The kind and sweet smile

From a very deep sleep, I saw Mrs. Bartos standing there smiling her sweet and kind smile, just as she looked the last time I saw her, about fifty years ago. I knew her from my Slovak club, The General Stefanik Dramatic Society, which met weekly at the Sokol Hall at West 44th and Clark in Cleveland to rehearse new and old tunes played on the piano by Alice Toth. The songs were all Slovak folk songs and I gave it my all though I had no thorough speaking knowledge of the language, I was able to read and sing the words with the group. Most of the members had known each other for many years and belonged to the same Lutheran Church. I found them through the advice of Theodore Andrika, a cultural events writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The group put on plays in Slovak, danced and sang when invited by assorted folk groups or churches. The highlight of the year was the Folk Arts Festival in the public hall downtown where the many diversified people of Cleveland were represented.

The weekly practice would often go on until after ten, so frequently I just went on to my Grandparents’ home, also on the west side, stayed the night and went to work from there the next morning. Now and then Mrs. Bartos would invite me to stay the night at her home, as it was closer to the meeting hall. I remember being there a few times – her cozy house was neat as a pin and while I do not remember any of our conversations, I do remember one time her friend Elmer stopped by and when he left I asked her if she might marry him and in her wise quiet way she shook her head no and smiled.

It has been a very long time since I have thought about her, yet she came, unbidden from the recesses of my memory to smile again and I smile back.

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