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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: Continental Diving Board Romance

Anne Magnan-Park

Dear Juliet:

COVID-19 has been tough on international couples and families. My Romeo works overseas in a place where a three-week quarantine in a hotel room is required at the travelers’ own expense, as soon as they exit their international flights. Like the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” the government-approved hotels are “programmed to receive”: the travelers are locked up in their rooms for the entire duration of their stay. They know not to except “pink champagne on ice,” unless they can afford it. Needless to say, my daughter and I have not seen my Romeo in eight months, so forgive me for indulging in a brief meandering down memory lane, Juliet; “some [lines] to remember, some [lines] to forget.”

You of all legendary lovers will appreciate our story. Imagine that your balcony was a continent, your family feud against the Montague a star-crossed international stage, and your potion-induced coma years of long-distance romance. There are no Tybalt, nor Paris, no daggers nor rage-fueled duels in our story, and in the end, my Romeo and I morph into an unlikely family far from the places of our birth in the peace-monger theatre called the New World.

You see, Juliet, we are star-humored lovers, unbound by place, language, ethnicity, or family history. Your love was thwarted by a malign star, ours is perpetually teased by a rascally, fast and far-travelling asteroid. My Romeo is my brother’s wife astrological twin, while I am his mother’s astrological nemesis (she, a triple dragon, I, a proud – albeit lowly – triple dog). Romeo and I did not meet in our home town – no sneaky appearance at a grand ball in Verona for him – but outside of a film class in not-so-medieval, corn-grown, land-locked Iowa City, Iowa (USA). There was no fine linen involved when we courted, no moon, no real balcony, no time-transcending poetry, but two bathing suits, moody neon lights, and a rocky diving board. See, Juliet, I knew that my Romeo had immigrated from South Korea to Hawaii as a child, one of the surfing capitals of the world, so    I invited him to join me for a dive at the public swimming pool, a pale version of the Mediterranean Sea of my childhood. He found me on a diving board and signaled he would join me in the water. He did, clutching a flotation device. Like you, Juliet, I could hardly see or hear my suitor at first not because of the distance or lack of light, but due to his unconventional, rhythmic splashing. He was nervously babbling what sounded like French theory. I had been taught by my mother to swim fast and quietly, he had been taught by his to steer clear of the beach and its drugs, so he was now half-sinking, noisily. I ascended back to the diving board to assess the quirky nature of this unromantic but charming situation. Can you swim? I asked. No, said he, but I figured you would teach me.

The diving board turned into our own improvised, unlikely balcony, where he joined me, and it, in turn, morphed into a continent, then two, then three. We merged our names: he added mine to his and I let the splashy-sounding nature of his name propel mine into our rascally star-led, life-long romance. When they don’t end their lives tragically, lovers can travel, most of them vacation leisurely, instead, we immigrated both by choice and by necessity. More often than not together, sometimes separately. We immigrated five times in the space of a decade, two sturdy suitcases each, we were grateful for our new balconies. And when we started a family, we were verging fifty. It turns out, Juliet, that the rascally star was none other than a little girl I did not carry, born a block away from our home. When she finally moved in, we recognized in her the far and fast-travelling asteroid who had teased our paths into a series of wiggles and twists.

We’re certainly lucky, Juliet. We are employed. However, five immigrations did not prepare us for the hardships we’ve faced in the past two years. To what extent, Juliet, are citizens around the world in the Hotel California of COVID-19 “just prisoners here, of [their] own device”? Please meet us at your nearest public pool with your honey for a masked, diving board serenade. We need to talk about love. We need to talk. For Michiana Chronicles, I am Anne Magnan-Park.

This commentary is dedicated to Aaron Han Joon Magnan-Park, the man Anne has come to call her wandering rock.

Music: "Hotel California" by the Eagles