Iowa Writes

MORGAN HALGREN
From Letters to a Young Iowan


Dear Young Iowan:

I could tell by the tone of your voice that you were happy, and when we hung up the phone, I said to your dad, "She's going to stay in Europe." That was over a decade ago, and since that time you have married a Dutchman, earned dual citizenship, worked all over Europe as a business consultant, given birth to a beautiful little boy, and blessed us with the promise of another child to arrive, appropriately, around Thanksgiving. You have made your life there, and it suits you well.

It took me several years to accept this decision and understand it. I remember when your dad had a sabbatical from his teaching and he decided to do research in Holland for a semester so that we could be near you. You were studying at Leiden University and living in a wonderful, old student house that had been built around 1740. You found us a nice apartment in the same town, and went to great trouble to furnish it for us.

I remember one night I left your student house and began walking slowly to our apartment. It was a turning point for me. Bricks in careful patterns drew me down alleys where small homes hid like sweet surprises. Windows with nothing to hide caught my eye and invited me to imagine their owners. I pictured the typical tall Dutch man or woman with their quiet reserve, their ease of navigating on a bike or ice skates. Having met your friends, I knew that the Dutch relish the fine art of conversation fueled by dark coffee and pastries coaxed from a nearby oven. I understood your attraction to their ability to express their true opinions on any topic, and their respect when you expressed an opposing view. And then I wondered if your ears, like theirs, were now accustomed to the sound of seagulls, street organs, market days and the bells of ancient churches.

Dear Young Iowan:

I could tell by the tone of your voice that you were happy, and when we hung up the phone, I said to your dad, "She's going to stay in Europe." That was over a decade ago, and since that time you have married a Dutchman, earned dual citizenship, worked all over Europe as a business consultant, given birth to a beautiful little boy, and blessed us with the promise of another child to arrive, appropriately, around Thanksgiving. You have made your life there, and it suits you well.

It took me several years to accept this decision and understand it. I remember when your dad had a sabbatical from his teaching and he decided to do research in Holland for a semester so that we could be near you. You were studying at Leiden University and living in a wonderful, old student house that had been built around 1740. You found us a nice apartment in the same town, and went to great trouble to furnish it for us.

I remember one night I left your student house and began walking slowly to our apartment. It was a turning point for me. Bricks in careful patterns drew me down alleys where small homes hid like sweet surprises. Windows with nothing to hide caught my eye and invited me to imagine their owners. I pictured the typical tall Dutch man or woman with their quiet reserve, their ease of navigating on a bike or ice skates. Having met your friends, I knew that the Dutch relish the fine art of conversation fueled by dark coffee and pastries coaxed from a nearby oven. I understood your attraction to their ability to express their true opinions on any topic, and their respect when you expressed an opposing view. And then I wondered if your ears, like theirs, were now accustomed to the sound of seagulls, street organs, market days and the bells of ancient churches.

As I walked on, I passed the famous street where a group of pilgrims who came to America lived before they bravely crossed the ocean, and I could feel history in my feet. It was then I understood that a part of me had taken root in Leiden, taken root behind a door that had opened against two centuries of time. My brave pilgrim daughter was that part of me. Her heart had crossed an ocean, and her voice had found a cadence of its own.

You tell me that people there comment on your friendliness, your great work ethic, and your enthusiasm. Your Dutch friends tell me they have never had a friend like you—so loyal, such a good listener, so thoughtful. So now, dear daughter, I think of you as our courageous ambassador from Iowa who, by virtue of her personality, shows the old world every day that a small state in the new world is a place worth knowing about.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


MORGAN HALGREN

Morgan Halgren recently retired from 27 years as a host of a weekly magazine show on Iowa Public Television, Living in Iowa. She continues in her role as the lead singer for a Latin jazz group known as Sabrosa. Both her daughters live in Europe.

Editor Zachary Michael Jack compiled Letters to a Young Iowan (Ice Cube Press, 2007) by inviting prominent Iowans to contribute their advice to the next generation.

Ice Cube Press

This page was first displayed
on February 04, 2008

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