The Waiting Room for Paradise
April 12, 2004
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Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Of course, as it was the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, I had my work cut out for me and spent the entire show in the kitchen. I cranked out two coffeecakes for the Easter Breakfast at church, a pan of corn casserole, a pineapple-upside down cake, a pan of lemon bars and two pans of rolls, and sliced red onion and crumbled Feta for my three leaf salad with cranberry vinaigrette. I stared at that bone-in ham for a good long time, wondering what the heck to do first. I usually buy those cute little smaller hams without a bone as I tend to feel puffy when I eat a lot of pork and would rather not have leftovers, but I thought I'd go all out this year with my parents dropping by for lunch. I got busy with my old St. Paul's Lutheran cookbook and found a mustard/brown sugar/vinegar glaze recipe that would -- and did -- turn that ham into an occasion all its own. Makes my toes curl just to think about it.
It's not so often you hear a polka on the show, and that was just a warm-up. By the time Mr. Keillor gave a little talk on Mary Hill, wife of James J., the railroad man who built that lovely mansion down in St. Paul, I was nearly half-done with my list and contemplating washing the kitchen floor. I sat down on the floor instead, to listen, leaning back against the spice cupboard which I've yet to organize this spring, and stretched down along the heater which blew warm air over my legs and made my skin tingle. A bowl of rice pudding and a spoon, and I would have been in the waiting room for Paradise.
Her name was Sally Dworsky, the woman who read Mary Hill's diary, written in Paris back around the turn of the century, and I closed my eyes and imagined what it would be like to be Mary, to visit museums and have fancy teas and go to cathedrals for worship. It was lovely, really, especially the part where Sally sang, and I felt haunted by her voice later when Mr. Keillor told the story of Viola coming back from California to Lake Wobegon where she felt unable, really, to be her own true self. Well, when Viola showed up at church mildly intoxicated to help get ready for Easter Breakfast, when she lit up a cigarette and confessed about the surfer she'd met and how happy she'd been visiting all those Napa Valley wineries, I couldn't help but feel for her. It's so hard to be who you really are in this world when everyone around you has in mind who they want you to be.
If I someone read my diaries a hundred years or so from now, I imagine they'd find me somewhere between Mary and Viola. Sure, I make jam and go to church and read good books now and then, and meet my friends for coffee and talk about important things like dignity and politics, but I don't keep a diary and it's probably a good thing. There's the matter of that red-sequined dress in the window at the former Dayton's, and I'd have words to write about parties in cornfields and brandy slush, and the feeling of driving just a bit over the speed limit or, I imagine, how it might feel to call your friends at home from far away after a day of surfing in San Francisco Bay.