My Childhood Fish—Political and Personal

Published as “My Childhood Fish” in
Under the Gum Tree . . . July 2019

Under the Gum Tree is a quarterly literary arts magazine that publishes creative nonfiction and visual art. I am so pleased that my writing found a home in their fine publication. You can order print or digital copies from their website.

You may also access a PDF of my essay My Childhood Fish_Political and Personal_Kaja Weeks

This is a personal essay with reminiscences from an Estonian-American childhood lived during the Cold War, and how anchovy (or, preferably, marinated sprat) open-faced sandwiches came to carry unique significance . . .

Symbols of ethnic pride and resolve, these little fish sandwiches were traditionally curated and ubiquitous especially after ceremonies remembering Estonian independence . . . in the rooms of the Estonian Civic Club on Manhattan’s East 34thStreet, elder-ladies unfailingly set tables with white tablecloths, flowers, percolated coffee—hot, dark and strong—and always platters of these little fish sandwiches.

And how a refugee-mother’s own longing for a childhood fish (the Räim, a kind of Baltic herring) eventually became a mirror for her daughter’s personal longing . . .

My mother’s perch was lovingly made, the just-warm, salted, golden fillets arranged on a plate with twisted slices of lemon and fresh parsley sprigs.

***

Special Thanks to the IOTA Conference Online Course (2017), taught by American essayist, Sarah Einstein, for inspiring and leavening my creativity, leading to publication of both “My Childhood Fish” as well as the essay, “First Home.”

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