The Practical One

Greetings again my Readers,

To bring the past into the present is an interesting experience. For me it requires great determination. I find I have no time. But I already know I have just as much time as anyone. In fact I have all the time in the world. So, why is it so difficult to let go of all the other things that require my attention and revisit my little girl. She still wants to be heard. She still wants attention. She still wants to be understood.
I told her many times: “It is not important anymore. You have had so much care and protection and you just did not realize how privileged you were”. She says: “Your thoughts are not important, but my story is real, tell it as it was”.

Mother had her first baby May 15, 1931 and her eights on June 3, 1941. She was pregnant most of the time for 10 years. I never knew that. I never saw her big belly. In the clothes she wore it never showed. I only knew that the stork brought the babies. Since the last five were all born at home and we had storks on every roof top and all the people I knew agreed, I never questioned the story. Mother loved her baby till the next one arrived. The youngest got most of her attention but she was a very proud mother and enjoyed the admiration from other people when she could show us off. We had beautiful outfits and I was happy about that.
I was about 7 years old when I was classified as the Practical One. My older sister was very studios and she worked hard to be the best. But she was clumsy and better suited for mental work. She got a piano from our grandmother and had lessons. Of course only for a short time. All changed radically when war broke out.
I had spent much time in the kitchen watching the cooking. With the start of the war Mother lost all household help except one maid. Now I was needed and told my gift was
practical. This meant to me I was not made for studying but I could do real work. Not knowing any better I believed this and felt I had no choice. Actually by accepting this I made it so. I became the Practical One. It took a little while to learn everything. But I had found by trying to please I was considered good. So I gained some self-confidence. It came slowly. While baking Mother sent me to the pantry to get the sugar. I could not see it. I looked and looked. Finally I had to go and tell mother I could not find it. She went and got it herself. It was right in front; I felt so stupid. But I had trouble learning to see. I saw what I knew in my mind but not what was before me in reality. Because of that I knew I was missing an ability others had. This is still my problem. When watching television or driving I cannot get it all. I am slow. Mostly others did not notice but I felt and believed I was not very smart. I did my best to overcome my disadvantage. Eventually I became good at helping mother. With 9 years I was a perfect cook. I could bake, wash, clean and was very confident and self-sufficient in all things.
When I was 8 I got my first bicycle. It was a beautiful ladies bike and I was very proud of it. It did not take me long to learn to ride it. Never having had a tricycle and with no safety wheels learning to ride this bike was a major event for me. The sensation I felt when the adult let go and I was on my own I recall clearly. Of course I crush-landed in the ditch but that was the only time. After that I went everywhere on my bike and was sent to the nursery for the first lettuce from the greenhouse. I was not afraid of anything and would go anywhere. Physically I was very strong and soon had another child on the back of the bike and one in front on the handling bar. I liked to give the smaller kids free rides and felt good. There were no fears and no restrictions.
In school I had another problem. My handwriting was not good and it was considered part of a good education that your handwriting was pretty. But try as might it did not improve. Also I made spelling mistakes but not because I could not spell. I felt I had written the word correctly and when I read what I had written could not see the mistake. I just saw what I knew in my mind. Only when the teacher marked the mistake did I see I had forgotten a letter or used a wrong one. These were called mistakes of flight but I was not in a hurry. It was just that my eyes and my mind did not work together correctly. The other thing that bothered me was when someone watched me write. Only with greatest effort could I write when the teacher stood beside me and watched. Signing a cheque with someone watching is still hard but as a child I could not think when I felt the focus on me.
My feelings to Mother never changed. Her personality was so different from mine that no closeness was possible. Father had left for the war right at the start in September 1939 and was home only for a short time after the war against Poland was quickly won. He had worked for 5 years on our estate which had been run down by the previous owner. Now all was in good working order and he needed a larger challenge. (This is my opinion now. I might be wrong.) So he leased our estate to the most respected neighbor in the village and then volunteered as “Sonderfuehrer der Wehrmacht”. This means he became an officer in the army with the special mission to organize the food production on the land behind the German invasion in the Ukraine and in Russia. The last time I saw him was in 1942 when he was on leave. At that time he had a special photographer come to make a family photo with all eight children present. This is the only picture of the whole family. The photographer could not get a good picture. Always one of the children had looked away. I actually remember how frustrating it was for him. My sister Christa was caught at a bad moment. I still feel sorry for her; she looks so awful when in reality she was very beautiful. I look liked the most unhappy girl in the world. That photo I put later in my album which father started for me and in his handwriting gave names and dates to many pictures. The last one he put in for me is showing him with six fellow soldiers in 1939. He even wrote their names down. Father was missed in Russia in Nov. 1943. When we received the news Mother never showed her feelings. She had faith and she had hope and she was our example. I saw no one cry and I had stopped crying long ago. We had to be strong.

I still had not any one to confide in, to trust or call a friend. Our village was very tiny. Family visits from father’s or mother’s side became even less because of the war. I had to wait till I was 10 years old and went to high school in Koenigsberg before I could expand my view of the world. So far I had learned to be tough and capable and self-reliant. I was the Practical One.

To be continued…..

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