Grand Book Promotion

“Smashwords” – the largest distributor of e-books worldwide – is offering an annual huge promotion for the whole month of July. Thousands of e-books are deeply discounted at 25%/50%/75% to ‘FREE’. My books are available at 50% off – a terrific deal if you are still waiting to read about my incredibly interesting life in my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” and the companion book “Forget Me Not”.

   NOW is the time to take a look at my books again. I have published the Second Edition of my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” on Smashwords as an e-book. I have made slight changes within but especially with the ending, since so many of you were unhappy with the way I left it. After all the time I spent on it, I can now go back and continue writing the sequel. Actually, there will be two more books in my memoir series: This one, book I, “We Don’t Talk About That” covers my first thirty years in Germany; the second book will deal with the next thirty years in Canada, and then we’ll have to take a good look at my incredibly active ‘retirement years’ – I am not sure yet if I quite make it another thirty years! Close though…

You may even find a little ‘surprise’ when you peruse my titles! Should I tell you about it? Okay, why not! I have added a pretty little poetry book in German language. “Ein Mensch von Gestern … Heute”. A happy book! It was a reprise for me after the heavy duty topics I dealt with and it made me laugh, every time I re-read and edited it. Many of my older relatives and friends, who cannot read my English books, have been complaining. They have tried repeatedly to convince me to translate my books. That will not happen – friends, it is not a matter of translation, it will be a total re-writing. I don’t have enough years left in my life to tackle it. Therefore, this little book may be a “candy” – and I promise that many of the poems deal and tell a lot of my life! For those of you who have German friends or relatives, you couldn’t send them a better gift! However, I find a poetry book is something you have to hold in your hand, it does not read the same when it’s an e-book, so – I have another surprise:

Here is a link to my books on Amazon: Within the next three to five business days you will be able to order a printed version of “Ein Mensch von Gestern … Heute” – the Author listed is Gisela Fiting-Roeder. Since I was well known under my maiden name in Germany I decided I ought to use it. Naturally, Amazon also enrolled the book in their KDP (e-book). By the way, if you purchase the paperback copy you can obtain the e-book for free.

And now, my dear friends, happy reading!

Old-fashioned Christmas in Germany

The Christmas star

The Christmas star

Really? You want to know how Christmas was celebrated in the ‘good old days…’ in Germany? Let me go back about seventy-five years. And when I tell you how my family celebrated it, be assured it was the same way with all the families I knew. We lived in Pomerania and since Germany had many different parts or provinces it may have been a bit different in East Prussia, or Bavaria, or Holstein, or the Rhineland! Believe it or not, the people in Bavaria didn’t even think the northern Germans were Germans at all – and vice versa. The spoken dialect was (and still is) different and therefore the traditions with Christmas might also have been different. I wasn’t aware of it as a small child as my world was also small.

The exciting time started with an ‘Advents Kalender’ – a calendar with little windows for each day. Each window was marked with the date. We were allowed to open one window each morning and enjoyed looking at the picture behind the little window blind. It was hard not to open more windows to find the one gift we hoped to get at Christmas. You couldn’t open more windows because it was then damaged. On Santa’s list, it counted as being a ‘bad girl or boy’. We received this special calendar from one of our grandmas on the first Sunday of Advent.

Advent

Advent

The four Sundays before Christmas were special. Different Christmas cookies were baked each day and the house smelled wonderful. A few days before the First Advent, Grandma would take us to the forest. We would look for small pine branches to take home and make an ‘Advents Wreath’. The wreath was decorated with pine cones and four red candles, one for each Sunday before Christmas. The wreath would be hung with red ribbons over the main table or placed directly on the table. On the First Advent, only one candle would be lit, on the Second Advent, two, then three until, on the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles would be lit. By now, they were all a different length! Each Sunday we would sit around the warm tiled oven at dusk with our cats in our laps and listen to our grandma telling stories from her childhood or rekindling memories of our own Christmases past.

Shoe shineAnother part of the pre-Christmas time was St. Nicolas night celebrated with cleaning all our shoes, including Mom and Dad’s, on the evening of the 5th of December. St. Nicolas would come when we were sleeping, check the shoes and put some sweets into the shiniest pair. During the war we were told just to put one pair out to save St. Nicolas precious time. Most kids didn’t even have more than one pair of shoes anyway.

Christmas in the stores didn’t start before December. Christmas trees were sold just a week or so before Christmas. To look for and pick our perfect tree took some time. The tree was usually kept in a cold barn or shed. We children would never see it again until Christmas Eve. The parents (oh no, oops, I mean Santa!) would decorate it just the night before Christmas Eve. Even then, we still had to wait until late afternoon on Christmas Eve after the church service with the singing of the wonderful old songs, and the school children acting out the Nativity. The worst was that we also had to eat dinner with that, by now, knotted feeling in our stomach before we could even see our decorated Christmas tree. Dinner on Christmas Eve was always potato salad and wieners, or fried fish. Each family had their own special way of decorating their tree. Ours was always full of angel hair, tinsel, cookies with colorful sprinkles on them and twelve white candles. The tree was always placed on Dad’s desk. Our cousin’s tree also had tinsel but lots of colorful, different size shiny ornaments and different colour candles. No electrical lights – just real candles! They were lit with long matches and the parents always kept a close eye on the tree. There were times when Santa was too busy, so he had dropped off the gifts and they were all under the tree. Before we could touch anything we each had to sing a song or recite a poem we had learned for this occasion. It was so difficult for us children to finally arrive at the Christmas celebration.

Christmas Eve was the real Christmas for us and we could stay up past our bedtime. We would all sleep in on Christmas morning, even our dad. Poor Mother had to get up and look after the farm animals. She would also heat up the stove and the ovens to make sure it wasn’t so terribly cold when we got up. Pails full of water from the pump were kept in the kitchen and sometimes there were thin layers of ice on them. We were allowed to play with our new toys before we got dressed. We always received something for the body (socks or sweaters we needed anyway!) and something for the soul, toys or books.

On Christmas Day, we would either have relatives visiting for a noon dinner consisting of either carp with white parsley gravy or goose and red cabbage. If the relatives didn’t come to us, we would go to their house. Either the visitors or we would stay for coffee and cake, munch on home baked special Christmas cookies or crack nuts. Each child also received a “Bunter Teller” for Christmas. That was a colourful plate with cookies, candies, nuts, apples and oranges which we could eat without asking if we could.

My signature tree

My signature tree

Boxing Day was what we would now call “open house”. It was a day when friends and relatives just dropped in for afternoon coffee. Since all our Christmases were white, we children would be out with the sleighs to pull them up the mill hill to race down screaming “Bahn frei” – warning kids coming uphill to keep clear.

I don’t think kids nowadays would be happy with this kind of life. Do you blame me if I kept to some of the traditions during my adult life and am still dreaming of ‘my kind of a white Christmas?’.

 

Diaries, Journals, And Letters

When I was a teenager I wanted to keep my private thoughts and experiences my own.Were they so special or interesting? No, not really, but important to me. I think it was an aunt who gave me my first diary with a little key to lock it for my birthday. It became my best friend, my confidante and I kept no secrets from it. I wrote about all that happened, my thoughts and my feelings. Especially all my thoughts and feelings! I trusted it with my first kiss and also the first names of the boys I allowed to kiss me after the first one. I even told my diary that I didn’t like  tongue kisses at all and always broke off a friendship before it could even develop.

DSC07693My diary was the only one who knew when and how I had fought off a boy who had tried to get more than just a kiss; everything he said, I said – well, you get the idea. No, I did not share my body with anyone during those years. I truly believed in ‘saving’ myself for the ONE that I would marry. The ones of you who read my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” know about that part anyway when it finally happened and not in the way I had hoped it would.  I filled that little diary within four years. I was close to twenty when I bought myself a new one. Number one was locked and under some underwear in ‘my drawer’ in a chest, which I shared with my sister. Sadly, I had to escape to another country and when I finally had a chance to come back many years later and looked through my drawer, everything was still there. But I was shocked to see my diary lock had been broken. When I confronted my mother she admitted that she had read it all. Why did she do that? I would not do that but then I am probably one of those rare creatures who is absolutely not curious. I do not have the diary anymore since I burned it back then. I was hurt and angry. It tainted the relationship with my mother for the rest of her life. Broken trust is not easy to fix.

Do I ever wish I could read it again, now in my advanced age… I still have diary number two. I very recently read it. Half of it is empty. I had stopped writing in it when my life fell apart after twenty years of raising a family. But the happy times are there for posterity. I also have a travel journal from a three week trip in 1973 with my two stepdaughters and my baby boy from Canada to Germany to visit the three sets of grandparents: My husbands, my own, and the girls mother’s parents. A very interesting trip and time in my life. I never saw the girls as my stepchildren, they were my own and this travel journal really proves it. Often I had to smile when one of them made some funny remarks: The older one spoke mainly English, the second one, just fifteen months younger, spoke and understood German quite well. She had been raised for three and a half years by a great aunt of her mother in Germany before she joined our family.

After my immigration to Canada in 1965, I wrote regularly to my kayak friend Christa in the former East Germany. She kept all my letters from 1955 to 1996 at which time I started to telephone her rather than write. By that time Germany was reunited. It was easy and nice to have a personal conversation. At a visit four years ago she handed me a big package – and to my surprise, she had saved forty-one years of my letters and gave them to me with the words:

“I hate to let go of your letters. I read them all again but I think they will help you when you start  writing the second part of your memoir.”

I just finished reading the letters up to 1961 when the Berlin Wall had been built overnight. What an emotional rollercoaster! Forty-five years came alive as if it all happened during the last few years and not half a lifetime ago.

Another journal I started in 2010 was an account of all my doctor visits and prescription medications as well as X-rays and other tests. This journal proved very important during the last couple of weeks. My doctor had prescribed a new medication and it did not sit well with me. Looking through my ‘Med-Journal’ I found that I had been taken the same pills a few years ago and also had to be taken off them. I can only urge you to write a ‘Med-Journal’. It may one day save your life!

And, if you don’t have a shoulder to cry on or a close friend you can share all your troubles with, get a diary. Or, start writing letters to an imaginary friend. You will be surprised how much more of yourself you will reveal because you are absolutely sure your most inner thoughts and secrets stay secret. Maybe until your heirs read them after  you have gone to the pearly gates. In my case – I think that would serve them right! They will finally know how much I loved them and how often they hurt my feelings, probably not even realizing it.

Curious about the stories in ‘Forget Me Not’?

Book cover

Book cover

I don’t blame you. I would be curious too. Often I’ve gone to Amazon, looked for the books I wanted to know more about and clicked on “Look Inside”. Occasionally I was frustrated when I came to the end of what I was ‘allowed’ to read – and you had to either give up – or buy the book. If I would have bought every book I liked I would have a huge inventory and could open a library!

This, I have never done before – but I will do so now! I am way too excited about the stories in this ‘Bouquet of Stories, Thoughts and Memories’ not to share them with you. Thinking of you reading the titles of my stories puts a big grin on my face. Why? Because all of them came straight from my heart. I know you will like many and really love others. Each one is educational – either from a historic point, from understanding odd situations in life or has an ending you don’t expect. Or, perhaps, it carries some kind of a message you may want to discuss with your family or friends.

“Forget Me Not” is for readers from ten to ninety and beyond. You can’t go so sleep without reading a few pages? And then get your brain engaged in wondering what the ending of your book is going to be? You need willpower to NOT read the ending? My stories will help you. You read just one and you’ll KNOW the ending – because it ended! Now you can go to sleep without all that “wondering”.

I ought to get an audio book of this for the people who have vision problems or are too weak to hold a physical book. “Forget Me Not” is also a beautiful gift from YOU to friends you don’t want to forget YOU! Just imagine yourself unwrapping a little gift package on Valentine’s Day, your birthday, Mothers’ or Fathers’ Day; any other special occasion or even as a surprise and your eyes are greeted by the message: “Forget Me Not”. Who do you think of? The author? No way! You think of the person who sent it to you. That’s the idea, my friend!

I haven’t revealed that there are photos with some of the stories – and poems to use some empty pages between the stories.

How about this one:

What am I? A cat or a mouse…

I feel like a mouse
In a room with a cat.
I like to hide
Far in the back.
I want to curl up
And sleep, and relax
I seek the quiet
Not hear the fax.
No radio, no cars, no TV
And no noise –
I need to tune in
To my inner voice.
I have to find out
Where I am at –
Am I a mouse
Or another cat?

~~~~~~~~~

Table of Contents
Preface
Prologue
1: Charming Village Life
2: Granny and her Fairy Tales
3: Horses – and their Shoes
4: Magic Hands
5: Winnie the Pooh
6: Pineapples and Spaghetti Grow on Trees?
7: WWI – 100 Years Since and Counting
8: Start of World War II
9: VE Day – May 8th, 1945
10: Churchill’s Incredible Foresight
11: Dutch Clogs and a Nazi Flag Dress
12: Work in an Office?
13: Uprising of the Sheep
14: Learning to Kayak
15: What Happened to Them?
16: Escape from your Country?
17: J.F.Kennedy Assassination
18: She got Away – but only ‘just’
19: Olympic Games
20: The ‘Beheaded’ Rose
21: A Heart Wrenching, Sad Love Story
22: Cuba, Cora and Secrets Revealed
23: Coffee? Black, White, Cookie?
24: “Would you like to marry me?”
25: A Letter to Cindy
26: I own this Joint
27: Desperately Wanted: A Baby
28: Spring – The Ice Was Starting to Melt
29: A Beautiful Rose for a Beautiful Lady
30: “May Day, May Day”
31: It’s Part of Ageing
32: “Blue Hawaiian”…Hula and Aloha
33: One More Try and You’ll Make It
34: Flying On Points
35: The House is Empty
36: It Was the Wrong Date
37: Hope You’re Not Superstitious
38: Oh my, an Affair with Omar Sharif ?
39: My Friend, the Green Turtle
40: Candies and Cookies
41: Dog Days or Other Miserable Days
42: A Russian Rape Baby
43: My Earthquake Experiences
44: Vancouver Island Living
45: Change of Seasons
46: For You, Giselle, Anything!
47: I live here – what’s your excuse?
48: “Too bad it’s Canada”
49: Lest we forget. I can’t
50: What if
51: The Weeping Angel

And now my friends – have fun. If you want to read some stories – go to http://www.Amazon.com – find “Forget Me Not” and click on “Look Inside”, or, if you want the eBook version you can find that here.

A heart wrenching, sad love story:

Ingrid (2)

My sister Ingrid

Maybe it’s not my place to tell it. But who else can tell it? The two people involved cannot tell it and the others old enough to know the story have died and the younger ones don’t really remember the way it was. The story is about my third sister, Ingrid, who was such an easy going baby and child of whom people said: “Yes, later children are much easier.” I was six years old when Ingrid was born and had decided right then and there that I would only have “later children”. Our mother always admonished the others of us: “Look at Ingrid! She is never ever sick! And you come up with something all the time.”

We were four girls, each one born with our father’s hope to have a boy. It wasn’t meant to be. After the war he stated “I am so glad for my girls. At least they won’t be cannon fodder in the next war.” I, the oldest and the third, Ingrid, had Mother’s hazel greenish eyes and the second, Christel, and the fourth, Edith, were born with our father’s deep blue eyes. There also was a deep connection within the two pairs. That’s why I know Ingrid’s story. We were very much alike in our looks, our likes, our thinking and our love of books.

It was at my nineteenth birthday party with twenty of my canoe club friends plus our family. We were having fun, cooking pancakes on my new camping stove, flipping them over in the air, and a lot of laughter caused by some homemade wine. Late in the evening I started to “read palms”, telling fortunes and Ingrid was the last one who asked: “Can you read mine too?” Naturally I took a look and without thinking told her “For a start, you won’t have a long life. Your lifeline is very short…” She was only thirteen at the time. I shut up, shocked by my insensitivity. I could not shake a weird sense of premonition.

“Will I still marry before I die?” I knew what I saw but told her little white lies. At least I saw it that way. After all, this was just fun, I really didn’t know much about the “science” of telling fortunes. It wasn’t much later when the party broke up.

Ingrid was fifteen when my parents told me that she was seeing Benno, a boy of whom they did not approve. Benno was a year or two older than Ingrid but he was into drinking and always into fist fights with other boys. His parents could not handle him but he loved his grandma who lived next door to us. He often came to stay with her. I asked Ingrid “Why Benno, there are so many more nice boys around?” but she said “He needs me. With me he is nice and he talks and he wouldn’t drink. Nobody else understands him. I see no reason why I should not see him. We are good friends.”

Ingrid the swimmer

Ingrid the swimmer

In the summer next year she was sent to a children’s camp as a “sport teacher’s assistant.” Ingrid was an athlete; her fortè was swimming and diving. After about a week she was sent home because of terrible pain in her right shoulder. She could not even lift her arm to comb her hair. She was told by the family doctor not to train, not to swim, rest the arm and in general not to overdue anything. The pain did not go away, it got worse and at the end of August Dad took her to a private doctor. After a thorough examination his diagnosis was a shock: youth sarcoma. He told my father to immediately take her to the Charitè in Berlin, a special famous hospital. Within three days her whole arm was amputated. More tests revealed that the cancer had already gone into the shoulder blade and collarbone. She refused to have those amputated as well. Her statement was “I am already crippled enough; no boy will ever love me and I know I have to die anyway.” Six weeks later she returned home. Aunt Irene, a former army nurse came daily to renew the bandages and make sure she had enough painkiller pills. Ingrid refused morphine. “I want to die with my mind intact. I don’t want to be a vegetable.”

Ingrid post-op with family

Ingrid without her right arm.

Benno had given up drinking and my parents allowed him to make regular visits. In early December Ingrid’s cancer had grown out of the shoulder cavity as if a new arm was growing up to the elbow. The pain grew worse and she had to go into the local hospital. When Christmas was just a week away my parents asked her if she had a special wish. By this time I already lived in the west of Germany and kept sending items they could not get in East Germany: Chocolate, oranges, lemons; my parents would send a telegram with what Ingrid would like to have. I cried a lot during those weeks and once almost caused an accident with a bus and a car because I biked right into them. I couldn’t see for tears… Ingrid had only one Christmas wish: To come home, lie in her own bed to die. The doctors warned my parents, advised against it because it would be the hardest thing they ever did in their lives, they might not be able to stand it. They were adamant and wanted to grant Ingrid’s wish. They did.

Benno gave her a beautifully wrapped present, a long fancy night gown. It made her happy and sad at the same time. He told her he would wait for her and marry her when she got well, it didn’t matter that she only had one arm, he still had two and they would manage. My parents were upset about the fancy night gown Benno had given her, thought it inappropriate but there was nothing they could do about it. Ingrid had several good days during which she read a book I had sent her. I don’t remember the title. I had read it as well; it was something about five lives we each have of which the last one was about the afterlife. I had been impressed by its sensual spirituality. Mother wrote “Ingrid told me it gave her hope and she is not afraid of dying anymore.”

During January her pain was so bad that Aunt Irene, when injecting her pain medication mixed in a little morphine without telling Ingrid. It helped to ease her plight a bit without clouding her mind; yet sadly, the cancer had taken over her whole body.

Ingrid's grave

Life – love – lost

On February 5th her fight with this horrible cancer, the same as one of the Kennedy boys had, was over. She died and was buried dressed in the night gown Benno had given her. He was totally devastated, started drinking heavily and three weeks after her funeral hanged himself.

August 4th is her birthday. She loved gladiolas. I always buy a bunch and think of her. There is no grave I can take them to – they are on my coffee table. She would be seventy-five this year but I cannot imagine her as an old woman. She is forever the young seventeen year old girl.

An ‘Otherwordly’ Experience #Dreams #Tears #Spiritual

It was totally dark when I woke up and I had the incredible feeling of floating over my bed. I had heard someone calling “No, don’t go, please no, no, no…” I felt for something solid and was grateful when finally touching my pillow. But it was wet, very wet next to my head. I was flat on my back. I kept lying still and tried to shake the cob webs off my mind. Who had been calling? Why would my pillow be wet? I noticed that my hair on both sides of my face was wet as well and there was moisture in my ears too. I touched my eyes. Yes, – I was crying, the tears just kept running out of my eyes, down my cheeks and it seemed that some flood gate had opened. I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t properly wake up, either. Weirdly, I knew I wasn’t really awake and I also knew I wasn’t really asleep. The dark room around me felt cold and empty. Very empty. Almost hollow. I could touch the hollow in the air above me.

The next I heard was my alarm clock going off. It was 6.30 AM. A bit of grey light shone through the curtains. It took me a while to gather my thoughts. The wet pillow was a puzzle. I figured I must have had a bad dream and therefore cried. Walking to the bathroom I felt lightheaded and in a weird way very somber. Not singing or humming as I sometimes did. I had my shower, dried myself, put my house coat on and padded back to the bedroom. I dressed without thinking, choose everything black. Black pantyhose, black dress with a high collar, buttoned half way down the front with small round shiny black buttons, black pumps. When I was back in the bathroom I stared into the mirror: Why did I dress in black? I opened a drawer and pulled out my opera length large white baroque pearls and hung them around my neck. I shook my head to the image I saw in front of me and took them off again. I noticed that I was very pale and had large dark circles under my eyes.

Eventually I set off to drive to my office. For no reason at all I felt thankful that nobody had taken my parking spot. For a while I sat in my car and prayed that my secretary would not notice my eyes, still red from crying. I still had that somber feeling but as I entered through the backdoor I pasted a smile on my face when I called out “Good Morning” and hoped it sounded cheerful enough. June, my secretary was at her desk, gave me a rather serious look and said somewhat timidly “Good Morning, Giselle”. What’s with her, I thought as I walked past her and into my office. I placed my coat on the hook behind my door which was always open. I wanted to be available and approachable for all my “girls”, – I had twelve estheticians working for me. Behind my chair was a one-way window which allowed me to look out into the shop but nobody could look in. I sat down at my Jacobean desk in my Jacobean chair, folded my hands in my lap and did absolutely nothing. I didn’t see anything either. I was numb.

After maybe ten minutes June called “Giselle, telephone for you.” I picked it up and said my name.

“Hi, Giselle, it’s Chris. I am afraid I have bad news for you.”

“Yes, I know, my father died.”

“Oh, you know already”.

“Chris, – no I don’t, – what did you just say? How do you know?”

“We received a telegram this morning before the shop opened since we were the only Roeders in the telephone book close to your shop.”

My two most favorite men

Grandpa Erich and Eric

I was stunned. I hung up the phone and just sat there, my heart racing and my mind reeling. My hands were shaking and I couldn’t make them stop. Now I slowly started to understand my tears during the night, my somber mood, my disconnection with reality. My father had written a letter on February16, complaining that he didn’t feel good, that not even the cigars tasted good anymore. Since then I had not heard from home. Neither my mother nor my youngest sister had written to let me know that he was in a bad way. And today was April 7, 1983, time enough to let me know, to give me a chance to fly home and see him again before it was too late. How good is a funeral of one you love so much when you cannot be there? Oceans were between us. They lived in East Germany, had tried to escape but father had a kidney attack on the way to the train station and ended up in hospital. That was on the 13th of August 1961. Two days later the Berlin Wall was up.

“June, my father died, Chris just told me.” I had left my office and stood in front of her desk.

“I am so very sorry, Giselle, I thought you knew.”

“No, June, I did not know. It just hit me the moment Chris said it.”

“But then, Giselle why did you dress like that?”

“I have no idea, June. I wasn’t really aware of it. I just felt kind of somber this morning. It was as if I was in a trance. I thought I must have had a bad nightmare because I had cried so much my pillow was wet…”

I walked away from her towards the open part of the shop, the elegant waiting room with the manicure tables all around the huge glass windows. I stopped at every table to greet my customers and stood a bit longer at my daughter Ingrid’s table. She lived with Chris. Her head was bent way down – she clearly did not want to face me.

“Ingrid, Grandpa has died.”

She never looked up from her work. “Yes I know. You did too, didn’t you?”

“I had no idea. Chris just phoned me a few minutes ago.”

“But then, why did you dress like that?”

My back prickled, the hair at my neck was standing up as the full force of what happened last night hit me. My father had come to say “Good Bye” and the voice calling “No, don’t go, please, no, no, no…” must have been my own.

Dutch Clogs and a Nazi Flag Dress

Several years after WWII ended life ever so slowly had returned back to a bit more normal and I had become a teenager. We lived in the eastern sector of Germany, a country without shops of any kind. I had outgrown the clothing my mother had made from rags and “one dress out of two”. Would it ever have been nice if jeans had been invented already because then all the kids would have looked more alike and there would not have been so much heartbreak with the teasing and bullying for the weird clothing I and my sisters had to wear to school. I will never forget the three winters I had to wear an old torn black form-fitted ladies coat with green patches and a huge big bust typical Dutch designline, stuffed with horse hair. I was only eleven, starved and thin as a stick. There was no choice: I was lucky to have found the coat under a bush where someone had discarded it. At least I had a coat at all during the winters 1945, 1946 and 1947. Uncle Fritz did a deal by exchanging fish for some Dutch clogs and those wooden shoes kept my feet very warm. But imagine the picture:

A small, starved thin eleven year old kid with a big busted fitted ladies coat and Dutch clogs! I wish I had a photograph! Today I can smile or laugh about it but back then it caused me many tears and I refused to go to high school when the time came. I had nothing to wear. The teasing was already bad enough in the small village where we lived, – but going to a city school? I’d have died…

Giselle

Modelling my “Nazi flag” dress

I got a chance to learn to sew but I had to bring my own material. You couldn’t buy anything, but a kind neighbor gave me a big Nazi flag she had found in an old trunk in her basement or attic. Her family and mine would have been arrested if anybody would ever have found out about it. To own a Nazi flag was forbidden after WWII. I undid all the seams, took the white center and the black stitched on swastika apart and my seamstress teacher helped me to design a pretty kind of ‘country dress”. The body of the dress was fashioned out of the red material with a wide swinging skirt, a white insert around the neck and small strips out of the swastika around the skirt and the insert and a black belt. It wasn’t quite Bavarian style, but very similar. I was proud and wore that dress happily. When I grew out of it my third sister Ingrid wore it. Well, – look at the pictures taken a few years down the road with my first camera, a very simple box camera. To find out how I got such a treasure

Ingrid modelling her "hand-me-down" dress

Ingrid modelling her “hand-me-down” dress

you’d have to read my book “We Don’t Talk About It”. (Chapter: ‘Berlin – here I come’)

I wish I could share several letters from a lady who picked my book up on impulse at Chapters just a few days ago. She read several hours in her car in the parking lot, “I couldn’t put it down” she writes, – “went to the gym, read while doing a workout on the bike, drove home, read some more, couldn’t sleep, and finished it the next morning”. I know that she really read every word of it because she asks questions about different things she couldn’t have known had she just ‘skimmed’ through it. So, – click on the links to the bookstores and order it now! You will be looking at the present world problems a little differently and have hours of reading to keep those little “grey cells” (as Hercule Poirot says) very stimulated.

E – Day?

No idea what “E – Day” is? For me it is a very special day in my life: Emigration Day.

I stepped into an airplane at the Frankfurt Airport. The plane lifted off and I saw the fields of Germany, seemingly laid out with a giant ruler getting smaller and smaller, the many little villages with the steepled church towers always right in the middle of the surrounding houses placed like toys out of building box. I saw the endless grey line of the autobahn reaching out through endless forests finally giving way to floating clouds and then there was nothing. We were “above it all”. Above the Earth! I had left the land of my ancestors. I was on the way to a new life on a different continent. I had escaped all my troubles I thought… it is hard if not impossible to explain my feelings: Weightless? Floating like a feather in the wind? It had nothing to do with FLYING; – no, I am talking about myself: my emotions, my feelings, even my physical body. When I drifted off into semi-consciousness I had an out-of-body experience: I had no emotions, I had no feelings and I had no physical body. I looked down on myself sitting in the airplane, eyes closed with a crease between the eyebrows, hands folded in the lap. And all of a sudden a desperate small voice woke me up and brought me back to reality:

“Lady, can I have a drink?” My new daughter. The four year old girl cuddled next to me knew I did not speak much English. She did not want to wake up her “new mommy”. She was calling the stewardess. She couldn’t sleep. Her dad was waiting in Vancouver. She was like a pebble on the beach, rolled around by wind and waves. Her mother had left her. For several years she had lived with her dad in room and board, for the last nearly three months with her paternal grandparents in Germany. When I came “home” on weekends she wouldn’t let go of my hand. She was desperate for motherly love and would proudly introduce me to anybody who would stop by: “My new mommy!”

It was December 13th 1963. We had a refueling stop at the International Airport Keflavik in Reykjavik, Iceland. Holding her little hand tightly in mine we seemed the only people on the planet. We walked the frozen grassy airfield for almost an hour before they let us board again and start the long flight over the green fields and mountains of Iceland and the white icy peaks of Greenland occasionally visible through the clouds towards North America.

That’s when I learned that Iceland is green and Greenland is white! I have looked down on Greenland many times thereafter and it always irked me that I did not see any green…but incredibly beautiful white peaks and valleys. It’s hard to believe that there are places for people to live and to make a living.

Lions Gate cropped

Heading towards Lions Gate Bridge

December 14th: One of the most special days of my life: Arrival in Canada. The Vancouver International Airport was a shadow of what it is today. The Vancouver Hotel was the highest building in the city. Halfway across the Lions Gate Bridge my Canadian Husband asked me: “Well? What do you think?”

“This place is too beautiful to live here. It is more like a holiday destination…”

He laughed: “You better get used to it. This is where you will live.” Five months later we moved to Winnipeg and while driving through the Rockies my little girl asked her dad: “Why is mom crying so much?”

And now my friends, I have given away part of the sequel to “We Don’t Talk About That”!

It would make sense for you to read that book to understand WHAT it was that drove me to leave the land of my ancestors, marry a pen friend and have an ‘instant family’. At one point in “We Don’t Talk About That” I had told my parents: “That’s what I want, I want ‘later children’because neighbours had mentioned that ‘later children’ are easier when my third sister was born. She had been such a quiet, easy going kid.

E – Day. 14th of December is my E-Day. It’s also my second sister’s birthday and the birthday of her first daughter, – but for me, the 14th of December is and always will be like

“MY NEW BIRTHDAY”.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall #BerlinWall

Berlin WallIt was in 1968 that my father and I had a chance to talk about his last will and testament. He lived in East Germany, I lived in Canada. East Germany was a communist country with strongly fortified borders, rows of barbed wire fences, mine fields in front of those and guard towers with sharp shooters present around the clock. Within the country you could move freely as long as you always registered with the police after arrival when visiting relatives in a different city for more than a few days. You also had to de-register when you left and register again when you came back to your permanent home. It was practically impossible to get a visa to visit relatives in West Germany – unless you were a 65 year old male, or 60 if you were female. Younger people were kept “in” since too many had escaped before the Berlin Wall had been built. Now, at the end of the sixties older people had a chance; – if they didn’t come back, no loss and one person less to pay a pension to.

Father would never get a visa for Canada but he got one to visit his second daughter, my sister in Hamburg, West Germany. I sent a flight ticket to her, she got him a West German passport in exchange for his East German one and he came to Winnipeg for three glorious weeks. He asked “Wouldn’t it be better to take the train from Hamburg to Frankfurt instead of flying? I am afraid I’ll be late and then I’ll have to hang on to the straps and stand all the way to Canada.”

We talked about a will. He did not have one since he did not know how to do it. His youngest daughter stull lived in East Germany close to them, one daughter lived in Hamburg and I, his oldest, lived in Canada. I tried to convince him to leave everything to the youngest since she would be the one to look after my parents when they were getting on and needed help. He thought it not fair and thought we, the two in the “West”, should have something as well.

“Dad, we don’t need it. We are both established and we couldn’t spend it anyway.”

Eastern money had to stay in East Germany. Even if we came to visit we had to exchange West money one to one for each day we stayed there, so any inheritance would be useless.

With a guileful expression he looked at me and whispered ironically: “My girl, you will see, it will change one day. The way things are going at home can’t go on. Sooner or later the wall will come down.”

“Dream on, Dad that will never happen.” I did not believe him. But I did convince him to make a will leaving me out and my sister in Hamburg agreed to it as well. He never felt comfortable about it but eventually he did leave us out of his will.

On the evening of November 9th I was resting on my couch in my cozy home in Vancouver reading and listening to a Mozart concert when my phone rang. It was my son:

“Mom, do you have the TV on? They are dancing on the Berlin Wall! Mom, hurry – switch your TV on, this is history in the making. You ought to see this! The East German Police have put their guns down, hundreds of thousands are streaming through Check Point Charley into West Berlin, people are hugging and kissing, dancing and singing and drinking champagne, they are hacking away at the wall, Mom, you ought to see this!”

My son in Winnipeg and I in Vancouver, connected by the telephone, sat up long into the night, ran up a huge phone bill, but it did not matter. The wall was coming down! The wall that had divided thousands of families for nearly thirty years, ours included. We shared these first hours and laughed and cried. I had taken him to Berlin when he was about twelve years old and we had looked over the wall from a platform built on the west side, almost twenty years hence.

My father had been right. Oh, how I wish he could have lived to see the day, I know that his tears would not have stopped running down his beloved face. He died in 1983, six years too soon.

Now we are close to November 9th, 2014 celebrating:

“Twenty-five year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.”