft voice. "Since I broke my hip I've had more time to pray. When I was up and about, there was so much to attend to, I got lazy about some of the important things. Now, I have a chance to think about the people I love and really talk to God about them. I can't serve them dinner anymore, but I serve them just the same."


Love is different things to different people. To Vera it's something she never gets. To Florence it's something she always gives.

How do you define love? Is it one big event? Is it something somebody else does to you? Is it something you receive? Is it something you say? In Sarah's language, love is a verb, not a noun. In Carol's, it's a boat she missed. Love is too often lost in translation.

Years ago I attended a woman's conference on marriage. Earlier, the speaker had asked all the husbands what they did to say I love you without words. Each wife stood up while her husband's quote was read: "Julia's husband took her to Hawaii for their tenth anniversary." "Nancy's husband sends flowers once a month." "Lydia's husband takes her out to dinner every Friday."

It started feeling competitive. "Karen's husband gave her a new diamond ring for her 40th birthday." "Carma's husband tells her she's beautiful whenever she dresses up." "Marty's husband empties the dishwasher." There were a few giggles, but my eyes filled with tears.

Dee had done all the showy things in one form or another. But the way he routinely said I love you was by emptying the dishwasher—before breakfast, after dinner, while I cooked, while he cooked, at 4 in the morning, on Sunday afternoons . . .and I hadn't been listening. He was saying he loved me all the time!

Love isn't one giant, glittery nugget, and it's not one breathless, passionate moment. And it's certainly not just for sweethearts on Valentine's Day. Love is something you can do, every day.

It's this,

and this,

or this,

and even this.

Marta says it perfectly.

♫ When your heart is filled with love,
Others will love you. ♫

What's your love language?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Time-TravelinOma Part Two


Synopsis of Part One: Oma and the little girls opened a magic matryoshka doll, which sent them on a time-travel adventure. They just arrived in Medieval England.

"The past is a foreign country—they do things differently there."

The first thing they noticed was the smell. Trudging along the muddy road they saw piles of garbage, animal bones, rotting meat and a stream of foul, lumpy water. It was an open sewer! A small brown pig that used to be pink was rutting around in the muck, while men took barrels from the back of a cart and poured the contents into the reeking slime.

A group of children with dirty faces and tousled hair ran alongside a small herd of sheep. Their clothes were filthy and their feet even filthier from manure droppings and oozing puddles smothering their path.

In the distance a church-bell chimed. Wagons creaked, cows mooed and a brown-robed friar preached against sin to a circle of admirers. Suddenly the sounds took over and the smells were forgotten. “Hot cross buns . . . if you haven’t got a penny, a ha-penny will do . . .” Medieval England rang in their ears.

Mickelgate Bar, York

Oma recognized Mickelgate Bar as they were jostled through the city walls. “We’re in York,” she said. Chloë glanced up and promptly screamed. “There’s a skull! Don’t look, Ashley!”

The blackened heads of criminals were stuck on spikes above the gate, their eyes plucked out by birds. Legs and arms hung by ropes, riddled with maggots and covered by flies. These were warnings to thieves and traitors that punishment for breaking the law was harsh.

It was as if Oma and the little girls were invisible. No one seemed to notice them. Ponies, laden with grain, ambled toward a marketplace in the middle of town, guided by peasants from local farms. Priests passed by, robed in their habits, with crucifixes and rosaries hanging from their girdles. Carts filled with eggs, milk and cheese lined the street; signs painted with pictures swung over shops, advertising goods to customers unable to read.

The Shambles, York

A servant opened an upstairs shutter and shook the dust from a rug. Wooden beams from the house projected out so far that a woman across the street fanned the dust from her face. She reached across and handed another neighbor a basket filled with strawberries. Shoppers below them couldn’t see the sky because the street was so narrow, and the houses so close together.

Wandering the crooked streets, Ashley heard the church bells again. “Wow, there are lots of churches,” she said. Oma looked up. “I wonder if the Minster has been built yet,” she said and walked a little faster.

Half-naked men were sweating in the sun, laying stones in a herringbone pattern on the ground. Over the hubbub of the morning’s business a town crier called the news of the day as he strolled through throngs of richly dressed merchants buying scissors and knives from the ironmonger. Chloë noticed that both French and English were spoken, and even some Latin. It was hard to understand anything the people said.

York Minster

As they rounded the corner, bells sounded the hour. DONG! DONG! DONG! The air vibrated, and brilliant panels of glass glittered high on the side of a massive cathedral. “I’ll show you how to read a window,” said Oma.

Inside, the church was cold and dark, but it was easy to see the pictures made of stained glass high above their heads. “Do you recognize the stories? They’re from the Bible,” explained Oma. She seemed preoccupied. “Opa once climbed around that highest balcony, and examined the windows close up—after lightning struck the cathedral, ” murmured Oma after a minute. “We lived in York in 1985, hundreds of years after all this happened.”

Jessi had been thinking. “Are we time-traveling?” she wondered. “What are we doing in England so long ago?”

“It’s because of the magic Matryoshka doll,” whispered Ashley. “When Oma twisted the one that was stuck, it opened up a new world.”

“You mean an old world,” Chloë said. “I just hope we can get back.”

Oma noticed something in her pocket and realized she still had the two halves of the tiniest doll. “I don’t want to lose these,” she said as she put them back together. Instantly a musty smell of incense mixed with a dusty smell of smoke, and the spinning sensation swirled them back through leaves, lilacs, licorice and lemon.


Ashley’s eyes focused slowly, until she recognized assorted pieces of the Matryoshka doll scattered on the family room floor. “Wow, guys,” she said. “I just had the weirdest dream.” Chloë looked dazed, while Jess thought, "Was it a nightmare, or a dream come true?"

"It's too bad we didn't meet anyone," said Oma to herself. "I've got to go back."

Related Posts:

Our house in York, England, 1985

Daily life in York, 1985-86


~Write a paragraph describing a smell.

~List 5 things that conjure up memories for you.

~Tell me about something scary you saw as a child.

Monday, February 15, 2010


"Gather round grandkids, and you will hear,
Of your beginnings back many a year.
We'll have to visit some foreign lands,

But Time-TravelinOma has made the plans."

(The following is an excerpt from my introductory chapter to Bagley Beginnings:
A young adult chapter book where we meet ancestors from Medieval England.)


“Did you bring the Oma kit?” asked Jessi, searching for the familiar red and blue box Oma always brought when she came to baby-sit.

The little girls fluttered as Oma took off her coat, scarf and shoes. “I want to play with the buttons,” said Ashley. When she couldn’t find the yellow tin filled with balloon and heart-shaped buttons, she started foraging through Oma’s purse.


“Not so fast, Ladybug,” said Oma. “I brought something new.” Out of her pocket Oma took a blue paisley silk hankie. Wrapped inside was a Matryoshka doll.

Oma had a shelf in her apartment with a collection of Matryoshka nesting dolls. Most of them looked like Russian peasant grandmothers, with yellow scarves, rosy cheeks and flowered aprons. Her grandkids loved opening them one by one and making a parade of the various figures inside, lining them up from biggest to littlest.

Matryoshka Dolls

Some of the Matryoshkas had five dolls inside, some had seven and one had thirteen, with only a sliver of wood for the tiniest doll. But the Matryoshka Oma unwrapped was different. “Opa had this one specially made for me,” Oma told the girls. “It’s supposed to be magic.”


Chloë looked it over carefully. The doll had short chestnut hair, green eyes and red glasses perched on the end of her roundish nose. “This is strange,” said Chloë. “Her bandana isn’t tied under her chin. It’s around her head, like a sweat-band.” The other girls pushed in closer to see. “Oma, she looks just like you!”

“How many dolls are inside?” asked Jess. Oma had been wondering the same thing. She’d already counted twice and come up with a different number each time. The smallest doll was stuck and Oma wondered if there could be even more dolls inside it.

Taking them apart, Chloë noticed that every doll had a unique costume. Several were boys: one wore brown linen pants with suspenders, another had funny tights and a short wool tunic tied with a rope. A woman had a fur collar with a rabbit’s head still attached, and a girl wore a long dress with a shorter, sleeveless dress over it.

“Thirty one, thirty two, thirty three,” counted Ashley. “There couldn’t be that many,” said Oma. “Let’s start again.”

Just then Ashley came to a doll that was stuck. “I’ll try to twist it open,” said Oma. “It has something inside . . . it’s sticky like chapstick but it smells like lemons and licorice, lilacs and leaves. Sniff it girls. I think it’s a perfume holder. This must be the magic part.”

Oma had no idea just how magic it was. As they each inhaled the heady scents, they felt dizzy, remembering sun burnt days, nippy nights, sweet and sour all at once. The aromas recalled impressions so far back in their memories they couldn’t even identify them. Abruptly something jolted them out of their reverie.

“Yuck! What’s that?” “It stinks!” Oma looked around for the offending odor. “What happened?” asked Jess. “Where are we?”

The past is a foreign country—they do things differently there.

(Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of chapter one.)

Links to related posts:

Oma Kits

Button Box

Matryoshka Dolls

*Homework: (Link your assignments via a comment so I can see what you're up to.)

~How do you imagine time-travel could work. Ask your kids or grandkids for suggestions, and pass them on to me.

~If you could travel back in time, where would you go and why?

~If you were up writing at 3:04 in the morning, day after day, what would you be writing about?