Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Letters from Marilyn - Update 14

IT'S SUMMER! That means I can write more on Letters from Marilyn. Hurrah! Today's post has a variety of things - my trip to Augsburg, M's final letters before her death, and "what's next" for this project. With the start of June in only a few days, we've come round-robin since June of last year. While today's post will be the last of Marilyn's letters, it certainly won't be the last post.

Let's start with my trip to Augsburg on May 5! After my last post in Pella, IA, I went to Mankato to visit family. From there, I went to Minneapolis to explore Augsburg for a few hours. Nestled right in the heart of the city, Augsburg is a small but beautiful campus. There's so much to see and do in the surrounding community and we were blessed with a beautiful day of weather.

Of course I needed a picture by the campus sign! Go Auggies! The next stop was the music hall:

This building was really unique. Outside the main doors, they had a variety of large musical instruments you could play! I will do my best to link a video of this later. The music hall, named after the eighth president of Augsburg, houses so many practice rooms, chapels, and more.

It's really not a trip if you don't stop in a library (or in my case, two or three). While the archives office was closed due to summer vacation, I did get the contact information of the professor in charge of the department. But the yearbooks are public access, and so we looked through all the yearbooks of when Marilyn attended: 1950-1954. We found her picture many times (and even more exciting to me, pictures of her friends and professors - we don't have pictures of them!). What's more, all the yearbooks have been digitally scanned along with other Augsburg publications. You can access them here.

In the main building, this beautiful stained glass (it literally takes up a full wall) is located in the Harbo Meditation Chapel. A place for community members to reflect quietly in prayer, this was a peaceful room. 

While I took many, many photos, I simply don't have room to share them all here! This is in front of the Augsburg seminary building. When we were in the library, I looked up this building in the yearbooks. 67 years later, it looks almost exactly the same as it did in 1950 (the main difference being the signage that says "Augsburg Seminary"). We have photos of M standing right on these steps and being there made this all seem so much more real to me!

It was a wonderful three hours. Because classes were out for summer, we had the full place to ourselves! Now that I've had some time to collect my thoughts and make notes, I know I will make another trip in the future. 

Shifting gears, let's now focus on the last of M's letters: fall of 1953. She only wrote 7 letters home before her sudden death, so I will include snippets of all of them here. This is the start of her senior year and it is certainly busy for her in September:
September 14, 1953: It seems like there's a constant rat race and then I'm really quite tired. Tomorrow classes begin and then I think there'll be choir try-outs. Certainly is nice to see Joan again. I think I'll go out to Clair and Gladys's tomorrow!
September 14, 1953: I had quite a hectic time getting registered. I have 18.5 credits and couldn't get voice lessons in. I'm taking piano. 
September 16, 1953: Today I had my first piano lesson. My teacher is just wonderful. Now I'm all excited about that. I hope I remain enthused! He told me I played very well and he seemed quite enthused about me so I was happy.
[from the same letter as the last]: You should see the beautiful pair of pajamas I got from Strommens. They're yellow rayon ones with lace trim. I hear you got something too! I was out there the other evening and cut Gladys's hair. I cut it real short. It looked so cute!
September 21, 1953: I heard unofficially today from Clair that I made choir and I'm singing 1st soprano! [M was a 2nd soprano the last 3 years] Was I ever surprised! I've only had one try-out and I only sang a hymn so I don't see how he can tell much by that, especially changing me to first. I really don't mind. The experience will be good. 
September 23, 1953: Hilde and I were out at Atwater today observing and the trip was really wonderful. Both of us have lost all our fears and are really looking forward to practice teaching. The teachers are all so wonderful and they made us feel so welcome and professional! I'll have mixed chorus, girls glee club, and one speech class. 
[from the same letter as the last]: We had choir yesterday and of course it was thrilling as ever. I'm going to like singing first soprano. Sateren came up to me and said he wanted me to sing first this year and that I wouldn't have any trouble and "of course," he said, "you have a wonderful voice." I felt extremely complimented. [at the end of this letter:] Guess I'll go to bed and sleep on all my experiences of the day. I really feel like a teacher tonite. 
September 27, 1953 [the last letter, as Marilyn died on September 28]: Arlene, Joan, Rachael, and I went out to the church this morning, where Sateren directs the choir. Wonderful place and choir. [this tidbit has significance later, in a condolence letter that Sateren sent to the Solberg family. Now, later in the letter:] Last week was rather busy! I've been practicing piano 2 or 3 hours a day plus choir and classes. Then on Thursday the Big-Little Sister tea was happening. Arlene, Hilde, and I had charge of food and I also had to model my suit for the style show. Friday evening was Club Carnival night and last night the football game.
[also from the last letter]: Both Dorvan and Curt have informed me that they are coming down. Wonderful! I can hardly wait. You'll maybe be coming in a couple weeks also. Good! Good! Not that I want to get rid of the car but guess I'd rather see you!
And that's it. I'll be honest, I had a really, really hard time reading these letters, especially the last one. Here was Marilyn leading a full, busy life and making plans down the road. She was looking forward to student teaching, being a first soprano in the choir, having visitors in October... and then, in a blink, she was gone. 

Reflecting on all of her letters and plans, it makes you think about our time here and our own mortality. I've put off reading the condolence letters for so long, mainly for the reason that I need a major supply of Kleenex to get me through them. It's not for a lack of trying - the first try, I made it through 3 (seriously, 3). The second try, 5, before I was sniffling all over them. I'm sure the people in the coffee shop I was in at the time thought I was having a mental breakdown or a relationship crisis. Maybe the third time's the charm.

We still have many more updates to go. Thanks for staying with me and M for a year. These updates have received the most comments, reads, views, and shares. I wouldn't be this far without you, devoted readers.

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