My parents worked long, hard hours and sacrificed a lot to be able to buy that house and to support my sister and me. Inevitably, wherever my father found work, the union would go on strike and he would have to move to another job. Finally, he found work as a carpenter/handyman at Northwest Steel Rolling Mills, where he stayed until he retired. Whenever the steel-workers’ union went on strike he would work temporarily as a longshoreman and if he was laid off from that job, my mother would carry the whole load doing piecework as a seamstress in a sewing factory. Life for my parents in our new country was grim for the most part but they did find time for car trips in the summer and to get together with Norwegian friends and enjoy life a bit. But my mother was far away from her family, my father’s dream of higher education or being a musician died during the war, and, because their new religion demanded they be constantly reminded of imminent hell and damnation if they strayed off the path, their existence was far from happy and carefree.
I wanted in the worst way to try out for our grade school play, The Princess and the Pea, but I couldn’t do that because my parents had told me being in plays was a sin, even if you were just nine years old and had only vague notions of what sin was. I knew drinking, smoking, dancing and going to movies was very bad but having fun pretending to be someone else in your own school with your own friends? I didn’t get it. After the auditions, the role went to the daughter of the president of the PTA (nepotism is everywhere). I snuck in at lunchtime one day to watch a rehearsal and was again terribly offended by the lack of acting professionalism in my schoolmates. The girl who played the princess didn’t bring one ounce of believability to the role, and to my complete horror, instead of actually crying, merely said “boo hoo, boo hoo” when she was supposed to be crying. “Boo hoo?!” I covered my face with my hands and agonized over the unfairness of it all. She did not deserve this starring role, but why should it affect me so? I was not even in the running to begin with.
Dancing was, of course, strictly forbidden, as it could lead a young girl directly down the road to ruin (where was that?). So when all the other kids trooped down to the gym for an hour of square dancing, I was left behind in the classroom to sit alone wondering how my parents even found out about the dancing in order to tell the principal I couldn’t partake in this particular sin. Except for my mother, who came once, they never visited the school. After my sister married, she and her husband Jim came to school and played my surrogate parents on visiting days. But somehow my parents managed to nose out the disgraceful square dancing and make sure I spent that hour alone, appreciating the fact that I was not committing an offense against God by stomping around the gym to country music, laughing and having a good time like everybody else.
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