For Carla but not from Beethoven.
Du, ich zog sie aus dem Umschlag und der Fruehlingsduft der Hoffnung
stieg mir in die Nase und hat mir eine Riesenfreude gabracht. I held it, sat
still and allowed it to speak to me on levels more than words could express.
What a way to make a change by introducing something new for Christmas.
Hope, as you say, my dear Carla. I picked a bouquet and am sending it to
you. Can you see the sun shining through it? Warmth to you.
routine is slinging legs out of bed, sliding into slippers, walking 450 steps
up and down the hallway of the building.
This is what I met at one end of the hall (in June) - I inside, it
I am so grateful that it waited for me while I rushed into the apartment
to get my camera.
Great gift to start the day with.
I have been divorced from
my Hungarian husband for over 40 years. I was 19 when I met him and he was 32.
It was October 1954 and on December 31st the same year, as the church bells
were ringing in the year 1955 he asked me to marry him and come to Canada with
him. I am in Canada. It
is October, the sky is blue and the maple trees are dressed in yellow,
orange, red and green. Why am I listening to Hungarian Tzigane music? The
violins are moaning and sobing and so am I.
Just because I have not
posted anything lately does not mean that I am not always and too much in
the past. It must come with age. Today I shall talk about yesterday.
I was slowly driving along a country road, admiring nature's beauty. The fall
colors were breathtaking - maple trees dressed in yellow, green, red and
orange. All of a sudden something moved on the right hand side at the
front of my car. Fortunately we know to drive slow at this time of the year. As
I put the brakes on a deer jumped out from the brush and crossed to the other
side of the road. All I could see in front of me was his head and top of his
back going by. I was so close that his legs were hidden by the hood of the car.
The expected thump of body and car colliding did not happen. Next time I drive
on this road I will go slow again.
My memories of most welcome ’fun- rain’
are the ones from the time when we lived in that small village Hallwangen
amongst the farmers.
As the cows and oxen pulled their heavy
laden carts through the village on the paved main road, they always left these
large flat pancake shaped poos behind. The hot tar baked it quickly
and when a summer shower started dripping cool rain, the sun -baked
pancakes let some steam into the air. My friend Rosa and I would quickly
kick our shoes off, run out to the street and start hopping from one cake into
the other. Squish and squash and laughter and giggles and this velvety
soft and warm feeling around our feet. What a gift! Hurray.
Christmas eve was always the most
important time of the Christmas season. Gifts.
Mom and grandmother would decorate the
tree and my brother and I were only allowed to see it at 6 o’clock on Christmas
eve. An enchanting sight when the door opened and we were allowed to walk into
the room, to stand in front of the tree who's lit candles twinkled at us as if
to say 'say your prayer quickly, sing your song and then you can turn around
and begin the long awaited ceremony of lifting the tablecloth'. For
everybody’s gift was laid out on a table and covered with a tablecloth. We
were each led to our spot at the table although it was easy to spot which
were boys gifts and which were girls gifts. On the side of our gifts we each
also found cardboard Christmas plates filled with Marzipan,candy,fruit and
The very first Christmas I remember is
one in Greece. I must have been 6 because it was a 1st Grade
Christmas. All I can remember is that at the end of whatever event in some
hall, Santa got up onto the stage and emptied out a huge bag of oranges. They
were all rolling around on the stage floor and we children sitting in the
audience were asked to go up and get some. Chairs were flying, kids where
running and falling all over each other with loud joyful screams and all wanted
to be first up there to get an orange. Already then, I was whomever I still am.
I still remember the feeling of shyness and the not wanting to go and fight for
something that someone else wanted. I just sat there and watched them grab the
oranges. I don’t remember whom I was there with nor anything else that
The next Christmas is the first one in
Berlin at grandparent’s house after we came back from Greece when I was seven
years old. Again only a fleeting vision of my brother and I being led from one
room into another where a beautifully decorated tree was standing with real
candles all lit up. We were asked to stand in front of it and say a prayer. No
idea what present we got nor anything else but it is a warm memory.
Another Christmas is two or three years
later in this little hamlet Hallwangen that we had moved to. Mom and grandma
were sewing me a coat. That I knew, but each time I had to try it on I was
blindfolded not to see it. Don’t remember the actual Christmas eve day when I
got it. It was a very dark blue with an imitation fur collar. I loved it. I
wore it the next day and was sent to fetch a can of milk (can with handle and
lid ). I was not pleased about that. Had other things I wanted to do such
as visiting my friend Rosa. I went to get the milk. As I was coming back with
it, I saw grandmother standing at the window. In front of that window was a big
pile of logs. Why should I loose time and walk all the way around the
house to where the door was? I asked grandmother to open the window and I would
climb up the wood and hand her the can of milk. She said I should not because I
might slip and fall. No I won’t. Yes I did. The milk gone and the dark blue
coat soaked in white. Don’t remember what happened next but could not have been
to gentle but also not to harsh otherwise I would remember. Only the chock of
the event remains engraved in my memory.
I am 8 or 9 years old. We are living in Germany in a small
village of about 300 people. Mainly farmers. Today the class outing is ‘potato
beetle picking’. We trott off to a farmer’s potato field. I don’t remember what
those bugs look like nor their size but I do remember that they are easy to
find sitting on the plants and chewing away at the leaves. The teacher assigned
a potato row to each of us. We bend down, move forward, inspect each plant and
pick the bugs off and throw them into a bucket that we are carrying. I love
doing it. Beats sitting in a hot classroom. This was an early afternoon outing.
The sun at its hottest and beating down on us and my most vivid memory of this
event is ‘hot and very thirsty’. Oooof, finally the job is done and we find
ourselves near the farm house. I don’t remember seeing the farmer but I do
remember this bucket of water. We all push and shove around it to get a share
of the cooling drink.
We arrived from Athens in Berlin
sometime in June 1942. Just a few weeks before my grandfather, Opa, died.
What a culture shock - hot, sunny and
bright in Greece and very dark in Germany. I can still see Tic-Tac Oma and Opa
standing on the platform at the train station. Both dressed in black. They
scared the schnook out of me.
I remember cominghome from
school and switching on the light in the stairway to brighten my climb to the
third floor where Oma and Opa lived (we lived with them). The light was on a
timer and stayed on just long enough for people to make it all the way up to
the last floor. I still can feel the fear I had that the light might go off
before I’d make it to the top. So, I was always running up and making noise and
on the second floor the door would open and this old lady would stare at me
without saying a word as I was flying by - I was so afraid of her. And then, we
would be fast asleep at night, the sirens would go off and we would have to run
down to the basement and huddle on benches that were set up. No smiling faces,
only worried grown ups and cranky kids and all hoping that no bomb would fall
on our building.
Watched biography of Tom Hanks on TV and
remembered the following story of the other ‘Tom-actor’, Tom Cruise.
December 1971, J. and I and of
course baby girl T. where visiting my brother and family in Ottaw. It
was Christmas season and brother T. and wife W. had been invited to
an afternoon Open House at the home of the friend of my two nieces J. and
I. (age 12 & 14 then) and had been asked to bring us along. I don’t
remember much about the event except that the hosts were a charming
Years later my niece J. told me
that this was the house of Tom Cruise’s family - his real name is Tom
Maypotter. My niece J. was best friend of Tom’s sister Liana who
would invite my two nieces over to the house. On one such occasion,
J. says, the girls perched Tom on the bathroom counter, positioned
themselves in front of him and each took turns teaching
him how to kiss (Tom was a bit younger than the girls). My sister-in-law
told me that the Maypotters were American and that they eventually moved
back to the States and that when Liane got married she sent J. an invitation to
the wedding. J. could not afford to go at that time. Sister-in-law also told me
that she watched Tom on an Oprah show and that he told about the
occasions when his sister would invite her girlfriends over to teach him how to
I see myself in this small kitchen
of the apartment we were renting from Mrs. Klump (in Germany, towards end of
WWII). My grandmother and mother were there and mother had just returned from a
shopping trip to one of the larger towns in the region. Of course I was curious
to see what she had brought home. I looked through the bag. There was a small
package, maybe 200 gr. of cold cuts and then there was another similar package.
As I folded the paper open my eyes fell on a flat long worm lying there.
Of course I questioned my mother about it and got scolded good for being so
curious. She made me feel very guilty for having seen this worm. She never
told me how the worm got there but I figured it out by myself. Someone in the
family must have had worms (many people did because of the war food) and my
mother must have taken it to a doctor in the town where she bought the
cold cuts in order to find out what kind it was and what to do about the
problem. I know that I had no worms nor did my brother T. Don’t understand
why Mutti did not explain to me what it was all about. Sooooooo many subjects
were off limits concerning us children. So many things not talked about. Hm.
My brother reminded me of this
famous remedy Mutti used for relieving us of a cold with fever.
It’s name is ‘Schweisswickel’ , something like a ‘Sweat bandage’. We had
to strip our upper body and then the monster was applied —she wrapped this
long rough piece of terry cloth or an old bed sheet which she had wet
with cold water around our body from the armpits to the navel. Here it comes -
we hold our breath - oh, so cold and uncomfortable. And then we were put to
bed, covered with lots of heavy blankets up to our chin and had to lay there
very still and wait for the sweating to begin. Both, brother and I don’t
remember how long this ordeal lasted, one hour maybe, but we do remember asking
how much longer we had to endure this and never being told less then “another
10 minutes”. To us it seemed like an eternity but it worked. The next day cold
and fever were gone.
Grandmother Tic-Tac Oma also had this
other mysterious gizmo. Don’t ask what it was. It was housed in a leather case
lined with velvet and consisted of a glass tube about 20 cm long to which
she attached a glass bulb at one end, all very thin and fragile, and a
handle at the other end. I don’t remember if it needed electricity or batteries
but whatever she did to it produced blue flames shooting up that tube into the
bulb. Now the bulb had become a heat emitting tool - a fire spewing dragon -
which she gently caressed my back with. The entire apparatus intimidated me but
I trusted our wise grandmother and submitted to the cold/fever killing
Whenever I was sick with a high fever I
hallucinated - bad and scary dreams. And each time I opened my eyes I was so
relieved to see my grandmother sitting in the room. Our eyes would meet and I
My brother and I are sitting at the dining room
table. Grandma is in the house. Brother finishes whatever he is doing and
decides to run off as usual to be with his friends. First he runs down the
flight of stairs, out the door located in the front of the house, comes around
the house, more steps down the hill to the road in the back of the house. Now
he is ready to disappear to where ever he intends to go. Grandma opens the
window to the street and hollers "T..., come back and push your chair
under the table". Now, if this is not a way to teach children how to
live the "proper way", what is. When I'm finished at the table, I always put my
chair back. I wonder why.
Late in the summer when the wheat was
ripe and its stems all dried up, the farmers would go and cut it down, form
bundles like a bouquet of flowers, leave them on the ground and then come and
pick them all up with their cart pulled by oxen. Actually, the ‘wealthy’
farmers used oxen and the poor farmers had to use their cows. Cows were not
supposed to work so hard in order to give lots of milk and be fit to bear the
next generation. After the war when bread and many other foods were rationed,
people searched for fields where the farmers had finished gathering their
wheat. One would go, walk the fields and pick up each wheat head that had
fallen off and had been left there. Sometimes someone else had been there and
nothing could be found, other times enough was found to take to the flour mill.
There it was weighed and the miller would give a bit of flower to take home.
One day my friend Maria heard of a ‘finished’
field and decided to go leftover picking. Of course I wanted to go with her.
Bread and flour was still rationed but for whatever reason our family would get
bread through some outfit called UNRRA. We always had more bread than anyone
else but still could not eat as much of it as we wanted. So, I asked Tic-Tac
Oma, my grandmother, to make me a special sandwich because I was going out to
pick wheat heads and bring some flour back. She did and Maria and I took off.
Well, it was a field that someone else had gotten to already. We stumbled
around in high heat, pricked our bare feet on the dried up stumps of the wheat
plants and returned empty handed. I felt sooooo guilty for having been
given a special sandwich - for nothing.
Way way back then, maybe in 1965, many
office buildings had a small snack bar in the basement so that people could get
a quick lunch without running out to a restaurant There was one such snack bar
next door to where I worked. I liked to go there whenever I did not bring my
own lunch in. It was a small hole in the corner of the basement floor. A long
counter with stools with this full cheeked, full everything lady behind the
counter. We would perch on the stools, ask for our chicken sandwich or grill
cheese, make friends with the other people hanging around and watch the snack
lady prepare the food.
Sometimes it was a long wait because
other people had called an order in and she was preparing that so that she
could send her husband off with the delivery to the upper floors in the
building. Mrs. Soandso from the Trust Company upstairs was often there. She had
very dark straight hair, a pale face and was very skinny - I always thought
that she would be a perfect fit as scarecrow in a vegetable patch. Mrs. Soandso
would always say to the snack lady “Don’t forget, my toast must be burned for
my liver to accept it”.
One day Eileen and I were sitting
at the counter enjoying our sandwiches while watching the snack lady clean the
milk bottles. In those days milk containers were glass bottles. And, while
swirling the brush around inside the bottle under running water, the snack lady
said “milk bottles have to be washed with cold water. If you use hot water the
film of milk will curdle and you won’t be able to clean the bottle properly”.
Now, why do we remember small nonsense
advise so well? Ever since then, each time I wash a glass or cup or any other
container that held milk with ‘cold water’.