The week long class I took was called Finding Your Threads, which I thought might help me to tie together the assorted bits and pieces of writing about my family history into something of a document that might be worth reading by people who were not related to us as well as a legacy to those who are. The class was interesting and I did write a few more bits about my Slovak heritage.
A classmate named Sara, who calls herself Wokie (like cookie) because there are so many women with the same name, it just simplifies classroom life, asked me if I’d like to accompany her on a drive to Cedar Rapids to the Czech and Slovak museum and I said yes. We headed out after our morning conferences with our teacher and made it back just a few minutes into our last class of the session. My camera ran out of charge just as I was posturing to photograph the gigantic crystal chandelier in the lobby. I had to be satisfied with a post card.
After the class ended, a lady from Philadelphia and I were slowly walking down the hill from the old Capitol. Lyn had gone to the Women’s March to Washington, D.C. and I wanted her to meet Claudia, who was sitting in the hotel lobby when we arrived. We all chatted for a minute and then agreed to get freshened up and meet back in the lobby in a half hour and go out to dinner together.
I was really surprised that Claudia arrived so early – my memory of driving between Naperville and Cleveland was that it took me a full eight hours and so I did not think she’d be here at her estimated time of arrival, but there she was. We had a very enjoyable dinner at the Atlas restaurant and returned to the hotel to wind down and prepare for the Saturday registration and class.
We trudged up the hill to the old Capitol and were there before the registration actually began, which seemed to be a good thing to me, because we were able to get seats and get hot coffee and pastries – my favorite is the pan au chocolat, or chocolate filled croissant. Once the registration began we got underway and soon the room was filled to capacity. Claudia and I gathered our stuff and made our way down a floor to the assembly room where we would be greeted by Kate, who reminds us every year that if we have fallen in love with Iowa City, we should be sure we have employment before moving here.
She went on to dole out other information and then to introduce the line of teachers at the back of the room. Completing her introduction and welcome, Kate sent us off to our classes and Claudia and I agreed about where to meet after class.
She was signed up for Tell a Tale and I took a poetry class, where I was delighted to find people I met in other classes in other years, but my favorite is John, who is still outrageously funny and he loved it that I laughed at his jokes. On his way to the vending machine for a coke he asked if I wanted a pop and I said no thank you, then asked if I wanted a water, and my bottle was over half full so I nixed that offer as well. His last offer was, “…chocolate cake?” now I was listening, but laughed because the machine only contained drinks.
After class Claudia and I walked up Jefferson to St. Mary’s Church. The Methodist Church was the building before it and she tried to get into it but all the doors were locked, they did not have a Saturday evening service. I was glad she agreed to accompany me to Mass, though she was not at all obligated to do so. St. Mary’s is very old and the statues and stained glass windows are quite lovely, so I thought she would enjoy seeing them. Her husband and her son-in-law are Catholic, so she was not troubled by joining me at Mass.
From there we walked a couple blocks further to a delicatessen for dinner and signed up to participate in the open mic poetry reading. Claudia is not primarily interested in poetry but she did have a nice piece she wrote after viewing a statue in a museum, on her laptop so that is what she read and was later complimented by an attendee on that work. My poem elicited some laughter because of its surprise ending.
On the walk back down Jefferson we talked about the poetry we had heard. The road takes a steeper descent a couple of blocks before the Iowa House Hotel, and last year I decided I would be safer taking a detour back to the diagonal walk from the old capitol, but Claudia offered her arm if I needed to lean on her and we inched along step by step until we got safely to the bottom of the street.
When the Sunday sessions ended I walked toward the Prairie Lights Book store in search of poetry by Ilya Kaminsky, a teacher I had last year and Claudia was going to spend some time at yoga and meet me at the book store. She enjoyed being in the old fashioned real book store and found a book by the teacher she had. To my delight she had not only enjoyed her experience at the festival, but felt like she was just getting started and hated to be leaving the next morning. We went into an Irish pub and indulged in fish and chips, which was very tasty and very filling. A couple of ladies stopped us to ask if we were locals and we said no, so they were about to keep going when I offered, “We’ve been here a week, maybe we can help you.” They were looking for a good place to eat and had been to the Atlas the evening before. After telling them about the meal we had just eaten, thanking us they headed off in the direction of the Irish pub.