19

Hey, Is This Heaven? No, It’s Iowa.

I know it’s been a few days since I’ve posted, but the parental units are in town for the first time since October so I’ve been spending just about every waking moment with them since they arrived Friday morning. We went to Art Fair on the Square yesterday, and today, we got in the car and drove two hours to visit the setting of my dad’s all-time favorite film, Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa, and some other places.

We set out from Madison at about 11:30 AM, bound for Galena, Illinois, which doubled in the movie as Chisholm, Minnesota. There was an art festival going on so the town was full of people. Galena is basically one long strip of cute little shops and old storefronts. It was very quaint and decked-out for a town that small. There, we saw the DeSoto House, which doubled as the “Welcome to Chisholm” sign; the Logan House, which was also a bar in the film; and a local doctor’s office which was also the front door of Moonlight Graham’s office in the movie. The weather was not looking promising, and we needed to press on to Dyersville, so we left.

An hour later, after crossing the Mississippi River into Iowa, we ambled down the dirt road that led to Field of Dreams. It was an actual baseball field built for the 1988 movie of the same name, on the Lansing Farm. The families who owned the farm bought the rights to the name, and they make money off of merchandise. Though the farmhouse where the Kinsella family lived is a private residence and closed to the public, everything outdoors is free and open to the public. It’s all still there: the baseball field, the lights, the cornfield, the bleachers where Karin fell, the spot where Archie transformed into Doc Graham, and of course, the Kinsella house. I learned that when they made the film, they actually had to build a platform in the cornfield so that Kevin Costner could be seen above the cornstalks. There was a family there playing baseball, but Dad and I were able to walk around the bases together. I even walked down a few trails to find some geocaches and took funny pictures with the corn. Everyone visiting and working there seemed happy and chatty; true “Midwest nice.”

Other than that, there’s not much to Dyersville. We stopped at a McDonalds, and then went straight back to Madison, which was a little over two hours. All in all, it was a good day trip; Galena is adorable and the movie site is still as it was.

Thanks for reading; I’ve got a few fun blog posts in the works for this week, including reviews of the two books I finished on the ride to and from Dyersville, for which I did not have to drive, thankfully.

6

Heard It Through The Laptop

Today, I heard some voices through my laptop.

No, it wasn’t Marvin Gaye. Nor was it Gladys Knight and the Pips. Nor did it tell me to plow under my corn and build a baseball field.

My dad sent me a link to an mp3 tonight, and with him and my sister in the room, I opened it.

And what I heard amazed me.

The crackle of the static and the whistle of the feedback yielded to the first voice, accented by the chirp of a parakeet in the background.

“Stanley? Stanley…Stanley?”

It sounded like a sweet old lady, but not at all who I thought it was. But as she began her recitation, it became clear exactly who it was.

“Dear children, and grandchildren, and the children who will come after we are gone…”

It was my grandmother. She identified herself, and announced the date as November 17, 1972, and began to tell the story of how she, along with my grandfather, great-uncle, great-grandmother, and aunt (a baby at the time) escaped Nazi Germany in 1938.

I’ve heard this story many times, from my grandmother before she passed away in 2005 at age 94, and then from my father. Even I have retold the story, a few times. First, shortly after my grandmother’s death, to a group of students from my college, and then one day to my friend Stacey over lunch at Franklin Dining Commons, during my junior year at UMass, who listened with wide eyes and a spoonful of cereal that never made it to her mouth. My grandmother openly told the story at school assemblies, in synagogue, and even on camera for the Steven Spielberg Holocaust Archives at Yale University.

But this was the first time I heard it through the voice that my father knew, that my aunt knew, before age deepened and roughened it slightly. She spoke slowly, with grace and dignity, adding dramatic pauses for effect and choosing her words very carefully.

After a few minutes, another voice emerged from the background.

It was not a familiar voice, but it was one that I felt like I had known forever.

My grandfather.

My grandfather, whose name is in mine, who died in 1973.

I had never heard his voice…until now.

For the next twenty or so minutes, we listened to the story that we all knew, now told by my grandfather. His voice was slightly more accented than my grandmother’s was, but it wasn’t hard to match the voice with the photos I’ve seen of him, notwithstanding the fact that I always imagined him speaking in a deep voice with a German accent, which is exactly what I heard.

But listening to him, it was like hearing the story told for the first time.