Cadbury Chocolate with Raisins and Nuts
The first distinct recollection after having come into existence to my kind hearted mother, my striving-to-be-a-good-christian father, my one and only brother and my significant four older sisters was the setting of the second world war. A war that was inflicted on the world by Germany as I learned later. At that time – I was 6 years old – I thought it was just the set up of the world in general.
My air-raid-warning-cot was black and stood in the cellar next to preserved cherries, pears and plums from our own garden. At the beginning of my life, once the sirens howled dangerously in the night, I had to be carried and later walked down into the cellar. Because usually it was in the night that THEY came. They, the ENEMY from England! Later, when we climbed up the stairs, sometimes the windows of our flat lay shattered on the floor, sometimes a house was missing in the neighbourhood and once a part of our own house had vanished.
The house we lived in was a former monastary as my father was the verger of a beautiful gothic church in Minden in Westfalia. More to the end of the war I was told to have asked eagerly: “Mother, what do you want me to save?“ This – family history has it – was funny because my bag was bigger than me.
That the war had come to an end I heard in our kitchen in front of the radio in which I suspected a nice little orchestra and a whole world of small people living a secret life. At that moment there was no orchestra, but a strict voice urging people urgently to leave the cities, to flee the ENEMY. What could the ENEMY be like? I could not imagine that an ENEMY had a similar appearance to the people I knew. My mother prepared our flight like going to a picnic, she made sandwiches, took some woolen blankets, my two older sisters and me and we set off with everything packed on my old pram.
While we were marching for quite a while on the road with lots and lots of women and children to get into the country luckily somebody on a farm entrance called out to my mother: “Luise, where are you going?“ My mother answered truthfully that she had no idea and so we were kindly invited to stay. There were only two beds in the house. So we slept in twos and in shifts.
Hard times are terrible, so we all think and feel but at the same time they are the ideal situation to change habits and give love. I think that the stories of the hundreds and hundreds of people who have helped kindly in the face of difficult times have not been told yet.
I remember very clearly the moment the ENEMY appeared in person. It was a sunny day. I did not have to wear a coat. The grown ups were flustered, insecure and did not know how to behave in a situation like this. Windows were closed, shutters were drawn. I saw the most hilarious sight of white pillow cases, white table-cloths, whie undercoats, white bed linen hanging out of windows. Like a giant christmas tree having been made up with ill shaped decorations.
Then I hear a sound like a big and heavy animal stomping in the same uniform rhythm. I look around, no one is on the street. The doors and gates of the barnyards are securly and heavily closed and bolted. All my people are inside too. I am alone, completly alone. The sound becomes stronger and stronger. I must not have been frightened by it, I have no recollection of fear. I am watching without knowing what to expect.
And then I see them, a whole army, perfectly dressed in uniforms brown with a secret yellow in it, little barettes on their heads the same brown with this hidden yellow and all of them, hundreds ofthem, looking completely the same taking in the area as theirs. A general, a corporal whatever in front with more colour on him, all of them marching away. I must have been practically the only living being watching them. Now they have come up to me and the whole army stops. Stops! Suddenly it is very quiet.
The leading person walks up to me. He smiles friendly, hesitates and says soothingly: “Hello Blondie!“ and – produces a big bar of Cadbury chocolate. I recognize at once it is a bar of chocolate he is offering me. I take it happily and very surprised. Then he walks back to his company and waves once more bye bye. I wave happily back – to all of them for a long time.
Today I think, the whole army would have liked to wave back, didn’t they have a little sister or a child like me at home? And weren’t they all relieved that this terrible war had ended in the right way?
Now they all march on. I watch them for a long time. They look so much like the people I have seen so far in my short life. So this is the ENEMY I ponder. I really do like the ENEMY.
Sitting in New York, 8th Ave, starting Memoir Writing at Gotham Writers’ Workshop looking back into my childhood memories I wonder if this moment in my life is the foundation of my love for everything English and my being pulled to foreign languages and to foreign countries. Maybe forever I feel drawn to the unknown again and again and expect it to be all chocolate with raisins and nuts.