Friday, August 5, 2011

Salt Mines and Bike Tours

This post has moved to a private blog. Contact me if you want to be added to that list.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Such Sweet Sorrow

While going through some archives, I found a spiral notebook with just one page written in the back. I thought it might be useful at this time.

They who go
Fell not the pain of parting; it is
they who stay behind
that suffer.
---Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

By sharing the joy of another, we increase it.
By sharing the woe of another, we diminish it.

The bigger the summer vacation the harder the fall.

Only eyes washed by tears see clearly.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Germany is Wunderbar!

Dear Georgie,

You are wondering what it’s going to be like to live in Germany. Well, you are part German! My family came from there.

My grandmother on my father’s side (your great great grandmother) emigrated from Germany and settled in Colorado. Here is a photo of my father (your great grandfather Frank Figge) visiting his German cousins in 1963. They were so glad to see us! Maybe you’ll get a chance to meet them too!

Granddaddy and I lived in Nurnberg (sometimes spelled Nuremberg) for three years. He was a lieutenant in the field artillery in the neighboring town, Fuerth.

For the first year, our best year, we lived on the second floor of a German house. We had a little bedroom under the eaves, a living/dining room with a sofa bed, a tiny tiny kitchen with a two burner hotplate, and a tiny bathroom – plus a balcony. When Elizabeth was born, we rented an additional bedroom, and Herr Gerner (Mr. Gerner, Herr rhymes with “hair’) raised the roof of the apartment to give us more room.

Our landlords, the Gerner family, lived on the first floor. They had two little girls – Susannah and Gertie. When Elizabeth was born, they gave her a dolly, and we named her Susannah. (It’s not a coincidence that we have another Susannah in the family). The Gerner girls did everything that little girls do – played with dolls, went to school, went to church, got yelled out by their mom, and so on. They helped teach me to speak German.

We called their mother Frau Gerner, meaning Mrs. Gerner. Frau rhymes with “how.” She worked hard to keep the house nice and clean, but their little dog kept messing it up. I can still hear her telling him – Strubili was his name. "Strubili! Bist du ruhig! (Be silent!)"

Herr Gerner had his own business, and he was very handy with tools. “Machen machen, Immer Machen,” he would tease Granddaddy. That means “always be doing something, always be busy.” He liked to work in the garden and fix things around the house. He laughed a lot and was lots of fun. He always urged us to eat, and eat more and faster. At Sunday dinner, the first one finished got to say “Koenig” (pronounced kuh-nig, King). Herr Gerner was always “Koenig.”

We were the only “Amerikanerins” (Americans) on the block, but the neighbors were nice and friendly.

Granddaddy had a big huge American car, a white Chevrolet Impala convertible with red leather seats. The Gerners were very proud to have that car outside their house! However, it wasn’t easy to drive it through the narrow village streets. Once I took Frau Gerner and the girls for a drive in the countryside. At that time I could speak almost no German, though I did know “rechts” (pronounced recks, for “right”) and “links (pronounced like it sounds, for left). She sat in the backseat and leaned over the front seat, pointing and saying “Geradeaus! Geradeaus” (ge-rah-duh-ows). I finally figured out that meant “go straight.”

On Sunday, the Gerners would go "Spazieren gehen" (shpots-eer-en gay-en), which means to take a walk in the countryside or to "go see another space."

Oh what good times we had! I was so sad when it was time to move to the Army base. I didn’t get to see the Gerners very much after that, but I did have some other good German friends. The women were Girl Scout leaders, and their husbands were Boy Scout leaders. Scouts were called “Pfadfinderinnen.”

These women were full of adventure! They had fondue parties – beef fondue and cheese fondue. And Christmas decoration making parties. They were really clever with Christmas decorations made from straw.

Once, for Fasching, our German friends had a Middle East party. (Fasching is Germany’s Mardi Gras. Everybody – adults too – dresses up in costumes, and the parties last for weeks.)

They wanted me to come as a belly dancer. I was much too shy then for that so I wore my blue leotard and put a skirt over it and sort of shimmied around. The party was held in a brand-new house that had just been plastered but not painted. They painted the walls with camels, and pyramids and hung a brazier (a charcoal cooking fire) from the ceiling. It was VERY elaborate! And then everyone had to pretend they were desert travelers and tell a story.

It was a great party but the cleanup was more difficult than predicted!

How did we speak to them? They knew a little English, not much. At first we used “pidgin English,” a few words here, a few words there, a lot of gestures and acting out. It’s amazing what you can convey with your hands. I also went to the language school for soldiers and my friend helped me practice. Granddaddy didn’t get to go to the school, but by listening carefully he was able to understand what people were saying. So many words in German are like English words. Milch is milk. Schwimmen is swim. Tanzen is Dance. Name (“NAH-meh”) is Name. Tochter is daughter. Gut is good.

Speaking of schools, when German children start school in the fall, their mothers give them cornucopias filled with candy! To congratulate them for beginning the new school year! The paper cornucopias are on sale in every stationery store.

Speaking of stores, I loved to shop in Nurnberg. They had such cute things! Clothes and knick knacks decorated with ladybugs, or shamrocks, or chimney sweeps, or little ground hogs. Germany is the land of cute. “Hubsch” is the German word for that or “Nette” or "Susse" (sews). If we gave Gertie a little present she would say “Susse” delightedly. The best shopping of all is at Christmas, when the village square has a special “Christkindl Mart” or Christ Child Mart. There are wonderful things to eat – sausages and gingerbread and roasted nuts – and buy. Germany is a magical place at Christmas.

We have fond memories, but they are from long ago (1962 to 1965). Click here for a modern account of a boy's life in Germany.

Mit viele Umarmungs (with many hugs) und Kusse (kisses)

Ich liebe dich (I love you)

Grossmutti (Grandma)

P.S. Wunderbar means wonderful!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Gluten Free Birthday

George celebrated his birthday yesterday as follows:

attended the Republican breakfast, the Lincoln Club, at the Nassau Club, where he heard the New Jersey governor's CFO speak about the budget

helped me pick up 12,000 feet of 16 millimeter film, my father's home movies, converted into 4 DVDs, with copies for my sister, from Ray Hallows of Film To Tape in Lawrenceville.

lunched with me at Chambers Walk -- hot tuna salad for him, because of his just-discovered gluten allergy

played 9 holes of golf at Princeton Country Club

We had dinner at Eno Terra, our new favorite innovative restaurant. I asked the maitre' d if they had a gluten free dessert that could have a birthday candle and the chef and our waitress Dana concocted the fruit plate above -- apple, pear, pear sorbet, blood orange, berries, and Happy Birthday written in chocolate. Superb!

A good day..

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Childhood Tracings

Indelible Tracings, a new book, memorializes the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) team that was killed on a plane over Brussels in 1961, en route to the Worlds in Prague, as recounted in Obit magazine. The plane crashed 50 years ago today (February 17), and a prize winning documentary, The Rise, will be shown in some area theaters tonight only.

It brought back memories of my childhood figure skating days at the Ice Club of Baltimore in Carlin's Ice Rink, where my sister and I trained three times a week to pass USFSA figure and dance tests. The USFSA was so small then that when we passed a test, even ordinary skaters like us, had their names printed (albeit fine print) in the USFSA bulletin. I have three such bulletins sitting in my dining room, marked by by mother ("See p. 36") while I try to decide what to do with them. (Tear out the pages? Scan them? Leave them for my children to toss? Toss them now?)

For the record, page 36 in June 1953 says that age 13 I passed my Bronze dance test, including the Fiesta Tango. I remember the judge's name: Madeline Skirven. It doesn't say who my partner was. Nicky Royal was my favorite partner -- Billy Ridenhour was a little shaky and there was an older gentleman who was so shaky that it was scary to dance with him. (Note to grandchildren: even today I remember these details, and the details of your life will stay with you too!)

In earlier tests (May 1951) I passed the Predance. That one's pretty easy. I can still do the Dutch waltz, even in my dotage, all forward movement.

In May, 1950, I passed the preliminary figure test, representing hours and hours of "patch" skating that I wouldn't trade for the world. In patch skating, every move you make leaves a trace. You know absolutely for sure whether you did it right, and then you try to do it better the next time. I believe it was a huge mistake to take patch skating out of competitions, and as a result, few skaters do it. In my opinion that's like saying ballet dancers don't need to do a barre.

My sister and I started skating when I was three and she was five. My mother made our outfits as shown in the photo. They were reversible -- blue wool on one side, red satin on the reverse. The tights were wool. Our hats, which she made from chenille, had little pads in the back though we did soon learn to fall forward.

There weren't many child skaters then, and we were quite a wow at the club show. We did a "pair" number that consisted of us putting together some basic movements. As I remember, my contribution was a two-footed wibble wobble down the center line.

What did 12 years of skating bring to me, aside from knowing how to lace my grandkids skates?

Family time: The chance to participate in an activity with my ever busy father. My mother figured out that it was a good bonding activity for the four of us, and it gave both of them a rare chance to exercise. They developed friendships at the club and did the Dutch Waltz.

Persistence: The opportunity to work hard and be judged on whether I passed the test.

Exhilaration: The chance to skate free and fast, round and round, on an uncrowded rink. I'm spoiled for public skating forever.

A tolerance of cold temperatures, especially when bolstered by hot chocolate.

It's a puzzle to me why I didn't join Princeton Skating Club when we moved here. It focuses on ice dancing but it was expensive to join, and you couldn't just come and skate. Since then, Iceland has been built, but now I can't find my skates.

One result from the plane crash that wiped out all the skating stars: Money was raised to quickly bring the next generation to competition level, and it helped to fund the training of my all-time favorite, Peggy Fleming. She attributes her meteoric raise, according to the book, partly due to the extra training funds, but also to the vacuum at the top.

Dick Button wasn't on the plane; his picture is on one of the Skating magazine covers and he is, of course, featured in the documentary. Perhaps the names of those who died are in those magazines in small type, along with my name. Those young skaters would have been the right age, in 1961, to be champions.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Odetta's Wisdom

I don't want this treasure to get lost. It's on my Princeton Comment blog but buried, two years old. So I'm putting it here as well, to look at when I need to:

“Our worst fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous. Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of god. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.”

“We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some of us. It is in every one. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Monday, January 24, 2011

Shall Live Joyous Days

Dear Kids

When you think of the Book of Job, do you remember that Seatrain song we used to play all the time? In the early '70s, a band called Seatrain did a landmark interpretation of Job's lament and it frequently found its way to our turntable.

This week my Disciples study group is reading Job, and I asked George if we had it. He found it on YouTube, even better than the original because somebody's put energizing videos to it. To start a faith conversation with in your family, put this on!

Technical note re the Satan character -- he is not the devil of Christian tradition but a celestial being who is the adversary of the humans on earth.

Come to think of it, what kind of YouTube video could you/us make? (And who wants the part of Eliphaz?)