I don’t think I realized just how much, in my enclave in Washington, I missed Polish-ness until I went to a Polish event this weekend. Thankfully the East Coast abounds in Polish-American communities eager to keep being Polish alive.
What makes an event Polish?
Elderly ladies who dye their hair a shade of white which glows purple
Middle-aged ladies who all seem to have the same figure
A Mass celebrated beforehand with the organist drawing out the words and melody of the hymns so that they sound incredibly sad and broken even if the lyrics are joyous
but then the lyrics are rarely ever joyous: there is a lot of crying out in despair for God, for redemption, for freedom from the snares of the world and from plots of the evildoers
last-minute desperate running back and forth and organizing of tables
a registration table missing the registration lists
a ‘dinner’ that starts at noon and ends at 3 PM
a church basement dance floor lit up by the blinking lights put on by the 60-year old DJ
a long run of “disco polo” (yes, that’s a thing) songs which in spite of the semi-erotic music videos and bouncy beats, are in true Polish romantic tradition dedicated to the youthful singer’s youthful wife and contain simple but romantic lyrics such as “Over the hills the sun shines, the silver moon over the hills, one chases after the other and we love each other”
But lest I come across as sarcastic…
You know you are at a Polish event when the man at the registration table beams a huge smile at you and gestures widely that you must come in, bring your friend, and immediately treat yourself to some wine
You know you are at a Polish event when the purply-silver-haired ladies ladle heaping spoonfuls of steaming barley soup into your plastic bowl and whisper that you should later come back for more
You know you are at a Polish event when your mouth waters at the the main course of silky mashed potatoes and a delicious breaded chicken cutlet with a distinctive mushroom sauce
You know you are at a Polish event when the elderly purply-silver-haired and the stocky middle-aged women are tearing up the dance floor with their middle-aged and senior partners – and keeping their steps in rhythm with the beat even if the tunes are 40 years too young for them
You know you are at a Polish event when a grandmotherly figure descends on you to tell you about her 21-year old grandson and how he’d most assuredly love to meet a girl like you
You know you’re at a Polish event when people are: open, friendly, generous with delicious food (and drinks!), disorganized, loud, sarcastic, possessed with poor musical taste, romantic and… they are there to have fun, no matter their age, and they’d rather you have fun with them, but if you insist on not, then they’ll definitely still have fun without you.
Ah, how I’ve missed Polish events!