Our last person to visit on the trip was Audrey. John had been in phone contact with her for the last few years, but this was the first time he had seen her since they graduated from high school 60 years ago. I knew she had been a refugee, but I heard more of the story. She came from Estonia and probably does not remember her father. He was in a war camp and died of TB. She remembers seeing a statue from the ship, which her mother told her was the Statue of Liberty. She was eight years old. Their sponsor did not know they had arrived, so someone took them to the Waldorf Astoria for the night. I cannot imagine life from the mother’s point of view. She must have struggled for many years to care for her daughter. Audrey went to school, not knowing a word of English. She spent half the day in second grade and half the day in third. It seems the language began to click when she took piano lessons. Audrey and John were in the first graduating class of Our Savior, a Christian school in the Bronx. From there she went to two-year Concordia College, eventually married her college sweetheart, got a BS in nursing, and later a master’s degree. She and Frank had two sons. The couple had a good life together, making it to their 50th wedding anniversary before Frank died.
The present-day Audrey smiled a lot and gave us a warm welcome. Several times she said how good this country had been for her. I agreed with someone who said Audrey was a blessing to the United States. She worked in the Veteran’s Hospital, and after retirement, volunteered there.
There was one amusing incident. I knew Audrey was not hearing me well, so I said as loudly as I could, “You don’t speak with an accent! How did you do it?”
Audrey replied, “I cooked the pasta and meat together in the oven.”
Imagine a big-eyed cartoon of me, sitting there wondering exactly what she thought I’d said. John picked up on it, and he repeated my conversation for her.
In Kentucky we went through horse country and hilly landscapes before getting to East Tennessee, near home. It was marvelous to drive in and find hugs waiting for us. After other trips, we walked into an empty house, needing to unpack the car and buy groceries before being fully functional. Not this time! Rose made a statement that I ought to work with needlepoint, frame, and put on the wall. She said, “We cleaned so that you wouldn’t have to.”
Son John $pencer said, “We’re going to cook breakfast for you tomorrow. We found vegetarian sausage that Rose can eat, so we’ll have biscuits and sausage, bacon, and eggs.”
What a homecoming! When David came home from work, we had another warm welcome and more visiting. I didn’t know returning from a trip could be so exceptional.