The open window or Bertie, why do you bound?

By Robert Karl Skoglund | Nov 16, 2012

When I was a little kid I can remember hearing my father say, “Vas you dere, Sharlie?’

Now I know that he’d heard this on Jack Pearl’s radio show in the early '30s. Pearl played the part of Baron Munchausen who would tell incredibly entertaining stories with a put-on German accent. Whenever the straight man questioned his credibility, the Baron would say, “Vas you dere, Sharlie?" So just about the time I was coming into the world this catch phrase had become famous and was even in the lexicon of my father and other newly-arrived Swedes who were cutting paving in the Clark Island Quarry.

I found all this information online one day after reminiscing with my brother about a very attractive girl I’d met some 40 years ago through the Maine Times Personals. I can’t remember now if she’d been trolled in by my “Antique dealer seeks attractive young woman interested in one night stand” or “Ornithologist seeks attractive young woman willing to sacrifice everything for a few cheap thrills,” but it could have been one of those.

I mentioned to my brother that she was a very sincere nice looking girl and we hadn’t been into the “where did you go to school? — what do you do?” routine too long before I learned that she was a physical education teacher for people with special needs.

Very special needs. The poor souls she worked with had no arms or legs.

When she learned that I could read the language of Alfred’s England, she said that her grandfather was also an Old English scholar. Because he was now blind he had his OE texts translated into braille and now spent many happy afternoons, sitting in the sun, as he read Old English through the tips of his fingers. Extremely intelligent, he still sat straight in the saddle and enjoyed horseback riding at the age of 104.

Because ours was a one-day relationship, and I’m sorry for this because she was exceptional in every way, I now realize she might well have been married to the police chief in Bremen. If she’d been free to stay over for a couple of days I might have learned that it was an ill-timed swing of Prince Phillip’s polo mallet that had snatched out Grampy’s eyes.

It is people like that delightful young woman that enrich one’s life, for 40 years later their words are still firmly implanted in one’s mind. Whereas more substantial visitors, who might have even stayed long enough to share a meal or two, are not even a Will-o’-the-Wisp of a memory.

My brother, who had been listening to all this said, “Did I ever tell you that story about Mimi Mitchell’s brother?”

“No.”

“I must have told you that.”

“I can’t remember. Tell me again.”

“I was helping out in the charity booth at the lobster festival, flipping hamburgers, but nobody could flip them right except Mimi’s brother so I got shunted off to do something else. He asked me what I did and I told him I’d taught eighth-grade history and English in Thomaston for 25 years. He said, ‘Is that right? I taught in New York State for 25 years and got an award for being the top teacher in New York.’ And I said that was very nice. Quite remarkable.

“A year later we’re back in the same booth at the lobster festival and he is flipping burgers when we’re joined by another fellow who came in to help out. Mimi’s brother asked him what he did and he said he’d been a Marine for 25 years. And Mimi’s brother said, ‘Is that right? I was a drill sergeant for 25 years at Parris Island. And the fellow said that was very nice. Quite remarkable.

“The year after that our little sister came home after working for a day in that booth at the lobster festival and asked me if I’d ever met Mimi Mitchell’s brother. She said, ‘He’s really a remarkable man. Did you know he worked with Mother Teresa curing lepers and was recognized by the Pope?’

I said I didn’t know it but I wasn’t surprised to hear it.

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