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The Spokane Symphony’s annual Pavillion Park concert inspired the short story on this page.

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Suzie the seagull dances at Pavillion Park
8/29/2013 12:22:25 PM

Editor's note: Last year, Karla Vandruff moved to the area from Kentucky and attended the Spokane Symphony concert at Pavillion Park with a group of women she met through a Liberty Lake Bible study. She said the experience inspired her to write the following short story to share with her 91-year-old father, who still lives in Kentucky. We share it here as the community - and perhaps a few birds - prepare to celebrate the annual Symphony tradition once again on Aug. 31. 

Short story by Karla Vandruff

Suzie the seagull slowly woke as the early morning sun reflected off the water of Liberty Lake. The rocks under the dock that she had slept on were still cold, so she opened her wings and flapped them to warm up. It was only the first of September, but already the nights were cold in Liberty Lake. 

Suzie could see her two older brothers floating on the lake where they slept. They gently bobbed up and down with the waves. She knew their father would soon swoop down with his loud cawing to wake them. He had developed this method because they were so hard to wake up. Suzie started chuckling to herself when she saw her father's white feathers reflecting the sun as he started his descent from high above the lake. He started cawing just as he swooped over her brothers. Suzie laughed out loud when they woke and started flapping their wings crazily in all directions! A gentle laughter came from above her as her mother landed on the rock next to Suzie. 

"I see your ‘Oteu' (pronounced a-tyets, meaning "father") is already enjoying himself. It is good, I think, because they have a lot of practicing to do."

Suzie loved her mother's voice. It was different from the other seagulls in the area. It had a lilt to it, and sometimes her words were different. Her mother said it was because her great grandfather came from a country called Russia. Somehow, the story of how he had ended up in Liberty Lake had been lost, but the old country still ran through her mother's veins. Suzie had heard the other seagulls talk about how graceful her mother was as she danced in the air currents above the lake. 

That reminded her! She wanted to beg her mother once again to let her join the dance at Pavillion Park tonight with the rest of the gulls. Her mother read the look on her face.

"Not again with the begging my little ‘Aoyb'  (pronounced doch,' means "daughter")."

"But I have been practicing and practicing! I'm just as good as the other gulls! Everyone says how lucky I am to have you teaching me." 

Suzie used her best begging and flattering tone. Her mother looked at her with compassion in her eyes.

"You are good, but Suzie you have still to hear the music! You were too young last year to hear the concert at Pavillion Park, and until you hear the music, your dance will be incomplete. You are so impatient to grow up. You listen this year, and I promise next year you will be the highlight of the concert!"  

She smiled at Suzie and said, "I think you also have the Russian ‘Aeaywka,' (pronounced dye-doosh-ka, meaning "grandfather") in your veins."

All morning her brothers and father practiced with the male gulls and Suzie and her mother practiced with the female gulls. They practiced swooping and soaring. Her father and brothers did breathtaking dives. Her mother had a solo dance, and the other females practiced coming in behind her.    

After a nice lunch, everyone settled down for a long rest. Then, as the sun started setting, they made the short flight to Pavillion Park. Suzie's mother showed her where to perch with the other first-timers so they would have a good view of the stage. Suzie and her friends were so excited they could hardly stay on the perch. 

The lawn in front of the stage was covered with people. Some were sitting in groups on blankets, and others were on folding chairs they had carried to the park in long sacks with shoulder straps. The wonderful smell of hotdogs and popcorn filled the air. Children and dogs chasing Frisbees and each other added to the excitement.

Men and women dressed in black and white began to make their way onto the stage. Suzie started to hear strands of music for the first time as instruments were warmed up. When the conductor, dressed in all white, made his way to the front of the stage, everything suddenly became hushed.  He spoke of  an America composer and then with his baton directed the music to start. It was wonderful! All the people stood and placed their hands over their hearts and sang with the music. Suzie's heart felt warm. 

Then the conductor spoke of a German composer and once again directed the music to start. The male gulls took to the air, and Suzie was proud of how they swooped and soared above the pavilion stage! Her father and brothers did their breathtaking dives. With every wave of the conductor's baton, Suzie's spirits soared. She hated to admit it but Suzie decided her mother was right. You have to hear the music or your dance is incomplete! She was beginning to understand why gulls love to dance on the wind! 

Then Suzie's heart stopped. The conductor was talking about a Russian composer! When this music started, Suzie's mother began her solo dance above the pavilion. She was beautiful! A fire started in Suzie's veins and before she could stop herself she had joined the other female gulls as they came in behind her mother. She swooped when they swooped, and she soared when they soared. Never had Suzie felt so free and happy before! When the music ended, the people on the lawn jumped to their feet and cheered and clapped their hands! When the musicians stood to give a bow, the gulls also gave a bow and swooped behind the pavilion. 

Suzie's mother landed beside her. "

I'm so sorry mother! When the Russian music started, it was impossible for me not to dance!" 

But Suzie's mother was not upset with her. Instead, she told her how proud she was of her!  

"I knew you had your Russian grandfather running through your veins!" she said with pride in her voice. "Next year, you will dance the solo!"  

That night, it was hard for Suzie to fall asleep as she nestled into the rocks under the dock. It had been an exciting day, and Suzie could hardly wait to start practicing for next year's concert at Pavillion Park!

Karla Vandruff lives in Greenacres. 

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