Morocco – Part 2

Last week you read about the beginning of our Morocco tour! The food was good, plentiful and tasty. Next morning, we toured the city of Marrakesh, an oasis and royal city founded by Berbers over a thousand years ago. Blue blooming trees lined the street into the city. I loved it! I was surprised by an old Jewish quarter. It was very clean in comparison and their flag with the ‘Star of David’ was almost the same as the flag of the country since it also had the same star. I did not know that. The visit of a Berber Market was frightening. Hundreds of entertainers, magicians, snake charmers, monkeys, begging children and thieves tried to get the purses. They would take your camera if you tried to shoot a photo since they believed you would steal their soul. If you paid – the soul was saved! We quickly retreated, found a terrace café on a roof, had a cola and shot pictures long distance. We encountered a woman nursing her child when walking along a small path back to the bus. The baby was approximately eight months old and kept suckling but looked at me when I stopped. It stretched the little hand out to beg. They learn early. A boy, ten years old, told us he makes more money on a day than his working dad does in a month. Asked to leave us, he said, “no, don’t pay, talk, I to learn English”.

Next was Casablanca, a very modern city with wide streets and a large, beautiful Mosque. We were allowed to see part of it and our tour guide pointed out the incredible tile work. We drove by the bar where “Sam” had played the piano… Casablanca is the largest and an important harbour city on the Atlantic. We visited one of the souks in the old part and were warned again to hold on to our purses. Imagine narrow dirty pathways, loaded donkeys and their owners yelling “Baluk – attention”, begging women, pickpocketing kids, “shlepper” offering to save you from getting lost; people pulling at you from all sides, hundreds of small stalls but overflowing with wares. With help of the tour guide I bought a silver necklace with the “Hand of Fatima” for good luck. To gain respect you have to bargain, it is part of their custom. I enjoyed the smells of spices, was intrigued by the colorful silks, and couldn’t resist buying a few meters for a dress. To get it made at home cost more than the material. The seamstress told me it was ‘fake silk’- but at least it was washable. Famous brands, from t-shirts to purses were cheap, everything was fake!

The longest day trip with 380 kilometers was along the coast to the capital city of Rabat. The brief city tour next day was almost overwhelming. We saw the Royal palace, the Hassan Tower built during the twelfth century with an incredible view of the big wall around the Medina (city center) with the narrow lanes and typical Moroccan shops. We had no time to linger and after the next two hundred kilometers we were in Fes, one of the four Royal Cities. I liked Fes best. Three parts of the city were built during different epochs. The famous ‘Blue Gate’, the great walls and many Mosques in and around the old parts were fascinating. Of special interest were the paint pots in one particular area. Workers were busy to tint all kinds of products. I later fell for the beauty of a heavy brass platter with inlaid little flowers on enamel and the star of the Moroccan flag in the center. I didn’t even realize it was the Star of David until Margo pointed it out. It was done by the famous artist who had fashioned the wonderful golden gate for the king’s summer palace.

Our last stop was in Meknes, a city of two parts: the old and the new city. Meknes was the former residence of the kings. Thick high walls surround the old town with the ‘Great Mosque’, the narrow bazaar alleys, and the wonderful ‘Bab Mansour’ leading into the Kasbah and the Imperial city of Sultan Moulay Ismail. It is a monumental gate, completely tiled in green and gold. It was finished by the Sultan’s son Moulay Abdallah in 1732.  An inscription (translated) on top reads:

“I am the most beautiful Gate in Morocco. I’m like the Moon in the Sky. Property and Wealth are written on my front.”      

 

 

 

Morocco – Dreams of Mosques, Souks and Camels

Ever since I saw the movie “Casablanca” I wanted to go to Morocco. A few years before I realized that dream, I had been in Tunisia. The main memory of it now is a visit to a “Camel Market”. People would buy and sell live chickens, goats, dogs, cats, and wonderful hand knitted rugs plus unbelievable junk. When I asked why the chickens were “live” they said because they don’t have fridges. They keep them until they want to eat them. I was surprised by a huge mountain of buttons. Yes, buttons of all kinds, small ones, big ones, colourful and plain ones. The seller said, “I found them all…”

Do you want to buy a camel? “Don’t come too close,” warned the owner of an extraordinary white one, “it may spit at you.” We asked, “How much is this white one?” The ordinary camels cost about 220 Dirhams. “Oh”, was the answer, “the white camel cost as much as a good wife” – and he pointed to me.

A good wife? Yes! Young men had a tough time to get a wife, especially if they had set their mind on a particular one. The girl’s parents would lose a worker and they needed to be compensated – handsomely!

Casablanca! “Play it again, Sam…” Remember? My dream to visit Morocco came true. I joined an organised eight-day bus tour. We flew from Munich to Agadir, a place with wonderful beaches and lots of hotels and RV grounds for European holidaymakers. Our group was picked up at the airport by a tour leader and a comfortable bus. We were briefed and told some horror stories about masses of children attacking a man with a rental car. We were not to open our purse when children were begging, no matter what. We drove 250 kilometers towards the High Atlas Mountains. Suddenly, someone spotted several camels. Everybody started yelling “stop” to the driver because we wanted to take photographs. With “come right back” he opened the door. We ran towards the camels when a few children popped up. Most of us snapped a picture and returned to the bus, followed by the camels. One unlucky woman was attacked by more than a dozen children since she had tried to give them money. They were trying to take the purse, the camera, and her clothing. The native bus driver, the tour leader, and all men from the tour hurried towards her and in no time the children were gone. We had no idea where they were hiding. There were no bushes! The woman had lost her purse with some money and her camera, luckily not her passport. We had learned a valuable lesson. She was badly shaken.

Approaching a hotel in the middle of nowhere, we expected a comfortable stay because the big sign had five stars next to its name. It took quite long to sort out the rooms. Finally, we were given a key and told to be on time for supper in a special dining room at eight PM. We had almost 1½ hours to get settled. Waiting that long for food when you are hungry? More than enough time to shower, get changed and relax a bit.

I shared a room with Margo. We found it on the second floor. It was furnished with two beds, crisp white bedding, a telephone on a night table, a chest of drawers, and a TV in a corner. The view was directly into the garbage collection area. The glass-less window was open but had wooden shutters set to let the light, the flies, and at night the mosquitos come in. While my companion used the bathroom, I checked out the telephone. No dial tone?  I pulled on the cord to find the plug. There was no plug at the end. O.k., I thought, we don’t really need a phone. Next, I tried to switch the television on. Dead? Again, I checked the cord and found the same result. No plug. That moment, Margo called “Giselle, I can’t flush the toilet. There is no water…” I rushed in; she was embarrassed because she had a smelly job to flush away. I figured the water was switched off – turned the screw under the tank and, viola, there was water! We closed the lid and let it run. She had undressed for a shower. I gave her privacy. Then, another scream:
“Giselle! There is no towel!” Only a thin, ironed cotton square you actually would use as a mat was all there was. I told her to use it. I ran downstairs to the reception. They gave me another of the same kind. Oh my God, what a hotel! Opening the door on my return, water came running out. The shag carpet in the little hallway was soaked and squished under my feet. The water had also run into the bedroom that sported the same kind of shag carpet. Margo stayed in the shower while I shut off the water running over the rim of the toilet. Since the telephone was just an ornament, I ran downstairs again. Frantically, I told them about the flood and asked for help. It took a while until a girl came with a pail and rags and tried to dry the bathroom floor. We had to make do with the squishing carpet for the night. The toilet tank had to be shut off after each use. When we finally got dressed again to go down for dinner, I went to the reception desk. The people were very friendly and now not busy. I asked them,

“Who gave you the five stars for your hotel?” Surprised, and with considerable pride, the man in charge said, “Well, we did!”

Figures! More to come next week…

 

Thanksgiving

turkey1It wasn’t about food or a turkey feast! For us, living in a small German village, it was mainly a special day in the church calendar. Nobody ever ate turkey, not even at Christmas or New Year. It was carp (fish), duck or goose. A great part of the celebration were the children. With their parent’s help, they decorated a basket with all kind of fruits or veggies out of the  garden. I envied the children who instead of baskets carried huge bouquets made up of dried wheat, rye, barley and other grain stalks. Those were so much lighter than our baskets! The girls wore a flower wreath like a crown made up of the last of the blooms picked in field and garden. The boys had corsages pinned on the jacket or a hat. We all felt excited and very pretty!

wp_20161006_15_47_39_proThe Pastor’s wife was in charge of organizing us in front of the church while the hymn singing congregation waited inside. The smallest, youngest children, two abreast, came first and were followed by all the others according to size. With the organ playing, we would enter the church and slowly walk to the altar. The Pastor, waiting there, would receive our thanksgiving gifts and place everything on or around the altar. Relieved of our burden we could now go and find a seat with our parents in the pews. The Pastor would pray, thank God for a bountiful year and a good harvest. He always gave a rousing sermon and made everybody willing to donate even more. This ‘harvest’ was going to the poor in the village and the soldiers on the front.

grain-lady-3Yes, we surely felt very thankful for every potato and carrot. We were still safe and were not starving. I remember these years during WWII so well. Life has changed a lot after the war. The number of church-goers is down in the big cities but, I can imagine small villages may still be celebrating Thanksgiving this way. The church and the pub provided the social life during my childhood, and it may still be the same. Since I have been living in Canada for the last fifty-three years I have no idea if the Germans adopted the turkey eating tradition but I’ll find out! I used to believe it was a healthy tradition since turkey meat contains tryptophan, a relaxing amino acid which forms the base of serotonin and gets converted in the body into melatonin making you sleepy. I’m disappointed to learn now that it is a myth because chicken and cheese also contain the same amino acid. On Thanksgiving, it is the mass of turkey with all the trimmings (and alcohol) we consume that makes us lazy and sleepy. Personally, I like the dark turkey meat. Restaurants hardly ever serve it because of its high content of cholesterol. On Thanksgiving Day I couldn’t care less!

Feel grateful for the bounty we still enjoy. And share. So many have nothing; millions do not even have a home.

The Last Supper

767 Dorchester Wpg.

767 Dorchester was an old house with a wonderful interior layout located in a quiet neighbourhood of Winnipeg. It was white with green trim and had flower boxes under all the many windows. I needed ninety-eight geraniums for planting the boxes every spring. It was a sight to behold. I would plant a hundred pots with cuttings and have those on the wide window sills indoors in preparation for the next season. Just imagine how long it took every day to water all those. In full bloom, they made the house look ‘rich’.

A bright hallway and a wide stairway leading to the second storey were the heart of the old house. Through French doors on either side of the hallway, one entered into a huge dining room on the left and on the right into a most charming living room with lots of windows and an open fireplace. A built-in breakfast nook in the kitchen was one of our favourite spots. All our family meals were served here. It was the children’s place to do their homework while I was preparing our meals. There was an ancient sink in the middle of the long counter, an old ‘rounded’ fridge and a more modern stove.

1-image0-001All of us loved this old house! Mr. Moffat had rented it to us. He not only came to collect the rent every month but occasionally stopped by to say ‘hi’ and chat. He always complimented me on the work I did in the garden. Spring flowers were followed by colorful summer flowers and big sunflowers stood guard. The tomatoes, thriving along the sunny side of the garage, still tasted like real tomatoes.

One warm July day Mr. Moffat turned up and was greated with welcoming smiles. But that day he seemed uneasy. He even sat down for tea and after a few minutes, he told us he was selling the house. He was giving us three months notice to find another home. I lost it and completely broke down. I cried and begged him to sell the house to us but, sadly, it was out of his hands. A lawyer had bought up the houses next to us. Our house was the last in the middle of all the others. Mr.Moffat said he had held on as long as he could. The houses would be demolished to make room for an apartment block. What a shame. It was heartbreaking.

We went house shopping and in the end decided to buy a bungalow from a builder in a suburb called ‘Southdale’. We were promised the house would be ready for move-in on October the first. The children started school in our new neighbourhood in September. Driving the kids to school each morning I loaded the car with ‘stuff’and brought more boxes in the afternoon when I  picked them up. Our friends Inge and Peter had offered their garage as a storage place. They had also bought and lived there already. Only our big pieces of furniture remained for the moving company.

Our last meal before the big day consisted of leftovers but I had baked an apple pie for desert. I had left the baking oven door slightly open so that the heat could dissipate but I did leave the pie in it. For the children, playing outside, the backdoor was always open. My husband and I drove out to the new house with the last boxes. When we came home I closed the baking oven door and started cooking. The family was sitting around the table in the ‘nook’and chatted excitedly about moving and sleeping here for the last time. I served dinner and switched the baking oven on to warm up the apple pie. We loved hot apple pie with vanilla ice cream! At last, I could sit down and start eating myself.

I was restless and got up again. My husband was annoyed. “Why don’t you finally sit still and eat, you drive me nuts…”

767 Dorchester entrance

Just to prove something I went to check the pie. I opened the baking oven door and stumbled back screaming as our neighbour’s cat jumped out of the hot oven and almost into my face. The cat ran like crazy for the back door, scratched the screen and meowed loudly. What if – oh my God!

The pie was half eaten. The other half went into the garbage. Luckily the cat lived and there was only vanilla ice cream for desert. I was so shaken up that I was in no condition to even eat my dinner.

Change of Seasons….

Not Just the Colour of the Leaves

Leaves - Changing Colours

Leaves – Changing Colours

Nothing touches my emotions more regarding the change from summer to fall than a poem by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, titled “Herbsttag” = “Autumn Day”. I see myself wandering the lanes, looking down and pushing millions of colorful leaves, yellow-orange-red and even a bit of green left over with my feet, thinking of my long gone childhood days, and my children digging themselves into piles of raked up leaves. My mood turns sentimental, even sad. Life seems so short looking back. There was the happy worry free time I have shared with my great grandmother and my grandparents, the years when I was loved, protected and guided by my parents. I see myself with my aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Three generations… How many wonderful people I met throughout the years! In retrospect it seems I only did have very little time with any of them. I am thinking about how fast the generations have gone and how few of my loved ones closer to my own age are left. I am next in line, just a leaf blowing in the wind. I think of the many things I have done; the many things I wish I had done and the many things I might never be able to do now.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke expresses these sentiments beautifully:

‘Lord, the time has come
A beautiful summer is gone.
Your shadow on the sundials changed
you let the winds blow over the fields.
Help the last fruit to ripen,
give them a few more, warmer days,
let them fulfill their destiny
and put the sweetness in the heavy wine.

Who has no house – will not build now.
Who is alone now will remain so, long.
Will lie awake, will read and write long letters,
will restless wander up and down the lanes, –
when the leaves are drifting….’

I can’t make Rilke’s poem my own. No translation does it justice. Other than in his words one cannot express all he himself felt when writing it. I feel him with me when I read it. I see myself sitting in a comfortable chair in a corner of a cozy room, watching him write it, a green-shaded lamp on the desk in front of the window, he himself bent over, his paper the only bright spot in the surrounding shadows. I feel he wrote it for me. When I came across it for the first time I choked, I knew I was receiving a message. The poem evokes many feelings, feelings about the past, feelings about giving thanks for the bounty of a season past and feelings of loneliness, of impending doom, of death and still, – feelings of hope invade my thoughts. Hope for another autumn day when the sunlight brightens the color of the leaves, makes the reds deeper, the yellows brighter and turns the already dying ones to copper. I shall push the leaves under my feet until they fly up into the air, feel like a child again, I want to laugh but feel too silly knowing there are people watching me. I look at the remaining colorful leaves on the trees and marvel about nature. An endless cycle of birth and rebirth, and every season has its own colors. As every generation has and still, they all are blending into and are part of our life.
‘Lord, the time has come….’
The time has come to sort out your harvest, to put the garden to sleep after planting next years crop, to reset the thermostat for more warmth and take the winter jackets out of storage. The time has come to be closer together with your loved ones, invite the lonely, share a warm drink and listen to each other’s memories, the stories of the ever-changing seasons of life.

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.

An eBook is Born

Forget Me Not 3D image (2)I am pleased to announce that the eBook version of my most recent book, “Forget Me Not – A Bouquet of Stories, Thoughts and Memories” is now available for purchase.

A thousand ‘Forget-me-nots’ have lined my path. From adoption, babies, cancer, dating, depression, dogs, earthquake, escape, grandmas, kayaking, love, Olympics, politics, from superstition, war to weeping angels and many surprises in-between – these stories are part of me and part of the people who touched my life. During the time we spent together – sometimes only days or hours – we shared our experiences and memories. I remember them all, some with laughter and affection, others with sadness, but they live on in my heart. Wander a mile or two with me along the winding path of life, and let me share my stories.

Each story, thought or memory in this ‘Bouquet’ carries a message and all lend themselves to reading alone or in a group. They are independent of each other and surely incite discussion.

Some folk have already commented:

Giselle Roeder broke barriers of personal pain in her memoir ‘We Don’t Talk About That’. In this ‘Bouquet of stories’ she shares her thoughts about world events and tells of people who greatly influenced her. Each story makes you think and incites discussions. It includes several not to be missed surprises! – Barbara Lange, Winnipeg, Editor of ‘Through the Window of a Train: A Canadian Railway Anthology (Borealis Press 2010)

Giselle writes compelling stories. After reading her memoir – which I would place next to ‘Anne Frank’s Diary’ – her present book is a delightful ‘bouquet’ of stories. I am still waiting for the sequel to ‘We Don’t Talk About That’ and it seems that ‘Forget Me Not’ is somehow a bridge between the two. – Bob Pickles, UK History writer (Amazon.co.uk)

I really enjoy reading Giselle’s stories. A change from her memoir – but I am waiting to see the sequel. Get on with it! – Carol Dunaway, British Columbia, a voracious reader.

You can find copies at one of the following:

Smashwords in a variety of formats
Amazon Kindle in MOBI format
Kobobooks in EPUB format

And a variety of other eBook vendors and formats.

Enjoy your reading and please let me know your opinion by commenting on this blog post. I would love to hear from you.

“Forget Me Not” – A New Book is Born

Stories – Thoughts and Memories

3-D book coverAnd every single one of those stories, thoughts or memories carry some kind of subliminal message; a fact of life, parts of history, thoughts of previous and present political happenings, psychological insights. All those stories, even a few fairy tales, will entice conversations or discussions around the family table or with friends. Yes, go ahead and talk about it. It is not healthy to keep your thoughts or feelings ‘inside’, especially if they trouble you. I find it liberating to ‘talk about it’. It is surprising how often one just needs a sounding board. I am not always expecting my conversation partner to answer me, to give me advice or set me straight or even discuss my problems. When hearing yourself talking you often find or hear the answer.

Every story is standing on its own and is independent of the others. Some are short, some are longer. Quite a number are stories of unforgettable people, men or women I met along the journey of my life. Could it be that you find yourself in one of those stories? Where it was suitable I added a photograph as well. Many names have been changed to protect the privacy of the characters in the stories.

Somehow this book is a “bridge” between my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” and the sequel to it, planned to be published in fall 2016. Since the sequel will be dealing with the rollercoaster ride through five decades after my emigration to Canada I decided to tell some of the stories ahead of time. An author is usually restricted to a certain word count to keep a book “manageable”.

“Forget Me Not” comes at the right time of year – Christmas time. It makes a fantastic stocking stuffer. It will make YOU unforgettable to the happy recipient.

PRE-PUBLICATION AVAILABILITY

The book is not yet available to the wider public. To receive a pre-publication copy, a collector’s dream, waiting for the final edit and maybe with the odd extra or missing comma, you may contact me using the form below giving me your name and email address. The cost for the pre-publication copy is $ 20.00CAD plus $4.10 CAD in Canada and $7.00 CAD  postage to the USA..

The ‘Beheaded’ Rose

DSC02601Don’t think it is easy for me to tell you this story. It should be one of the chapters of the sequel to my book “We Don’t Talk About That”. It is a little love story but it really isn’t a love story. Read it and decide for yourself what you want to call it.

I met Hannes two months too late. Had we met two months earlier something might have become of it. Maybe. Maybe not. He had such an infectious laugh, such as I had never heard from a man and never did again. I knew he would never do or try something I would not want. He was ‘comfortable’ like an old pair of shoes, more like a brother and I felt at ease when I was with him. I still kept him at arm’s length. Why? There were several reasons. One, I was afraid I could fall in love with him. Two, he was in the middle of a divorce even it was a friendly one. Three, he was from the Rhineland and the Rhinelanders had a reputation for being ‘light weights’, people who didn’t take life too seriously. Fourth, he was Catholic and I was Lutheran, a match my parents would not approve of, even if neither of us were religious church goers. Fifth, I was in love with a little girl in Canada who needed a new mommy. Her father and I had been pen friends for two months and he wanted to marry me. But the main reason was I was afraid, simply afraid that a man who was obsessed with me, who had stalked me for years would be true to his promise to ruin any relationship I would ever have with another man. “If I can’t have you, nobody else will.” I had told Hannes all about it. Hannes listened, talked to me and made me see all sides, he pointed out the pros but mainly the cons about going to Canada. He sounded exactly like my father who thought I had gone totally bananas. “Canada! Marry a man you didn’t know, divorced and with a daughter? Nuts!” The problem was my compassion for that little girl, after seeing the photos with the sad eyes. I just couldn’t get her out of my mind. After I had met the grandparents in Wiesbaden I was lost. They didn’t even give me a chance to back out. I wasn’t strong enough. And I didn’t know I was being manipulated. The word did not exist in my vocabulary or my thinking.

Hannes became my best friend. He helped me plan my emigration. We went to the zoo in Hamburg, to a fabulous Indian Restaurant and sampled the “Indian Rice Table” with 23 little bowls containing different delectable types of food. We visited the “Pferdestall” a famous kind of pub/bar in an original horse barn. We attended “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on the stage under the stars in the Herrenhäuser Gardens in Hanover.  Until I started to get very involved with my Canadian penfriend and his parents and sadly, my friendship with Hannes somehow tapered out. It was the end of a time with lots of laughter for me but I didn’t realize it until much, much later. When I was living in Winnipeg in Canada I got terribly homesick. I wrote to Hannes telling him about my life. He was married to a lady he had seen in the theater. He wrote “I had noticed her legs and they reminded me of you.” He had approached her during intermission, they had a glass of champagne and the rest is history. Hannes and I remained in contact.

It was a few years later when I visited Germany again. I had arranged a meeting with the last company I worked for since I wanted to import their skin care line to Canada. I had been instrumental in developing a number of the creams. Before flying home I planned to visit my sister in Hamburg and since Hannes lived there he picked me up at the train station. He handed me a beautiful long stemmed dark red ‘Baccara Rose’. We walked across the busy plaza in front of the station to his parked car. After he put my suitcase in the trunk he opened the door for me. We both were a bit shy, not yet at ease as we had been during the two months in the past when we had laughed a lot. I held the rose and my purse with one hand, trying to arrange my fancy coat which had a split in the back so the two sides could be lifted and you would not sit on it. I changed the flower from my left to me right hand and arranged the coat around me with the other. Finally I was seated with both coat tails on my lap. Hannes asked “is everything in now?” We looked at each other when I replied, “yes everything is in”. He closed the door and walked around the car to his side. As he was inserting the car key I noticed I had only the stem of the rose in my hand. I felt the shock right down into my tummy:

“Hannes, look” I whispered with a tiny voice. Hannes grabbed his steering wheel, put his head on his arms and slowly, quietly said “Just like us. It’s our story. A beheaded love story, a beheaded rose. I should have seen the rose wasn’t in when I closed the door. Should we stop by a flower shop and I buy you a new one?”

We decided against it. After a while driving along Hannes started to laugh. His Rhineland humour had taken over and he thought the whole episode was really very funny. I was sorry to have lost the beautiful flower head but I saw the weird humour in it as well. Actually, because of the accident, – I never forgot the rose.