Mary Beth Writes

From: December 17, 2005                          

As we trek ontowards Christmas we are encountering characters suggested by the traditional Christmas story; a shepherd who's actually a local dairy farmer, an innkeeper who manages a hotel on Durand. 

And now we meet a wise man traveling from afar.


When I met Eddie Jirgensen, who works for Merchant's Moving and Storage, the first thing he asked was, "You're not gonna say I'm a wise man, right?"

I said I'd call him a traveler.

He sighed his relief. 

"It would be a stretch to call me wise; but traveling, sure. That's what I do."

Eddie was just back from a 7000 mile/12 day jaunt to Atlanta, LA., Seattle and back home. He put 368,000 miles on his truck in the past four years. He's away from home 180 nights out of the year.

Eddie knows about unfamiliar people and strange phenomena.

How does one become a traveler-for-hire?

"My dad came from a POW camp in Latvia at the end of WWII. Mr. Eastman, the owner of this company, sponsored him. Dad arrived in Racine, the next morning he came to work here, he never worked anywhere else.  Dad was so thankful for his job and his life in this town.

"When I graduated from Park High School in 1970 I tried a few things, but by two years later, I applied for a job here.  They hired me and that was that.  I'm one of the last of those guys who works one place all their life.  I'm thankful, too.  This is a good company to work for."

"The job I have is actually called Relocation Specialist and these days we mostly work for corporate types.  Someone gets a job transfer; we go to their house, pack up their stuff, put it in the truck and drive it to their next house. 

Eddie chuckles. "I meet great people this way.  For example, we were packing the family of a CEO who was moving to become CEO of an even bigger company.  They owned so much stuff it took three trucks to pack it all.  Anyway, all that money and pressure, and when the wife learned that it was my birthday, she got me a cake!  Most of the people I've met over the years are that friendly.

"A few aren't.  Every once in a while you meet people who, well, let's just say their money has not enhanced them...

"I hate to drive in New York City, though I've done it a lot.  Once I was right down in the financial district.  I needed to make a wide right turn but couldn't because a parked vehicle was in my way.  There I was, across both lanes of the street, stopping all traffic for 20 minutes, at noon, in Manhattan. 

"Weirdly, no one was honking.  Cars were lined up behind me as far as you could see, but they were all silent. 

 "I found out later Mayor Giuliani had just instituted a car horn ban."

I ask about inconvenient moves.

"Once we moved a grand piano into a second floor by taking out a window and then part of the wall.  Then we built a ramp from the top of our truck into opening we'd made.  We hoisted the piano on cables, and then moved it along the ramp. 

"Another time we removed the staircase plus part of the wall to lower a pool table into a basement.

"Some years ago we moved two enormous taxidermy-stuffed bears; one was a polar bear the other a grizzly.  They were so big we had to lay them on their sides in the truck.

"There are two things that people always say to us.  One is 'You never know how much stuff you have until you move,' and the other is; 'We'll never move again.'"

"But they always do

"It can get tense when you are emptying a house because of a divorce.  A wife who was leaving her husband told us he would be home after work.  As I was packing the bedroom I came across a picture of the couple.  The husband was this huge mountain of a guy.  I showed the picture to my partner, we worked double time to get out of there before he came home!"

"Packing homes that are breaking apart can be sad. You see that the grass isn't always greener somewhere else.  You gotta work it out if you can.

"On the road we see a lot. In California I was almost knocked out of my bed by an earthquake.  I've seen so many blizzards and rain storms.  I've never seen a tornado, though I've driven through places hit by them or by hurricanes.  We always work in teams of two so we're usually safer than other long-haul trucks.  We take turns, we catch sleep regularly and we can talk, too, if it gets too quiet.

"I've always been interested in haunted places. I met a woman in one of those really old houses in Washington DC.  She said her house had a ghost who would sometimes show up wearing a purple velvet coat like those ones Washington and those early guys wore.  There's a haunted battle field in Iowa, though I never sensed anything odd there.  There's a house here in Racine where we've moved things, that has an attic room that just makes you sad to walk into it."

"I remind myself all the time, 'Take a good look around, you'll probably never see this place again.'"




What interesting people u meet! Good story

Almost (not all, but almost all) people are interesting. One of the most amazing adventures of being a writer has been the opportunity to ask perfectly polite humans perfectly nosy questions. It's been 12 years since I interviewed this guy and I still remember how handsome he was (for an older guy!), his humor and obvious love for his wife and family, and - the house in Racine he was sure was haunted.

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Valentine's Moments

I wrote most of this for my newspaper column, February 14, 1997. But I subtracted a little, added a little; I guess it's a refurbished Valentines Day posting for you today.  I hope you have a lovely day. And that there will be a little chocolate in it.


Home Maintenance aka Early Religions

Yes, this was my column from August 29, 2001.

I the past two weeks Len and I have talked with 9 guys (and there are two more to consult) about doing some exterior work on our house. Replacing parts of gutters and some other really sexy stuff.  

Time for this old essay, I think.


Interview with a Mother - Mary Helena's Empty Arms

The last interview at the Nativity Scene. This one has only become more poignant with time. Mary Helena still lives in Racine these 12 years later - and if you choose to say anything kind to her in the comments, i can get those remarks to her for you.

Blessings on us all as we move into theis year's celebration of birth and love. 

Written 2005


What's Up at the Inn?

Part 2 of the 4-part series of interviews at the Nativity Scene

This was written December 10, 2005


 Let’s meet "innkeeper" Monica Hanson.  Monica, who is manager at the local Microtel Inn and Suites, is slight, has warm brown eyes, and smiles when I address her as an innkeeper.  She's just Lutheran enough to get the joke.

I ask her why she picked this career.

An Interview with a Shepherd (Actually, he's a Dairy Farmer)

In the next few days, as we slide into Christmas, I am going to reprint four interviews I wrote for the Racine Journal Times, years ago.  

From December 3, 2005


Perhaps you've heard the story that goes with this season.  It includes in its cast of characters; some shepherds, an innkeeper, travelers from afar, and a young mother. These persons are acclaimed for their endurance, compassion, and wisdom. I'm going to talk with some local persons who are the above - shepherd, innkeeper, traveler, and mother - to see what these characters might say to us today.

Peace Makers' Freedom Train / 1984

This is my first published writing. It appeared in 1984 in The Other Side, a social-activist evangelical publication based in Philadelphia, PA.

The Other Side was similar to and friends with Sojourners, a community of evangelical social activists based in Washington DC.  If you have ever heard Jim Wallis on NPR, or read any of his books, he is one of the founders of this small but influential slant of modern Christianity. Sojourners started in the Chicago area; I knew some of those good people decades ago.

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