I think I’ll be….

october2011 squirrelIt had been a placidly common day without significant interruption or worries for Mrs. Vesely. Her husband managed to use his manual labor skills to provide the small newly-settled family with necessities and an occasional luxury. Living simply meant a rich life for the Veselys. Wild mushroom picking together as a family in the fall fit into the traditional routine that filled autumn weekends and today’s winter plates. Autumn harvests from farmer’s markets and backyard gardens blanketed their winter table with Dusa Vesely’s culinary expertise. Halushki, a savory dish of boiled cabbage and noodles captured young Serge’s favor for dinners, especially on bitter winter nights.
Serge’s childhood reflected a mix of both New and Old Worlds. Although only in the third grade in America, Serge remembered much of his grandparents’ influence. “Baba” would sit patiently and encase his little hand with hers, moving a pen to assist his calligraphy. “Your pen will bring you treasures,” Baba used to tell him. He couldn’t really understand how forming little curves which broke from straight lines could manifest into gleaming pirate chests of gold or silver treasure, but he trusted her anyway. After years from this earliest memory, he could still write many words she had taught him and he even remembered a children’s poem or two in their native language.
Yet, attending school with children whose lives reflected disinterest in his cultural and historical ways poked Serge into a quieter, more observant role in class. The faster-paced attractions of sports, TV and videogames that programmed other children’s lives dazzled Serge as he wandered through school discovering paths previously unknown to him.
Three-thirty six on Monday afternoon shone from the chrome kitchen clock and Mrs. Vesely knew that at any moment, Serge would be walking around the corner and through the solid wooden door that distanced noise and problems outside. Although bus transportation was provided by the school district, Cenek Vesely believed his son should manage his time and exercise by getting to school on time and returning home on time and on foot.
Mrs. Vesely felt the frigid air vacuum as Serge opened the front door. Serge smiled as the perfume of “rosky” wafted on the warm cooking breeze from the oven that had baked these flaky walnut crescent cookies whose scent reinvigorated a tired, hungry schoolboy.
Dusa Vesely heated milk with a tablespoon of honey and helped Serge pull off navy blue, hand-knit woolen mittens and a matching knit hat with tied earflaps – Baba’s handiwork with a yarn so soft, Serge looked forward to wearing them every morning. Mrs. Vesely placed a small plate of the rosky treats next to the warm milk.
Serge gave his mother a big hug before he slid into the smooth wooden captain’s chair and opened his napkin to initiate his mid-afternoon snacking ritual. He wrapped his stocking feet around the legs of the chair to secure him before delving into the warm treats.
“Mati,” he began after his first bite of rosky, “I’ve decided that I like the name “Mike”.
It’s my name now. He proudly held up his work for the day – an arithmetic worksheet with the name “Mike V.” quickly scrawled across the top after the printed heading NAME.
“Mike? Why Mike?” Mrs. Vesely seemed slightly perplexed at this novel and decisive discovery.
“My friends at school say that I look like a strong football player named Mike. It sounds good to me. I think I’ll be Mike!”
There is a delicate balance between being who we are, who we want to become and who we are indeed becoming. Each of us brings our own uniqueness to our lives, yet we do not stand alone. We are a product of our ancestry, our families, our own personal tastes and preferences.
Living in a multi-faceted world presents limitless options for us today – not all, of course, are positive or adaptable to our own individuality. While progress is of significant importance to prosper, there is much to be said for preserving the key ingredients of who we are uniquely through our own stories, our own customs and our own culture. We can truly appreciate diversity and even incorporate some of the qualities we find throughout our lives, but we must be true to who we are. Planting the seeds of our ancestry, instilling pride in our children and nurturing the beauties of our culture may preserve traditions that create life as an unparalleled journey as peerless as our own fingerprint on the mark of time.

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