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Memories From the Ocean

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The calmness that the ocean brings is not something that you can find just anywhere. There is a certain uniqueness to it-- like the iridescent glow of pearls found only in the Great Barrier Reef or the smell of the top of a newborn baby's head. I don't know what it it is about the ocean, but all I know is that right now, sipping my champagne and looking at the sunset dance across the horizon, dusty old memories are beginning to flood into my mind.

I fight them back, pushing them to the forgotten corners of my brain where all my unwanted thoughts go. It's not that I want to forget them; they tell the tale of my life, my past, my history. They define who I am.

It is not that easy to push these memories aside, though. Now a widow with four grown up children and many, many grandchildren, I have become a woman who has endured the happiest of moments, the hardships of life, and the unavoidable passing of time. I consider myself lucky; there are not many women who could have survived what I have been through.

As the minutes pass, I feel more and more aware that I cannot resist the hypnotizing spell of the ocean. The memories come flooding back, and I am being pulled under by the waves of my memory. Slowly the clock in my head starts to rewind time, going back many years, moving faster, faster, faster...

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'I'm sorry to inform you that your husband has just been diagnosed with asthma, Mrs. Mikucki. It would be of great benefit to him if he moved to the country where the air is cleaner.' The doctor that diagnosed my father was obnoxious and I could tell, with all my seven years of living on this earth, that he was just the tiniest bit condescending towards my mother.

It was hard for my parents; they both moved to the United States to find better lives than the ones they were leading in Poland. 'The Land of Opportunity,' as they liked to call it, seemed to be assigned to only certain people.

I could tell that the news of my father's ailment bothered him. 'If I must give up my job here in the city and start over somewhere where there is little work, we may as well move back to Poland,' he would say numerous times. So we did. My mother, father, sister, two brothers, and I all moved back to my father's hometown of Kurkuwa, taking nothing with us but the clothes on our backs and the little money my parents had saved up from my father's job.

It was my first time traveling to Poland, or anywhere for that matter, and I was amazed. Everything was so much different there than in the United States. The towns consisted of less than a hundred people, animals ran loose all over the towns, the people all knew each other, and best of all-- there was not one condescending, know-it-all, hot shot man to tell people what to do.

All except for Josef. He and his family lived across the pond in a small farmhouse. It was said back then that on one side of the pond lived the 'royalty' or more well-to-do families, and on the other lived the 'commoners' or less wealthy families. Well I lived on the more wealthy side, and Josef lived on the 'commoner' side. He had taken the biggest liking to me, and I was unsure about my feelings toward him up until one night when he and his friends threw rocks at my house and broke a couple windows. He thought he was the toughest man in town, but from that moment on he lost my respect forever. I had nothing to do with him.

At the time, I did not know it, but there was another man vying for my attention. His name was Jan and he was the epitome of a gentleman. He was generous, kind, loving, and ever so handsome. It was not too soon after that that we were married. Another year later, I found myself pregnant with my first child. It was a baby girl, and she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Nothing could have been better in my life... until the second world war started.

It was the most disastrous time of my life, and bringing a newborn baby into the world was not very good timing. The Nazis came and took over our home. They made the men work for them, and shot at the ones who tried to run away. How could there be such selfish and cold-blooded people in this world such as these? I didn't know what to do. I was so scared for my life and my daughter's life as well.

Fortunately, there was one kind soul who helped me. One of the Nazis, a chef, felt bad for me because I had a baby, and brought us food so we could be comfortable until they left. It was a miracle; I didn't know how much longer I could take the horrible life that the Nazis had made, but this one man showed me that there were people that were genuinely kind in the world. I believed that he was brought to me by fate, and we owed so much to him.

After the war was over, I had two more children-- a boy and a girl. Jan and the children and I moved to the United States for the same reason my parents had a long time ago-- to live in a land of opportunity, a land where anything can happen, a land where dreams can come true. I didn't understand it at the time, but it was beginning of a whole new chapter in the book of my life...

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'Babcia!! It's time for dinner!' my granddaughter's shrill voice sounds from the kitchen, through the living room, and to the balcony.

'I'm coming, Stefania,' I say. I take one last look at the crystal blue ocean that intrigues me and inspires my mind, and I soak in the last droplets of the satisfaction it brings me. It's not every day that I get to spend time with my granddaughter and grandson. Sometimes I look at them and I see myself, but I know that there is an enormous difference in our lives. Life is so easy for them, and I hope in some way I can show them to take it slowly and never take anything for granted. One day, I will tell them my story in the hopes of helping them live out the best possible life they can lead, in the hopes of their eternal happiness, like the never-ending ebbing and flowing of the ocean waves.





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