Ironwood Township

My thoughts hold pleasant memories
of warm, blue, green days
and a two bench swing.
An easy rider
where up to four can sit
and glide –
as the world slows down
on our back yard swing.
This balmy weather
matches my heart
when I remember Henry and Hilma,
my grandparents,
having me sleep over
my summer vacation.
The love they held for me
matched their age –
their hearts
their towering size.
That love
still seeps through me.
It tingles my hands
it tears my eyes
it holds me to them.
Grampa always wore
a white ironed shirt and black pants.
Gramma wore
mostly gingham prints of blue and yellow.
Her red hair in a bun.
Breakfast always was
toast, green grapes, and felia (Finnish yogurt).
Lunch – mostly
sweet rolls, cold cuts, and cheese.
Hot suppers were canned vegetables, mashed potatoes,
roast and gravy.
A slice of berry pie for dessert.
We would sit together
give a prayer of thanks – and later -
the same question –
“Did you have enough?” –
“Yes! Thank you Gramma – Grampa.”
Oh – How I loved them
Us three
riding / gliding on that backyard swing.
My bit of heaven
repeated every evening -
only delayed by sauna night
every Wednesday and Saturday
a Finnish tradition.
“Are you old enough to wash yourself?
they would ask.
As they filled the tubwater
they handed the bar soap to me
“Oh yes” I always answered
but then two – maybe three times
the knock on the door - or -
they would just peek in.
“Just checking” they would say -
as I sat
in my galvanized pail
on the concrete floor,
the wood fired stove throwing heat, soap suds in my hair.
They laughed after every visit
and - I became
their little boy
their pride and joy.
And I would run to hug them
every chance I had.
Once in Grampa’s 54 Buick
a car pulled out.
It almost hit us.
We skidded to a stop.
Grampa rolled down his window
and called the man
a son of a “something”.
I - shook my fist at him
as he sped away.
Grampa took me to “Hautalas”
his tavern.
We had ice cold sodas
in small glass bottles.
The barmaid said,
“You look just like your Grampa”
and I – I still feel
that grin on my face.

MTA Poet Laureate, Jim MildrenJim Mildren is the longtime manager of the Gogebic County Transit system in Ironwood, Michigan at the westernmost point of the Upper Peninsula. He is an avid outdoorsman, bicyclist and runner and enjoys writing about nature and the world around him. Jim traditionally reads a new poem or two at every state transit convention he attends and is considered the Poet Laureate of the Michigan Public Transit Association. He and his lovely wife Ellen reside in Ironwood and have two grown children and a grandson out-of-state who they love to visit whenever possible.

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