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About Oregon daily emerald. (Eugene, Or.) 1920-2012 | View Entire Issue (Feb. 23, 1946)
- Treat for Astri
By Randi Raanes
The dreary dawn slanted through
the half-drawn shade as my moth
er called me.
“At last the day has come,” I
thought, and immediately I has
tened to pull on my clothes and
I flew through breakfast as
though it were merely an unim
portant grace-note in a great so
nata. Then I dived for the mop
and dust-rag and began to clean
the front room. This was unusual
for me. Most of the time I was
the world’s greatest procrastinator
concerning the task of dusting.
The thought of bending over and
shoving dust out of little corners
had always made me shudder. It
was just too much like work. But
as I furiously attacked the dust
on the piano legs, I reflected that
this once I had a special reason
for wanting to clean the house.
One of the greatest days of my
life was no longer in the distant
future, but was present. My aunt,
my mother’s only sister, was com
ing from Norway. And she was
going to live with us.
Thoughts of Reunion
I had not seen Astri for a num
ber of years. She had gone to Eng
land when we came to America.
It would be so wonderful to see
my favorite aunt again. I knew
she would think me quite grown
up. I was almost 11 years old. As
I banged the dust-rag across the
piano keys, I wondered what I
would do to entertain her.
The question constituted a prob
lem. -It did not occur to me that
she was quite capable of enter
—lining herself. I was grappling
with the question of what to do,
as I began to dust off the albums
on the shelf of the coffee table.
My hand and eye hesitated on my
recently completed album. That
was it. I would show Astri my
album. It would interest her a
great deal, I knew. There were
many pictures which had been
taken in Norway while she was
still there with us, but they had
not been in the album when she
saw them. I wanted her to see the
exact system I had used in enter
ing and labeling the pictures. Be
sides, there were many pictures
taken from my school days and
vacations, and Astri would enjoy
those because she was so inter
ested in me. Yes, I would show
her my album.
Carefully I dusted it. Then I
took all of the loose papers and
birthday and Christmas cards out
* Of it and placed it back on its
shelf on the coffee table.
With the entertainment problem
solved, I industriously tackled the
dining-room table legs with my
At the lunch table I could not
eat. I had been working hard all
morning, but my excitement would
simply not allow me to swallow
more than a few bits of carrot
salad and a half glass of milk.
My mother was distressed at
my sudden loss of appetite. “But,
Randi,” she cried, “you must eat.
You cannot go until supper-time
without food. That will not do.”
“I can't eat,” I protested, and
in my excitement I began to cry.
Mother became slightly angry.
“Now, don’t be that way. If you
are going to be like that, you will
have to stay home and wait for us.
- We cannot have a whiny little girl
along to greet Astri.”
Ashamedly I sniffed away my
tears and remembered that actual
Jy I was quite old, and grown-ups
didn’t cry about little things, not
even when they were so nervous
After an eternity of face-scrub
bing and hair-combing and then
attempting to practice my piano
lesson while waiting for my par
ents to get ready, we started off
to the depot. The weather was
not at all what it should have been
on such a joyous occasion. The
rain drizzled down and made the
day seem quite miserable. I fer
vently hoped that Astri didn’t
mind rain. Then I convinced my
self that she wouldn’t mind be
cause she had worked in London,
and my memory seemed to recall
something about London's wet and
foggy climate. I hoped that Lon
don was worse than Portland.
It took several centuries to ar
rive at the train depot. After our
arrival, it took several more cen
turies for the clock’s hand to drag
itself around for 20 minutes. By
this time I could hardly breathe
from pure nervous excitement. My
parents kept telling me to calm
down, but I insistently chewed
every fingernail to the quick.
Then I heard a voice over the
loudspeaker. It announced that
the train had arrived from the
south, and that the passengers
were coming in. Fortunately, there
were but a few people waiting for
the passengers, so I had an un
obstructed view of the tracks. Peo
ple milled in from the train. I saw
many stately ladies walk into the
depot but I knew they were not
Astri. She would be much more
distinguished than any of these.
I visualized her in an exquisitely
tailored suit, a smart hat, and
walking toward us with a calm,
“There she is.” My mother said
it much too calmly, I thought.
Out of the Crowd
“Where?” I fairly screamed. I
scanned the few persons saunter
ing toward us. There was only one
outstanding person in view. It was
a woman in a huge gray raincoat
which was flying out like Dutch
man’s breeches, and a small dark
hat. A round suitcase was sus
pended from her arm and was
bouncing all around as she raced
across the tracks, arms outstretch
“What a clumsy looking wom
an,” I thought. “I’m glad she's not
I turned my attention back to J
the other women who were com
ing toward us to see if I could dis
An agonizing second passed be
fore I realized that the woman in
the gray raincoat had flung her
self at my mother. That clumsy
looking woman bouncing the round
suitcase was Astri.
I was shocked. It wasn’t possi
ble. A chill sense of disappoint
ment came over me and would not
leave. My Astri would never have
tumbled across those tracks in so
unladylike a way. But she had.
When I overcame my sudden
shock, I looked at my mother and
Astri in their greeting embrace.
Then I turned to Daddy, who was
standing next to me.
“I guess this is where we came
in,” I said dully.
He must have sensed my disap
pointment either by my crestfal
len countenance or by my stupid
remark. He slowly smiled and
squeezed my hand. Daddy en
couraged me. I convinced myself
that Astri’s clothes and unlady
like manner would not affect her
character. She was still Astri, no
matter what she wore.
Astri turned and warmly greet
ed my father, and then she turned
to me. I was fairly shivering with
excitement. She gazed at me. Her
eyes traveled up and down, up and
“And so this is the big girl,”
she said, with an inflecton that I
convinced myself was not deri
Sudden bashfulness overcame
me. I crowded close to my father
There Was No Sound
Hearts that laugh at fate are poetry,
And 1 have seen his laughter,
as swift and silent as the stream by the grove.
I have watched him there, stripping the bush of its leaves,
turning each over, blowing off a bug, or folding it,
or just letting it float in the shallows until the
current pulled it down stream.
There was no sound, but there was laughter.
Eyes with a song are poetry,
And I have looked into his eyes
as soft and warm as the breeze in the grove.
I have followed his glance from the bush to the tree,
to the clouds—back to the tree, to the leaves,
to the dirt.
There was no sound, but his eyes were singing.
Calloused hands speak of poetry,
And I have watched them toil,
as honest hands do, and they built by the grove.
I was proud of his hard tanned hands for they moved steadily,
with a touch of a flair . . .
And his clasp was there, when he plucked the string.
Death is the finite song of poetry.
No, not for musicians without notes,
For poetry can be time and the numbness of time,
and in part, love and the vibrance of love—■
But for him, first, they took his hands,
then, his eyes—
There had been no sound.
—SHIRLEY ANNE PHILLIPS
rather than going forward to her.
Shyness was not characteristic of
me. Usually I was perfectly will
ing and happy to speak to strang
ers. But when Astri’s eyes ran
over me, I wanted to run and hide.
The though confused and frieght
ened me. As I gulped an unintelli
gible answer to her simple state
ment, I gave myself a severe si
lent scolding for thinking anything
but the best of her. I had no rea
son to be disappointed in her.
While she stared at me, I noticed
that she really had a good-looking
suit under that raincoat. But the
first picture of her flying across
the tracks would not leave my
mind, no matter how dignified she
appeared as she stood by Mother.
Suddenly I realized that Astri
was still speaking to me. She pull
ed something out of a huge gray
pocket in her raincoat. It was a
I stared at the funny little ani
man. He was almost as large as
Astri’s palm, and his wrinkled
legs dangled over her hand. A
wrinkled head and neck with wor
ried black eyes batting in the
light slowly pushed itself out from
under an afghan-patterned shell.
I was fascinated.
“Well, what’s the matter? Don’t
you want him?” I heard Astri ask
“Why—yes—er—can I have him
—I—I mean, is it really for me?”
I faltered. I was thrilled over the
little turtle, but puzzled over As
tri’s attitude. She was laughing
“Why don’t you take him?”
She held out her hand. “Is a big
girl like you afraid of a turtle?
He won’t bite, you know.”
Slowly I took the turtle from
her and stood there, just looking
at him and batting my eyes as
rapidly as he batted his. I wanted
to cry, but knew I mustn’t. Nor
did I know exactly why I wanted
to cry. It somehow seemed that
the bottom of the world had drop
ped out and that a frightened lit
tle turtle and I were left alone.
“Can’t you say something?” It
was Astri demanding my atten
tion. Almost afraid to look up at
her, I muttered a thank-you and
immediately looked down at the
turtle in my hand. He had com
pletely withdrawn to the’ safelty
of his shell. I envied him. He didn’t
have to look at her insistent stares
when he didn’t want to. I had no
way of escape.
On the way home I sat in the
corher of the car and watched my
turtle. Astri was busily chattering
to Mother about our relatives in
Norway. I should have been inter
ested, but somehow my spirit was
deadened. Twice I attempted to
make my way into the conversa
tion in order to show Astri that
I was not a backward, bashful
little girl but that I was an in
telligent young lady. So far her
eyes had plainly showed that she
considered me an infant.
“Where did you get the turtle?”
“Panama.” And she turned again
I let Panama run around in my
mind for a few minutes and then
decided to try again from a dif
“I’m going to show you my al
bum when we get home.” I felt
that this information would please
her greatly and that I wouTd re
ceive a really encouraging re
She turned to me with an an
noyed glance, then turned back to
Mother. A hot flush colored my
face. Unsuccessfully I tried to hold
back the tears. Astri didn’t want
to . see my album. Still, I attempt
ed to convince myself that per
haps she hadn’t heard what I said
and was too polite to ask. But I
knew I was rationalizing. Tears
slipped down my cheeks. I watch
ed one splash silently on the tur
tle’s shell. Hurriedly I wiped it
off with my finger and turned to
gaze out the window, wiping the
successive tears off my face with
the back of my hand.
Waiting the Moment
When we arrived at home, my
enthusiasm and excitement over
flowed again. There were many
things to show Astri. Much as I
wanted to pull out my album im
mediately, I decided to wait until
after dinner for the great treat.
Before dinner Astri and Mother
busily unpacked Asri's huge
trunk. I stood by in silence, still
holding the turtle, who probably
felt as frustrated as I. I wanted
to help unpack, but no, I was too
little to be of any use. I might
break something valuable. After
a few minutes I went downstairs
and watched the lonely turtle plod
his way across the thick rug.
At dinner, Astri chattered pleas
antly about her trip. She appeared
to be in a good mood, and even
looked at me quite as though I
were a contemporary, not an in
fant. I decided that she probably
had been unhappy because she was
hungry, and that now she would
be the jolly, loving aunt whom I
had pictured in my mind.
After Daddy and I washed the
dishes, we ventured into the front
room, where Mother and Astri
were discussing old friends. Quiet
ly I perched on the hassock at As
tri’s feet. The great treat, my al
bum, was within reach. After lis
tening to the conversation for
what seemed to me an eternity, I
pulled the album from the shelf.
For several minutes I sat there,
delicately balancing the wonderful
book on my knees. I hoped that
she would speak to me first, that
she would ask me what I had on
my lap. Then I would modestly
ask her if she cared to look at
my album. She would be very
happy to look at it. Somewhere
in my mind a doubt rested, but
only for an intsant. I firmly con
vinced myself that she wanted me
to enter into the conversation by
way of the album.
Astri did not seem inclined to
look toward me, but I could wait
no longer. With my newly revived
self-confidence, I tenderly lifted
the precious album toward her,
experienced another fleeting doubt,
then boldly spoke.
“Would you like to look at my
album, Auntie Astri ?”
She made no reply. She kept
talking to Mother. I realized that
I had spoken barely above a whis
per. I determined to try again, and
this time make myself heard.
“Wouldn’t you like to look at
She turned those piercing eyes
upon me. “Did you say something,
Little girl. I gulped. This time
I spoke without the assistance of
a grain of cinfidence. “1 wonder
if you wouldn’t like to look at my
“Well, some other day. I want
to talk to your mother and father
now, so you keep still. And now,
isn’t it time for little girls to be
I felt as though someone had
slapped me sharply across the face.
My mind numbed. Astri actually
didn’t even care if I owned an
album. She didn’t want to have
anything to do with the great
treat I had planned for her.
Through the fogginess of my mis
ery I heard my father ask me if
I wished to go to bed, as Astri
suggested. Daddy understood. He
and Mother had promised that to
night I might stay up as late as
I wished to talk to Astri. Now
Astri wanted me to go to bed. I
wanted to at least listen a little
while, since I could not be heard.
But I knew it was hopeless to wish
for Astri’s attention. So I went
As I lay beneath the warm quilt,
my heart felt broken into little
pieces. I thought of the day’s
events, my work, my plans, the
album. Everything I planned had
gone wrong. Astri, the idol of my
life, was not the loving aunt I had
(Please turn to page seven)