September 19, 2015
September 17, 2015
It was December 16th of 1983. We were invited to the Nuremberg Christmas Market by a close friend "Susi Nachtmann."
Since I was a child I looked at Christmas a little different than most. It was a sad time in my life. My father passed away in late November 1967. Christmas was a time of celebration and anticipation for the normal child. My family was poor and the season just pointed out the glaringly obvious. My father was never coming home again and Christmas time just emphasized that.
I almost declined the invitation but I was talked into going by my wife. I was married in March 1983 to a German woman.
I had made my decision to get out of the Army. I had talked over the situation with her endlessly. We weighed our options about where we would live. I thought a joint decision had been made. We were moving to Wisconsin so I could go to college in Madison and finish my Law Enforcement degree. The only other option was me staying in Germany and become a German citizen. I had no education so staying in Germany meant a long life of futility and underachieving.
I was to leave on vacation on 21 December to set up going to school and find a place for us to live. I had saved 90 days of leave and was going to leave the Army early. It was called terminal leave. Many soldiers used it to set up a new life and still get paid to help them transition into civilian life.
We stayed at Susi's in a small suburb of Nuremberg called Furth. The weather was poor but it gave the Christmas Market a holiday feeling.
I was having a Bah Humbug feeling when we arrived at the market that late afternoon. That Christmas funk had been with me for many years and it was going to be hard to get rid of it. I was starting a new chapter of my life very soon and decided that I would be positive and try to look at the world differently.
The market was packed with people. We were shoulder to shoulder. That old feeling of sadness came back to me. Christmas was still not a time of celebration and wonderment. My childhood grief returned. It seemed like a commercialized rat race.
Then it happened. It began to snow. The crowds dispersed because of the slow steady fine snow. They even got smaller when night began to fall.
The Christmas market transformed before my eyes. The jungle had changed from people bumping into one another to a fairy tale. The slow methodical snow coupled with the Christmas music and darkness descending made the market magical.
We walked around the market for hours. I thought to myself that I was picking ornaments for our Christmas tree back in Wisconsin where our new life was to begin in only a few short months. My disdain for Christmas had left me.
It got a little cold in the steady snow so a warm beverage was in order. It was warmed wine with some stuff in it with a cinnamon stir stick. The drink was Gluehwein. This was a very traditional beverage for Christmas. It warmed my soul while we were walking around that market.
I was a child again. The years of Christmas darkness had melted away. The handmade Christmas ornaments took on a special meaning. They meant hope and they meant me being the master of my own destiny. We were moving to Wisconsin and making our own life and I was going to be that father I missed so desperately for years to our potential children. The sadness had lifted.
We closed down that Christmas market that evening. They turned off the lights on us and pulled down the tent awnings. I didn't want the fairy tale to end.
I few on a air force plane two days later to New Jersey and took a Greyhound to Wisconsin from there. The long trip on the bus gave me time to reflect. I looked at those Christmas ornaments the whole bus trip back. Christmas was alive inside of me and I was happy.
I hit the ground running when I arrived in Wisconsin. I was college shopping and looking for a place to call home. It was Christmas vacation so I really didn't get much done. I showed my mother the ornaments and told her the back story. The fairy tale and awakening of Christmas spirit made me anew.
It was Christmas Eve and I tried calling Germany to wish my wife a Merry Christmas. The phone rang off the wall with no answer. I called my wife's mother to make sure nothing had happened. She was very short with me and gave me no answers.
Twenty minutes later the phone rang. It was my old friend Jan. He was my first friend in Germany. I had met him my first night in Germany. He was like a brother to me. He told me I should come back to Germany very soon. Something had changed and I needed to come back. He was sad for me and explained the situation.
My trip to Wisconsin to set up our new life with my wife was the final event in my wife's mind. She did not want to moved from Germany. I was so caught up in my going to school and starting over in Wisconsin I didn't see her wishes. The magical trip to the Christmas Market was supposed to make me love Germany and want to stay. It had the opposite effect on me. She thought the fairy tale was happening but it meant me staying there and becoming a german.
I arrived in Augsburg two days later. All of her stuff was moved out of our apartment. The Christmas tree was there in the living room. All of her ornaments she had placed with care on the tree were removed.
I packed up my stuff and moved back in the barracks that day. I stayed there until the end of my time in Germany. She did a final act to ensure we would not ever get back together. Something that she knew I would not tolerate. We were divorced one year later.
Two years later I enrolled in college. I had met a beautiful hometown girl in that time. She was from Wisconsin and young and full of spirit. Our lives began after five years of dating. I wanted to make sure this was the one.
Thirty-one years later we visited that market place. I told her of the magical snow and how the fairy tale had ended. My wife Barb smiled and said: "Her loss was my gain."
September 16, 2015
September 15, 2015
I lived in Germany for 6 years. I was married to a german gal for a short time. Her grandmother lived very close to Dachau. One night after a couple beers with grandma she opened up about WWII. The civilians were told the concentration camp was a debtors prison. The front gate says "Work Makes You Free" Initially the locals believed it was a debtors prison but by the time they learned what it truly was they were terrified to speak up because many prisoners at Dachau were locals that questioned the Third Reich.
The red triangles depicted the red patch sewn on a person's uniform who questioned the Third Reich and were imprisoned in Dachau.
Every imaginable minority and person that didn't fit the Third Reich's opinion of what a true German was in there. Mentally ill prisoners were interned and many others were there because they didn't fit in Hitler's grand scheme of the Fatherland.
The below link tells what the color coding was for all the other prisoners.
there was a museum at Dachau. This was a prisoner whipping station
also in the museum they had one of the actual carts that prisoners had to push to the crematorium with dead bodies on it.
You could look out the barracks window through the bars and see the crematorium in the back left of the camp.
We toured the entire prison camp except the crematorium. I could not get myself to go in there. The tour gave me feelings I had never felt before. The evil and despair mixed was palpable. I was spent by the end of the tour.
The grandfather of my ex-german wife was also in the military. He was a photographer by trade. His brother was a high ranking SS Officer who was actually tried at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. The brother had pull and saved his little brother from the eastern front and got him a job as a photographer for the Third Reich. Grandpa was always quiet about the war. The same night that grandma had a few beer...so did he. He told me that he documented medical experiments and he still had nightmares about the entire leg transplant he took detailed photos of. A leg of the same approximate length was removed from a living prisoner of war and attached to a high ranking SS Officer who lost his leg.
September 14, 2015
September 13, 2015
It comes from the Northwest with bad intentions. My eyes ice up and my casting is labored. It changes directions and thwarts my best cast causing it to land in the frozen underbrush. My hands are chapped and cracked from its endless attack. I finally get a decent cast against my bitter adversary. The reward is short lived because of no eager trout discovered on the cast.
It blows the snow across my water and causes the water to dance and mock me. I plod on and thank the wind for reminding me that I am still alive and life is not supposed to be easy. The wind whispers in my ear and tells me that it is March and better days lay ahead.
Another day and another experience is before me. Today the wind is from the West is much less harsh. It is actually inviting me to come and feel its greatness. The wind engages the trees and they do a slow methodical dance. The buds are emerging and the wind tickles them and it asks the leaves to appear. This same wind carries the smells of the unfrozen earth and gives me a sensory experience unrivaled by the best perfumes. These are the days that my casts hold true and my trout are eager. The wind whispers as I exit the stream and head home. It says: “Come again.”
The rain pounds me. It comes sideways due to the aggressive nature of the south wind. It has no intentions of allowing me to fish. It has me in its clutches and wants to show me who is boss. I wade upstream and the wind is blocked by the hillside but it is still raining. The fishing is insane. I lose track of how many trout I catch. I must walk back to the truck. The wind is waiting for me around the corner like an impatient school teacher. The wind coupled with its sister the rain escorts me to my truck. I am thoroughly drenched. The wind forgot to whisper today. It screamed and it still was an excellent day.
It is late June and the wind sleeps today. The humidity is stifling and I wish for my friend to appear. The wildflowers are bursting and filling the stagnant air with promise. The bugs are buzzing and the trout are feeding on the top. My day is phenomenal. The trout are eager and almost fly on to my hook. There is something missing this day. The stream is just too quiet. It is almost deafening. I whisper to the wind: “The day was silent and fulfilling but empty without your company.”
Fall comes in like a lion. The kaleidoscope of leaves is torn from their trees by what appears to be an angry mistress. The tapestry of leaves escape across the fall landscape and shout that winter is soon to be here.
The wind whips the leaves into a frenzy and it picks up a couple unwelcome pieces of trash. My wind asks me to remove this unwelcome guest from its grasp. I pick up the garbage and place it in my vest pocket. My outing is short and no trout are to be discovered. The wind whispers to me as I left: “Thank you for coming and removing the unwelcome guest.”
“Come again my friend.”