I want to continue talking about my memories of the first years in the Golden West.
My sister’s friends, who hosted us while my parents were in the refugee camp in Berlin to ask for asylum, were very kind to us. Their two young sons became our friends and especially my brother loved their toys. The Meccano set was his favorite. He would amaze us with his elaborate constructions.
For a while we were distracted by our exciting new esperiences. But as time dragged on without any contact with our parents I started getting very homesick.
I missed my parents who had vanished so unexpectedly. I missed my loving sister and my two little nephews.
I missed school and our friends. (Except for a short visit to see what a West German school looked like, we were not allowed to attend classed with our host children.)
I missed our beautiful, spacious home in Gotha with the large windows letting the light shine in. I missed the comfort and warmth sitting with our dad on the bench of our tile stove listening to his stories. I missed exploring the world on the big map covering the wall in his study. I missed playing with our friends on our quiet street flanked by old linden trees leading to our beloved castle park.
I missed our family bike or tram excursions into the vast forests… I missed my mom’s cooking since I was a picky eater. I even missed my teacher Mrs. Goose, who for some reason was not liked by my father.
Before going to sleep i dreamed about what I would tell my best friend Anneliese about the Golden West.
I was going to tell her that our home in Gotha was a much better place. That here in Dortmund people lived in small crammed apartments on busy streets where it was not safe to play or even walk alone.
On weekends instead of going to the park or hiking in the forests people would visit the graveyards that looked like parks. But you could not freely run or roam about or play and explore. You had to walk respectfully and quietly like adults and sit on stone benches near the graves to silently pray or meditate.
I would tell my friend that the Golden West was not golden. It was a figment of the mind like the story of Santa Claus or the Easter bunny. As for the big allure of freedom it was overrated. Although, I could have chocolate and even bubble gum, I felt more restricted here than at home.
My sister’s friends did not let their boys and us go anywhere without supervision except to the nearby fenced-in playground. They would drop us off and pick us up,
In Gotha we were allowed to play for hours in our neighborhood. Once my brother and I decided to visit the castle Friedenstein on our own. A friendly castle guard noticing our curious glances at the open castle portal invited us in and gave us a tour telling us some of the historical highlights.
Thus, we learned that even the great Emperor Napoleon had slept in the pompous, canopied bed that looked like a sailing ship. Since our dad was a history buff, he had told us about Napoleon who fascinated him.
Suddenly I longed for all the familiar things of home, which I seemed to be losing. Every night I prayed that we would return to Gotha soon.
But day after day my brother and I were told that we had to wait a bit longer for our parents to get us.
One afternoon, my brother and our new friends were at the nearby playground with a group of other children. I was gently swinging back and forth dreaming of playing with Anneliese when a boy I had never met started pushing me. At first I didn’t mind. Then in spite of my protests, he pushed me higher and higher. My screams to stop seemed to entice him to push even harder and higher. I was terrified of the dizzying height and the unrelenting forceful behavior of the big boy who seemed to delight in my distress.
All of a sudden I lost control and fell flat onto the ground face first. The fall knocked the wind out of me and I struggled for a long time to gasp for air.
Suddenly it was very quiet on the play ground. All the kids had run away except my brother and our friends. They stood around me looking worried.
Luckily, I was not seriously hurt. However, my faith in the kindness of people in the Golden West was shaken. I had never met such a mean bully at home.
Miraculously, the next morning our hosts told us that our parents were on their way to get us.
One thought on “First Impressions of the Golden West in the year 1953.”
A riveting story thus far, Gertrud. Very powerful. I look forward to further instalments with great anticipation! I also blame Stefan for not telling me about this blog earlier!