Saturday, May 28, 2011

Nostalgic in Germany

This is not vacation. I am here to try to bring some smiles and help to my mother and my sister. When I sit with mother (age 88) next to her bed and read her from father's (her late husband of 62 years) memoirs, I can't help but think of the past. My father had been house bound for many years and to keep him fit I had asked him to write down certain things e. g. How was your childhood? How was mother's childhood? How did you meet? etc. I then typed it into the computer and together we would 'fine tune' it. It took several years. I am so happy that I have this. Now - - I should translate it for the children and grandchildren ...

Today I felt like dashing out for a minute and drove to see the house in which I was born. Yes, in this house where my parents and sister lived ... not in a hospital. Muensterstrasse 638 in the 'Resser Mark' (city: Gelsenkirchen). It was winter with thick snow and father had to get the (heavy) midwife on a bicycle. Really!
It was not nearly as nice-looking then. The landlord lived downstairs and another family with us under the roof. It was very crammed but I have good memories of it. Except that I had to go to first grade through the forest to school because even then there were not so nice men. But luckily I did not have to go alone very often. I think we lived there until I was 7 years.

Two days ago I went to my favorite thread store in Resse (sock yarn!). I drove by the church where I was baptized, confirmed and married. These pictures were taken last August though. 

The entry has not changed at all.

The inside has been re-painted ... but much posher then I remember.

Same baptism fond as for baby Christa.

Same organ in the back.

Kalmia (latifolia 'Olympic Fire')
I got diverted on the way to the yarn shop because one street was closed. So I drove a loop to Laerchenstrasse 10 where we moved to after Muensterstrasse when I was about 7 I guess. It is the big house on the corner on the right. I could point to our two livingroom windows on the third floor. One story higher under the roof lived our very good friends who moved from the same house to the same house the same day. We children, my sister Ute, the friend Achim and I had to play in the street. If we used chalk to draw a hopscotch in front of the house we usually got into big trouble with the landlord.

When I took the photo from across the street I saw this bush which looked so nice. Had not seen anything like it. I stepped on the lawn and a women knocked on the glass on the inside of a window. Ups, I thought, I am in trouble. But she only wanted to chat and tell me what it was called. She recognized my name and told me a little about the landlord, who's name was still on the doorbell.

Fridays is market in Herten (where the St Barbara home is and my sister lives). Oh, how I love to go and see markets. My sister is buying some herb plants. I could go crazy. Such a selection!
And a wonderful selection of vegetables and fruit. Strawberries are in season (local). They smelled so strong we had to buy some!
In the afternoon Gero surprised us with a visit. Omi had just slumbered all day but how she perked up when he arrived. She loves children.
His father Tobias had just picked him up from guitar lessons. So I asked whether he would play something for us. James happened to be on the telephone so he could hear it all the way to America.
 On the way from and to St Barbara and Ute's house I am passing this streetcar. When I was an apprentice at a CPA's office in Gelsenkirchen-Buer I had to take the number 10 (?) all the time. It run in the middle of the street. How many times did my heels get stuck in the tracks crossing the street. Even broke a heel totally off ones or twice.
 Ute lives here since she got married. Never moved even ones.
Saturday. Ute and Siegbert asked whether I could drive to Dorsten and take care of our grandparents' grave. That was depressing. The "Friedhof" used to be a nice and peaceful place with one little garden (grave) next to another. But a lot where "undone" (stones  and all taken away) and many neglected. 

After weeding I planted three begonias. Just had to. The florist told me that if you can't come and water every day its the only plant which might survive a little while. I really can't remember German summers like that. Oh well ...
I have such wonderful memories of Oma Grete and Opa Otto. It is amazing what I learned from them and how many times I have to think of them. 
BIG MISTAKE! I couldn't leave it alone. Just around the corner the house my parents and Opa Otto built. Every stone of it!!! I was about 18 and I had to help too ... carting the bricks in a wheelbarrow things like that.  Every weekend. My room was in the basement. We had to sell it when mother couldn't live there by herself any longer.
Visiting it was a mistake. It looked neglected. 

The day got better though. After visiting mother for a while I had invited Ute for lunch. It is SPARGELSEASON. The white asparagus is in season. A big deal here. Not far from Ute are several local farms which prepare meals from their own harvest. This is table decoration?
Spargel und Schnitzel. Ups. I forgot to take the picture before I dug into it. Well, I was hungry.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A special Place!

This is "Wohngemeinschaft St Barbara in Herten, Germany". It's a nursing home with the concept of community living. It used to be a catholic church but since attendance in churches has declined everywhere has not been needed any longer and the property was converted into a nursing home with a chapel. It is a very special place. Even when the dementia is getting worse, this is their home to the end. >>Pflegeeinrichtungen >>Hausgemeinschaft St. Barbara >>Hausprospekt St. B...

The building is a square with a square yard in the middle and it is two stories high. The walls to the yard inside are mainly glass so that it is light and airy inside. Anybody can go through one of the many glass doors to the garden which is full of blooms and herbs and very peaceful.
If the weather is bad (as it is often in Germany) the residents can walk around and around in the inside looking at the garden.

The residents are divided into four groups (families) and on each floor are two. Each group has about 10 or 11 residents with their own huge diningroom table and kitchen.
The care givers are cooking a lot of the meals and the meals are family style. The residents who are still in better health are encouraged to help peal potatoes or fold the washing etc.

Not everybody here yet for coffee hour and mother's place is empty. She spends her time in bed now. Everybody has their own room off this big hall. Mother's door has a photo of her (late) husband of 62 years so that she could find it herself.
The care givers are so nice and sweet to her ... very well-meaning. And I am also always asked whether I need something ... to eat at mealtime ... or coffee.

Thursday after my arrival was the big annual Spring Festival. People from the evangelical and catholic congregations, the residents and care givers from the home and their families gathered in the garden and it started with an ecumenical service. The next-door kindergarten children sang several songs and a band played songs for everybody to sing along. Later champagne and orange juice was offered and everybody received a pot with a marigold plant and somebody was busy at the grill.
Unfortunately mother collapsed in her wheelchair after half an hour and we had to put her back to bed and she was very poorly for the rest of the day. It had been so nice outside ... sigh.

Mother's eyes really bothered her. They were itching (a little infection?) and she was always rubbing them. Everybody said "Salbei".  Well, there was Salbei (sage) in the garden and one of the caregivers made a tea. We made gauze wet with it and put it on the eyes and ... it helped!
Mother is most of the time very tired and sleeping but ... when her youngest great-grandchild arrived ... she woke up and was as lively as I had not seen her in a while.
Ur-Omi Ulla and Julian Luis (born 28. November 2010) are talking with each other.

How I wish I could visit her with William. I am sure Helen is wishing the same.
Julian is really paying attention.

Oh, yes, Ur-Omi.

Bye-bye. Carsten is my sister's oldest.

It must be Monday if my sister Ute makes Waffles. It's everybody's favorite and even those who don't like cake any longer partake. The aroma is drifting through the whole building. Ute volunteers every week.

When I was finished writing the blog I pressed 'preview'. It came up and my computer wrote 'Vorschau' in the top left corner. How does my computer know that I am in Germany and makes comments in 'Deutsch'? I really would like to know that!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A glorious Day !

One year ago ... what a time we had then. We had rushed from VA to TN in a hurry on May 13th and on May 14th William was born ... two months early. But the Lord took care of him and all of us and today we celebrated his 1st year birthday. What a glorious day full of decorating, happiness, love and celebrating!

A party was planned for Saturday at 1:30 pm at our place . Helen had thought of everything down to decorating the highchair. It was fun helping her. 

Major thoughts had gone into the birthday cake. Since William loves books, especially The Little Hungry Caterpillar, a caterpillar cupcake cake it had to be.

Yup, just like the book.

And Omi made special cookies for William with her German gadget.

First the guest have to catch up with news. The men are in the kitchen. Ben and his cousin Jim remember their birthday cakes when they were children. They were allowed to choose which one they wanted out of a box. Joy had brought the box to Helen. Jim is holding the template for the baseball mitt cake he once had. It was in the box too.

The women are in the living room playing with William who likes to investigate the decorations for him. Go for it, William.

 Go for it!

Mops (Joy Hall Wahl), William's grandmother from Ben's side.

picture from Jim & Melissa

GeeGee (Jessie Ruth Hall) William's great-grandmother. How lucky is this little boy?

Auntie Sarah had sent (with us) pots with Sweet William plants she had raised from seeds for all the guests.
The young family!

No, I don't see the need for a crown. Where is the food?

 Why do you let me starve?

Ben had brought Barbecue and there were all sorts of good things.
Since it had stopped raining, grandpa turned Helen's bubble machine on.
Oh, he loved that!

Yes, that was a big success! William says "Thanks, Mom".
picture from Jim & Melissa
picture from Jim & Melissa

 And then came the big moment!

First he was given a cup cake with white icing. He almost choked on the strawberry. Ben had to rescue his son. A moment we will most likely still tell in years to come. And most likely the story is going to get better every year.

But some of the adults cried out that he was deprived of his real first birthday experience. So there came the caterpillar head. Yes, red!

picture from Jim & Melissa

picture from Jim & Melissa

Then we were back in the living room again socializing. And taking pictures. At least 4 cameras were always clicking. Poor William followed by the paparazzi.

And, of course, William had to open his presents. The invitation had sad 'no presents please' but he is so loved. And ... he had fun ... and everybody else too.

Uncle Jim is putting his toy for William together sitting next to his and Ben's grandmother. A little lawnmower.

When he was done, William had great fun playing with it with Aunt Melissa's help.

William did the knee-hopping. Of course he had to sit on Granddad George's too.

And then ... when everything was over ... William was just plain pooped, worn out. Let the grown-ups do the clean-up. Haha.