Forgive me for hopping from one topic to another in my blog. But I think every post is like a puzzle piece of my life and eventually you might be able to join all the pieces together to get the big picture.
As I told you before, my life as a child and teenager was quite restricted. My mother tried to shield me from negative experiences and people. I had freedom within the confines of home and school, but my mother controlled my outings. The older i got the more controlling she became. While my twin brother was allowed to visit his friends and stay out as long as he wanted, I had strict curfews. Although I was allowed to go to my girlfriend’s to study and do homework, I had to be home before dark. Often my mother would unexpectedly show up at my friend’s house under the pretext that she had business in the neighborhood to walk home with me.
Although I hadn’t shown much interest in boys, I was now at an age when it was just a matter of time and “hormones”. My brother’s friends who often visited our home were unattractive to me. I considered them annoying like my brother at that time. “Stupid little boys”.
One of his friends was a few years older and looked like a young man compared to the rest. My parents liked his company, because he always engaged them in interesting conversations, plus he loved my mom’s food. As you may remember that always won her heart. In fact, eating was one of his favorite activities. He seemed to like me and tried to invite me to the movies, the ice cream parlor or pastry shop on many occasions. Such invitations were a sign that a boy was serious about a closer relationship. I always refused and tried to avoid him. In my mind he did not measure up to the romantic hero of my dreams. This young man’s mother was a close friend of my parents and I wonder, if my mom would have let me go out with him, if I had accepted his invitations. In retrospect I have to admit that he was a nice person but not for me.
That year, our class went on a school trip to Würzburg, a beautiful historic city in Northern Bavaria. I am still amazed that even at that time so long ago, field trips were considered educational and important for the social development of children and young adults. In that respect our educational system was quite progressive.
Most of my friends and I did not have the opportunity to travel far from home and so we were excited with the prospect to see new places, meet new people and have exciting experiences and adventures. These school trips usually took place in the beautiful month of May.
Würzburg is a picturesque medieval city located in a scenic wine region on the river Main. We traveled there by train, which is always an exciting experience, and we stayed in a youth hostel together with a group of senior male students from the big northern port city of Hamburg.
Würzburg is a beautiful city and sightseeing was interesting and fun. But for us teenagers the evenings after supper sitting in the court yard of the youth hostel was the highlight of the day. There was a class of senior boys from Hamburg, the biggest port of Germany. Our teachers had arranged that we should sing German folk songs together. That was fun. We never sang with so much enthusiasm before.
Our teacher kept a close watch on us and we were not allowed to speak with the young men or have any other interactions. However, there were many glances exchanged. A skinny tall young man with blond hair and bright blue eyes would always look in my direction and smile when he caught my eye. My discerning girl friends pointed out to me that he probably liked me. I was shy and embarrassed and did not want to admit that I liked him too,
The last night together we sang with extra passion and exuberance and glances darted back and forth without restraint. Just before we had to say good night to our singing companions a little rose bud landed on my lap, which my secret admirer had thrown in my direction. I didn’t even know his name. That gesture was so romantic and I couldn’t sleep for a long time that night. The next morning our singing partners from Hamburg were gone. Our last day in that beautiful city lost its luster. Singing that night was pitiful.
For a long time after our trip I would think of the young man from Hamburg so far away from where I lived. There was probably no chance of ever seeing him again.
One beautiful sunny morning just before the summer vacation, I decided to walk to school instead of riding in the stuffy bus. For part of the way I had to walk along the busy highway between Velbert and Essen. Although i liked the pastoral scenery along the highway, I did not like the noise of the cars and trucks speeding by and the periodic loud honking. It was the custom in Germany at that time that any young female would be acknowledged by male drivers with loud honking or whistles.
i kept on walking ignoring the attention seeking drivers. When I heard the loud ringing of a bike bell I pretended not to hear by looking straight ahead. Suddenly the bike stopped right beside me and an excited male voice said, “It is really you!” When I dared to look up into the face of the rider (I had to look up high because he was so tall) I recognized my unknown admirer from Hamburg. The man of my secret dreams.
He told me that he had embarked on a bike tour through Germany and decided to travel through Velbert in the hopes of seeing me again. We were both like in a dream. We arranged a meeting for after school. I had to make a quick decision. I knew my parents would never allow me to bring a strange young man home. I would meet him in town.
After agonizingly long hours at school I rushed home and told my mom excitedly that I had to leave right away to do a major assignment with my girlfriend at her place. Meeting my friend in a small cafe in town was wonderful. We got to know each other and discovered lots of common interests, especially the love for books and art. He planned on becoming a librarian or even the owner of a bookstore. The time passed too fast. But we decided to meet again the next day.
At home I was in for trouble. My mother who had a sixth sense had found out about my secret meeting. She kept me at home the next day to prevent me from seeing this strange young man again. I was devastated and helpless. My mother was very strong willed and it was her goal to protect me from mistakes she and my sister made in their youth.
My friend made many attempts to contact me or see me again over the next few months, but his efforts were eventually all foiled.
The budding romance from Würzburg was not destined to blossom like the little rose thrown my way that night in the youth hostel. It became a faded memory in my favorite novel.
In retrospect I thank my mom. She was an agent of fate to keep me free for my beloved husband Peter.