I love to Polka! And I’m proud of it!
By now, if you have been reading along, you know that I’m very proud of my Polish heritage. My father was a first generation Polish American. It is family lore that my Babci (grandmother) came to America, alone on a ship, when she was 13 years old. I have always admired the strength that must have taken. She met my Dziadek (grandfather) when she got here. They married and had 9 boys, the youngest of which was my father.
He went to a Polish Catholic school, St. Mary’s of Czsetochowa in Middletown, CT. It is still in existence to this day although the Polish heritage is dying out. My father spoke fluent Polish but he never taught us any. He wanted us to only speak English considering the ridicule he received growing up. Our parents wanted us to be ‘American’. This makes me so sad that so much of my heritage has been lost in order to be more ‘American’, whatever that means.
Before both of my sisters were married, Sundays were family dinner days. I remember vividly all of us sitting in the dining room, trying to eat my mother’s horrific pot roast, and listening to the Polish radio station. My father would put it on, sing or whistle along, and listen to the dj speaking his language. I would ask him what they were talking about and sometimes to tease me he would answer my question in Polish.
The thing about this memory that always makes me smile is the fact that, even if we were driving in the car on a Sunday, my father had a knack for turning on the radio and finding a Polish station. Even in other states. This became a running family joke. I’m sure this drove my Sicilian mother insane….
At every wedding or dinner dance to which my parents dragged me, I would dance the Polka with my father. Including when I was in high school and we would go to the Father-Daughter Dances. He would count out loud, “1, 2, 3…1, 2, 3…1, 2, 3…” until I found the beat. So it was only natural that at my wedding I would dance the Polka with my father. We only danced two dances together that night, ‘The Beer Barrel Polka’ (not my favorite) and ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’. It was the last time we ever danced together.
When you are Polish in America you are required to love Bobby Vinton, the Polish Prince. He’s a famous singer known for ‘She Wore Blue Velvet’, ‘Mr. Lonely’, ‘Santa Must Be Polish’, and ‘My Melody of Love’. I love Bobby Vinton. I can sing along and do with fervor. For many years, no matter where my husband and I went on vacation, it seemed that Bobby Vinton had been in concert there the week before. This became our running joke until one year when we planned an anniversary getaway in Atlantic City the same weekend when Bobby was performing.
So my husband, being a good sport, got us tickets. We had dinner, got dressed up and headed to the old convention center on the boardwalk where they used to crown Miss America. And there we were, the youngest couple in a the place. Me, standing up singing my heart out, and my poor Asian husband, surrounded by 2,000 Poles. He really is a good sport and I know he suffered through this concert because it meant so much to me. Although, he did admit that he knew almost every song…
On occasion you may find me driving down the road listening to the Polish station out of Bridgeport. The dj speaks English but the beat remains the same, 1, 2, 3…1, 2, 3…1, 2, 3… There are a few lyrics I understand. Thanks to Bobby Vinton I understand the most important ones.
Kocham ciebie calem serce, love you with all my heart!"