|WATERFRONT, HAMBURG, GERMANY|
I remember my Grandfather in Hamburg being so kind and considerate to keep a lamp burning all night. From a previous trip, He remembered that I didn't like to sleep in the dark.
I didn't have much of a relationship with him, living overseas, but what I did have from was very positive; he was kind and gentle with me and showed interest in telling the family's stories.
I only wish he would have been more personal in his cards, instead of admonishing me to "keep the Lord's commandments." That was not what I needed. But that is what he knew.
I think he cared. I think he did like me--and that is a nice feeling. I could recognize my father in him; always trying to make jokes and be jolly.
I have also stayed in Celle. I have many relatives on my mother's side who lived there (they actually emigrated there from east Germany fleeing from the Russians at the end of the war), but the older ones who I knew have all died--all my mother's siblings in Germany. I liked them all and they tried to make me feel welcome. I will never forget that.
Here I was, some American strange relation from far away, and yet they rolled out the red carpet for me. I have to thank my Tante (aunt), especially. I always stayed at her house and she was always so kind to me. She reminded me a lot of my mother (and, like Mama, had a wonderful garden). And my other Tante, who died many years ago, who was a fighter and a challenger. (She lost her husband in he Russian prison camp--and she never got over it.) She bore and raised 6 children practically alone.
Then there was my cousin who showed me a wonderful time in Celle. I will never forget his kindness and the way we clicked. Communication was easy.
After our visit, he contacted me a little late when I was studying in Austria, but he kept his promise to travel with me in Europe in the summer when his semester in college was over. However, my life evolved in a different direction because I had already met my future husband and was planning to go to Greece.
My favorite aunt on my mother's side is her younger sister. What a wonderful woman. She knows so much. She loves people. She keeps the larger family together somehow. She is beautiful, even in her 80's. She is a survivor, having recently survived the death of her husband of many decades, after many years of caring for him, and also her own physical challenges, along with the challenges of WWII.
I will also remember her as laughing, smiling, warm, and personable. She really reached out to my family, though she lived so far away in the U.S. And she kept tabs on me when I moved to her city. (Every Tuesday, I was invited to her house for a meal and good conversation. So nice--when you are single, especially!)
Every year my family went to visit extended family in America. It was fun for me; a highlight of my year--the culture was very different, and I got to connect with a plethora of German relatives; some of which I grew to know and love, and some who are still somewhat distant, but interesting.
Families are strange entities. I admire those who reached out to me. A cousin who looked like a 50's movie queen, with her platinum blond hair stacked high; her husband who teased me mercilessly (but who I still liked), and their children--3 girls and a boy who I once babysat.
And then there was my maternal aunt who loved her poodles and her embroidery and her family. She was a sensitive soul. And I had such a crush on her son (my cousin)!
I remember my maternal uncle who seemed to be jolly most of the time, and was very warm and inviting. When he became a senior citizen, I was rewarded by my visits with him and learned much about our family (...if he just didn't harp on religion so much!).
I cherish my memories of being carried into our station wagon by my father at 4 a.m. and taking off in our car in the wee hours to beat the traffic on our way to visit relatives who had immigrated to America. It was always an adventure to go on these trips. Daddy always made plans to see something significant on the way--national parks, monuments, etc. He was an adventurer, a risk taker at heart. Like me. (Or I am like him!)
On those summer trips, I remember the cool evenings with NO mosquitoes, low humidity. Sooooo nice. I remember canals of water rushing down from the mountains in front of the houses (in the city!) and putting my hands and feet into the cool, clean water. I thought that was so neat! I remember my cousin taking us for a special ice cream cone at least once per visit.
I have so many memories of those good times. At the house where we usually stayed, my aunt-in-law, who was jolly and outspoken, treated me well when I was a college student and visited occasionally. She was really a story-teller. She spoke about her past and memories, which I remember until this day.
I remember sleeping in her basement many summers during our family visits. She wasn't blood related, but was so kind to me. (She gave me hair pins from Germany to make a hair bun.) I'll never forget it. And the kindness of my Onkel (uncle), too. He worked hard until retirement at very physical work.
I guess because I was one of the oldest children of my parents, I related well to the older generation. I still do. I'm much more interested in what my aunts and uncles have to say, than my cousins, though there are some cousins I especially adore!
To this day, I still relate better to my parents and people in their generation, though they are about 30 years older. Strange, I don't know why. I guess I grew up in a very German environment, in school, in a German city, in a church that at one time had their Sunday School lessons in German. I remember many, many Sunday evenings at our home, eating "aufschnitt" and drinking Pero, discussing the war with other Germans. I treasure those memories.
I was the daughter of a high official of my church. So church members often automatically assumed I was good and an example to follow. That was a dichotomy for me. But it was the only time in my life that I was considered to be in a kind of prestige position (for lack of a better word) in our small religious circle. It was at once both a pressure that I resented and a pleasure that I adored.... Those days are long since gone.
My life has given me so much--I don't think I would trade it. And I have made lifelong friends in my former church, who, luckily, still consider me valuable in their lives, despite the fact that I no longer share their "faith". Who could know me better than those children with whom I grew up? And to have their ongoing friendship after long periods of absence....well, I consider myself very blessed.
Love to my friends! And to my family!!!