First Thoughts

Well, my Readers,

here I am again. Revisiting my childhood. Part of me feels it is a waste of time. It is so unimportant. Another part of me feels it is so selfish, completely egoistical but the little child says, this is the way it was for me. I did not know anything else. My feelings were what I was. I felt deeply that I was not allowed to be me and when I tried to please, it brought me no real happiness. I remember holding the baby bottle and having no interest in the baby. My thoughts were elsewhere. Where? …I do not know. Later in school the teacher hit me on the head to wake me up. I was day-dreaming, wanting to be away, longing to be free. Bible stories and fairy tales let me imagine a world where I could do what I wanted, were I had my own place, save from the invasion of others.
On the road to the train-station there stood very little pretty new houses built for new settlers. It was a government program I knew nothing about but I liked these houses and wished I would have one for myself with no maids and no one to disturb me. I was only thinking of myself. At the time individual freedom was a real luxury. I did not know that but I longed for it. The only place where I could be happy was in heaven. I wanted to be there. When mother heard me singing the hymn, “Let me go that I may see Jesus”, she became angry and said: “Stop singing this funeral song.” But I already knew God would wipe the tears from our faces and pain and sorrow would be forgotten. Because our church was too far away especially in winter, mother had a lovely Sunday school teacher come to our house and the children of the village were all invited. This was wonderful. This special lady told us only of a loving Heavenly Father and Jesus, his son, who was sent to earth to bring us the good news of a heavenly place that was prepared for us. She told us of how much Jesus loved the little children and of the guarding angels who watched over us. I believed with all my heart. Jesus loved me! She also taught us the most beautiful hymns. I still know them and sing them to myself when I feel down. The words and the melodies are the best medicine for a sad soul. We also learnt the bible verses that were good guidelines for right living. Trusting in God was all we needed to do. The trouble was, I and everyone else knew only conditional love. No one had ever heard of love given freely and when not deserving. We were taught, we had to be good to earn God’s love or the love of anyone. But Jesus understood our weaknesses and failures and all would be forgiven if we were sorry. Here I now see a big problem. Being sorry meant being good. God loved us when we were sorry. Well, this little child never learnt to be happy. I was sorry for all I did wrong; and wrong was everything that did not please others. No one ever said, “God loves you when you are happy”.
It was so unnatural for a child who was well cared for to be unhappy. No one understood anything about me. I had everything I could want. My siblings were not feeling sorry for themselves. They seemed normal. I remember our governess was leaving and she was going to be driven to the train station. I made up my mind I was leaving with her. I packed my doll carriage and climbed into the carriage. I was determined. I was leaving! No one paid much attention to me until the last moment. The horses were ready to go and I was forcefully lifted up and out. Everyone assumed I had been playing a game. No one realized that I was very serious. I cried and everyone else laughed. I might have been 5 years old.
Now I knew I had to stay with my family till I was old enough to leave on my own. I believed everything the adults told me and realized I was not good enough. There was no one I could talk to except God. I believed God knew my heart and he would hear me. I knew he was the creator of everything including me. He was my Heavenly Father. If I was wrong, he would have to fix me. I wanted to be good. So I trusted God and continued to live in my own world while learning to survive in the world of others.

Have you ever heard of such a crazy child? That’s what I was.
There is more to come, Tela

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The Unhappy Little Girl I Was.

Hello again !

Today is the first Sunday of Summer, June 22 2014. Today I will pick up the little girl that still lives in me and ask her, why are you so unhappy ? Today I understand her but she has never been heard by others. Her story is my story and every child has one. Is that story important ?  Now in my old age I say yes. Not the story but the willingness to honestly share what your first thoughts and feelings were.

A small child knows only what it feels and what it is told. I knew I was unhappy, so I cried. I was a cry-baby. That was very difficult for my mother. She believed when a child is fed and clothed, protected and provided with all it physically needs, it should be happy. I remember her asking me, what is the matter ? I could not tell her. What should I say ? So she said, well if you have no reason for crying, I will give you one; and I got a good spanking and tried not to cry anymore. I feared my mother. Once we had a house-party. The men were is the room for the Gentlemen and the ladies were in the room for the ladies. That was traditional because the topics of discussion were so different for men and women of that time. The children were allowed in the room of the ladies and I remember  mother while in conversation drawing  me close so that I stood beside her. I did not dare wiggle out of her arm but I felt most uncomfortable and was glad when she released me. The people closest to me were our maids. But they were the maids and I knew I could not talk to them about how I felt. I had already learnt that you needed to please people and what you felt and thought did not matter to anyone. You must not lie but withholding the truth was not considered a lie. Whenever I expressed myself, I was corrected or criticized. As a result I started to distrust my inner feelings. I became convinced I was wrongly made and God was responsible. I felt innocent. I tried to be good but that meant always doing what I was told. So hiding was my escape.

My oldest sister, Elisabeth, felt I should obey her. She was older and had a great sense of responsibility but her I would not obey willingly, so she beat me. I could not defend myself. I just cried. With 6 years I started school  in our one-room village school. I wanted to be friends with the girls my age but they let me know that they felt I was not one of them. So I felt rejected. I was laughed at in class when asked about my eye color. I said my eyes were green and every one knew there were only blue, grey and brown eyes. There was a tiny boy my age who for some reason started beating me in the schoolyard and I could not defend myself. He used me like a pushing bag and I let it happen. My sister Brigitte, one year younger, was scratching and biting. Once she took both her hands and with her nails like a cat scratched my whole face. I just cried. Parents did not intervene much in these matters. Their philosophy was, children need to learn to defend themselves. Life was challenging and weaklings could not survive. I had a built in knowing of what was right or not. Anyone who acted differently than what I believed must be wrong. I was very judgmental because I could see only right or wrong. And I felt I knew what was right.

But there were times when I was happy. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon the fine horses were put to the carriage and we took a ride for the enjoyment of nature. I was allowed to sit high on top with the driver and at one point he let me hold the rains. I loved it. I also remember a picnic in the nearby woods, the family gathering mushrooms,  picking wild strawberries and the games and dances we learned with our governess. Best of all were the summer times when we went to the Baltic Sea and visited with our relatives. We stayed at a hotel but spent time together on the most beautiful white sandy beach and took walks through the park-like woods nearby. There I got to know mother’s mother, my aunts and cousins . All that ended when the war broke out in 1939. I was 7 years old and everything changed.

I will continue. I promise,  Tela

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First years in Brasdorf

When I was 2 yrs old we moved from Riesenwalde in Westprussia to our own home in Brasdorf, Eastprussia. There my brother Hans Adalbert was born. After 3 girls now we had a boy. I only have little pieces of early memories. One of the first one is watching him being diapered and kicking and wiggling. I was astounded. He was not doing what was right. He was not a good boy. At one time I am going through the raspberry rows in the garden. The bushes were taller than I was and I was all alone and amazed.
The garden was large with a grassy area around 2 sides of the house and on the 3rd side a very large and long vegetable garden. I especially loved the fruit trees. We had one Transparent apple tree. These apples were ripe early but I ate them still green and never got sick. A very old pear tree in our garden, was so tall, it was left alone. The little delicious pears fell off when ripe and I got up early and enjoyed the ones that had fallen over night. They tasted like no other I have ever eaten. One cherry tree I climbed and hid among the branches. I liked to hide, so I would not have to do what I did not enjoy. Once I was missed and everyone was calling for me and I did not answer and stayed hidden. Only when no one was around did I climb down. I liked climbing and was not afraid of heights. When I was about 2 or 3 I saw the tallest ladder leaning against the highest haystack and I made it all the way to the top. I remember looking down and enjoying being so high. Then someone discovered me and started screaming. That frightened me so that I still remember the whole episode. They screamed: “Don’t move” and I waited for them to come and get me but I would have climbed down by myself.
We often played in the sandbox and in winter my mother even had a sandbox made in our playroom. When I look back now I see how good my mother was. She did many things which I as a child took for granted and only now appreciate. The philosophy of the time was, good parents need to train a child correctly. That meant a child must be obedient to any authority figure without question. Showing affection to a child was considered spoiling the child. I remember only one compliment I got when I had made a dress for my doll. Everything was done to keep us from becoming prideful but we were impressed with our responsibility to set a good example. We had to behave correctly and there were rules for everything.

In our small village every person was known and we as the children of the estate owner were treated with great respect. Of course I did not realize how protected we were. I remember in the center of the village by the roadside stood the tiniest hut, sturdily built out of wood and we were told that was the jail and we would be looked up in there if we were bad. No one ever was looked up there. I never heard of any crime in our area. Gossip was big news and I learned a lot by listening.
We knew we should not play with the village children. They spoke a Low-German dialect. Proper High-German was the mark of your standing in society. Your speech would give you away as to who you were. Appearances were a life or death matter.
Parents who loved their children needed to be strict disciplinarians. Most children feared to be beaten. I was a very good child never willingly doing wrong as I was just too afraid of the consequences. Once I broke a baby bottle. Plastic was not known. I hid the pieces and luckily no one saw it. I never told anybody. I often had to hold the bottle for the baby sitting by the baby carriage. Mother nursed the baby for 6 month, then it was my turn to hold the bottle for the baby. Our parents believed we needed to learn to work and that is why I liked to hide. I remember picking currents or sorting dried peas. There were many jobs for small children. One was to hold strands of wool on outstretched arms while the adult rolled the wool into a ball.
We had only one small store in our village. Many things we produced ourselves and as a result were very self-sufficient. Later during the war we even planted sugar beets and made our own syrup. Sugar was very valued and I loved sweets.
The garden was dug up by hand each spring and there were lots of fat worms coming up which we gathered and took to the chickens. When I came back and was asked: “Did the chicken enjoy the worms?” I said: “I do not know I could not see their teeth.” (Did they smile?) This I was told; I was too small to remember. I also like the story about myself when Mother was feeding me some porridge while sitting beside my highchair and talking to a visitor. She would put the spoon into my mouth and I would turn my head and spit it out and then open my mouth willingly for the next spoon. It took her a while before she noticed what I did. But when I was about 4 years old I learnt the rules about eating. I did not like the oatmeal. It was so slimy, I felt like throwing up. I remember both father and mother holding my head under running cold water and all I was worried about was that my beautiful big hair ribbon would get spoiled. From then on I have been eating everything without complaining. Another story I was told about my first train ride. I looked out of the window and was delighted to see the churches, saying there is a church and there is another church and look there is another one. I now know I was born religious. My faith in God and Jesus and heaven and the angels was for me not a belief but a knowing of the truth. I never had any doubts, I just knew the truth.
Both my parents were very sincere Christians, practicing what they believed. Father read us Bible stories at night and mother sang with us beautiful hymns which I still know by heart. We were taught to be honest and helpful and kind. Love your enemies! The exceptions were brothers and sisters. We were never told to love them and I was glad because I felt no love for any of them. I felt like a stranger in my own family except for my father. But he had little time for us. Still he took us on field trips and taught us the names of trees and flowers. He also did some physical exercises with us children like push-ups, knee-bends and stretches. He showed us that he could stand on his head. No one else I knew could do that. Most importantly I knew he loved me. I just knew it.
My mother I was afraid of. I felt she was like the evil stepmother in the fairy tales.

The next chapter is not easy to share as the little girl I was felt so very, very sad and alone. I could trust no one with my feelings and was strongly reprimanded when I expressed my thoughts. A happy childhood I did not know.