spacegoons blog

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These are not tears, it’s just rain.

Patriotism!I chaperoned my daughter’s field trip to the poetry foundation yesterday. I got to school early, so I waited in the vestibule until her class was ready to go. I sat down on the bench and observed kids rushing in, running late. They were so cute, rain coats, boots and mini umbrellas, giant backpacks of all colors, bouncing up and down as they rushed in… As soon as they entered the lobby, they dutifully lined up at the security desk to receive their late arrival slip.

While I was distracted and amused with the usual bustle of a typical school morning, observing it noisily unwrap in front of me, the national anthem came on. I instinctively put my phone away and stood up. I get shivers all over my body, every time I hear it, and especially at my daughter’s school when I see kids standing still. It fills me with deep sense of pride, and I get emotionally stirred inside. This time, just for few seconds it took me back to my own school days, in the old country, the now non-existing, former Yugoslavia… we saluted our president Tito, we were his pioneers. We took our responsibility somewhat seriously, either because his picture was hanging on every public wall, staring at us so authoritatively, or because the adults seemed to take it all so darn seriously, and seemed worried or scared and it seemed to matter a lot.

titoOur job as his minions was simple, we had to wear our uniforms, swear our allegiance, follow instructions and obey rules. Show up, wear a blue boat shaped hat, with a big red star in front and a signature bandana around our neck. Stand, wait and that’s it. If we were lucky, we were given props and little flags, so that made it a bit more animated. Usually it meant a day out of school, so we always served our Comrade Tito enthusiastically. But it didn’t really mean anything, at least not to me, it never filled my body with sincere feelings remotely similar to what I am feeling in this moment.


My sense of pride and belonging to Tito’s ideology was emotionless, flat and nonexistent, but that was not the case with the national anthem of my old country, former Yugoslavia.  It was a cool song and I liked the way it made me feel. It had certain gravitas about it, I’d say it was even a bit hard core, certainly high drama. Given that Yugoslavia no longer exists, that our field trip was to a Poetry Institute, and that you will never have the pleasure of hearing it at the Olympics, I am taking this opportunity to share with you its national anthem lyrics:

Hey, Slavs, there still lives
the word of our grandfathers
While for the nations beats the heart
of their sons!

There lives, there lives the Slavic spirit,
It will live for ages!
In vain threatens the abyss of Hell
In vain the fire of thunder!

Let now everything above us
be blown away by the Bura.
The stone cracks, the oak breaks,
Let the earth quake!

Hey, Slavs, there still lives
the word of our grandfathers
While for the nations beats the heart
of their sons!

We stand firm
like the cliffs,
May he be damned, the traitor
of his homeland!

… As I am standing there, in the vestibule, enjoying this moment of honoring my past and at the same time honoring the national anthem of the country I have proudly been a citizen of for the last twenty something years, filled to my bones with patriotic pride and sense of gratitude for this life, in the states, and the opportunities and freedoms I’ve been afforded, wearing this silly grin, trying to maintain my cool, my zen moment was broken by a loud noise coming from the outside, rapidly approaching the building and getting louder. It was this kid, a first grader, rushing through the doors, with her mother following behind her. She was singing the national anthem word for word, out loud, and as loud as she could! She was not shy about it, she was not concerned about disrupting anything, and was not phased by her being the only one singing, she was just singing the anthem, freely, loudly and proudly, from her heart and her belly and with all her might!

national-anthem-boy-named-charlie-brownHer mother watched her walk in and get in the late arrival line, still singing, but now muted by the door that closed between. Someone familiar approached her mother which stopped her from going in, and made her turn around to respond. She was now facing me, her face was shiny and wet. Her eyes were red and I could see tears rolling down her cheeks like a water curtain. She looked at the woman she knew, and laughing nervously, in broken English, with a heavy accent, said: These are not tears, it’s just rain.

I stood there, frozen, and I gasped. The middle part of my stomach was suddenly, involuntarily sucked in, and my lungs were filled with air, as if I was getting ready to blow the house down. Knowing my daughter and her class was about to appear, I was desperately trying to keep the flood of my own emotions from bursting out of me, unrestrained and unstoppable, like an avalanche. Alas, my effort to contain them was short lived and completely futile. Seconds later, it was poring rain all over my face too.

Categories: Lost in Translation, Love and Lore

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. I liked this post and you tied it together well at the end. A very good title as well! 🙂

  2. Thank you so much Opinionated Man, your comment means a lot! 🙂

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