From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ghosts of Christmas Past (1)

Life In Germany...



Twenty years ago, Dennis, I, and little Keely (1 year old) had been in West Germany for a few weeks. We had been sent to the army post at Aschaffenburg by my husband's employer, the Army-Air Force Exchange Service, and we were staying in a hotel waiting for our apartment to become available and our shipment of household goods to arrive.

Dennis was working evenings so he got back to the hotel from work about 1 a.m. I tried to keep Keely on a similar schedule so we could all get some sleep. If she woke up before Dennis was awake in the morning, I hustled her out of the room and we went for a walk for a while.

German rooftopsThe photo at left shows the view from our hotel window. Though you wouldn't guess from this photo, it was a nice gasthaus at the edge of a little Bavarian village, and there were sheep in a pasture just over the back fence.

Breakfast was provided. The first morning that we ate there, I thought the huge slabs of butter were slices of cheese. Dennis learned to properly crack open the top of an egg and eat it out of its shell as it stood in its little egg cup. I was too revolted by the extremely soft-cooked state of the yolks to eat them. However, I quickly learned to love German coffee laced with cream.

I kept some snacks for Keely in our room, and she and I usually went downstairs to the restaurant in the evening for a hot meal. People stared at the American woman and her toddler because they didn't usually bring their one-year-olds to restaurants. There weren't any high-chairs, but we managed.

One of my main pastimes besides entertaining Keely was learning a few words of German. I had a dictionary, so I made flashcards for myself and filled a notebook with lists of words that I might need. I also tried to translate the newspaper. I had much better luck understanding the advertisements than the news stories.

As soon as our apartment became available, we borrowed a few items from my husband's co-workers and a couple of beds from Military Housing and set up camp. We were very grateful to get out of the hotel room!

I bought some Christmas presents for Keely, but I don't think Dennis and I exchanged any gifts that year. Our Christmas gift was our shipment of household goods that arrived on December 23. Finally, we could make a home again.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.