Babysitting My Mom – Part I

This past week, when I wanted to blog, I tried to think of topics to talk about, but drew a blank. . . Until I read Purplume’s blog ( www.jbvadeboncoeur.info ) about her travels in Japan.  One of her informative, but whimsical blogs, was about Japan’s innovative toilet paper holders.  You wouldn’t think that there would be such a cultural gap in bathroom fixtures . . . but there is.  

I was reminded of my trip to Germany with my mother in 1990.  What does that have to do with Japanese toilet paper holders?  You wouldn’t ask that if you’d seen the East German toilet paper.  With a texture like large-grain sandpaper, one only needed 2 square inches to do the job. . . and another 2 square inches to staunch the bleeding.  One would even be able to refinish furniture with a mere handful of  “tissue”.  But to get back to our trip . . . 

My mother was born and raised in what became West Berlin.  West Berlin was the chunk of city that was not part of the Communist Eastern Zone, but still completely surrounded by it on all sides.  At this time, the Berlin Wall had been down for only 5 months.  To get to West Berlin, one had to travel past Communist soldiers brandishing machine guns.  Not good.  My mom likes to taunt the face of danger.  Well . . . to be candid, she likes to moon it . . . It is a wonder that we lived long enough to make it back home.  

Unfortunately, I have the same genetics.  However, I am more fatalistic than my mom, which gives me a modicum of sense.   I had no doubt that if I angered a gun-toting East German, I would get shot dead on their first aim.   Mom just assumed she could outrun the bullets . . . or perhaps just block them with her purse.   As a result, we were like Laurel and Hardy every time we ventured into the East Zone on our 24 hour visas.

Our ‘dance with danger’ started with the plane trip over.  At the best of times, I hate flying.  Well, to be more accurate, it’s the thought of crashing that I hate. 

The flight over the Atlantic was smooth, however, since the plane was as large as a mini-mall.  Mom and I sat somewhere in the last section – by the tail -which, incidentally, is the first part of the plane to get ripped off in a crash. 

We landed in Frankfurt the next morning and switched planes for the shuttle flight into Berlin.  That is when I met German culture head-on for the first time.  (This was also the first time I was nearly strip searched in a cubicle.  Frankfurt was in the Eastern Zone and the security personnel tended to panic when the metal detector beeped . . . even if it beeped because of one’s jean zipper. )

To illustrate my first taste of the cultural gap – German flight attendants differ hugely from their American counterparts.  American flight attendants are pretty and they smile.  German flight attendants look like angry Russian weight lifters, chosen for their brute strength.   Everything was done with the iron hand of efficiency.  I had no doubt that if the plane did, indeed, crash, these Brunhilda-like women would emerge from the wreckage unscathed, every braid in place, and carry the injured that they hadn’t already eaten to safety . . . cursing them roundly all the way.

The German-trained pilot of our shuttle plane was no different.  He didn’t rise above the strong head-wind.  He steered straight into it in battle.  We rose and dipped like we were in a storm tossed dinghy.  At no time was the plane seat touching my backside.  The only thing that kept me off of the plane’s ceiling was my seat belt.  Then, just as I thought the plane couldn’t drop me any lower, it hit a sudden, violent updraft and smacked me back up into the stratosphere.

When we landed, I was kissing the tarmac, and Mom’s high blood pressure was off the charts.  We grabbed our luggage and a taxi, and rode to Uschi’s house where my mother promptly collapsed into a healing nap. 

Uschi is the one on the right without the high blood pressure.

Uschi is the one on the right without the high blood pressure.

Uschi, my mother’s cousin, was housing us for the three weeks we were going to be in Berlin.

So, until my next blog, where I will talk about how far one can push the East German authorities without getting shot . . .  

Share
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Babysitting My Mom – Part I

  1. Lisa Bauer says:

    finally, I was having withdrawals, your mom reminds me of my grandma Schwind,except she is out going & friendly, likes to smile. Not my grandma. One time we hadn’t seen her in a couple of years & as we sat on the porch in the cool air with the sun shining & it was so warm & beautiful, all she could say was,”How much longer must I endure this?” Glad to see you too grandma!

  2. Lisa Bauer says:

    finally, I was having withdrawals, your mom reminds me of my grandma Schwind,except she is out going & friendly, likes to smile. Not my grandma. One time we hadn’t seen her in a couple of years & as we sat on the porch in the cool air with the sun shining & it was so warm & beautiful, all she could say was,”How much longer must I endure this?” Glad to see you too grandma!

  3. Lisa Bauer says:

    finally, I was having withdrawals, your mom reminds me of my grandma Schwind,except she is out going & friendly, likes to smile. Not my grandma. One time we hadn’t seen her in a couple of years & as we sat on the porch in the cool air with the sun shining & it was so warm & beautiful, all she could say was,”How much longer must I endure this?” Glad to see you too grandma!

  4. Lisa Bauer says:

    finally, I was having withdrawals, your mom reminds me of my grandma Schwind,except she is out going & friendly, likes to smile. Not my grandma. One time we hadn’t seen her in a couple of years & as we sat on the porch in the cool air with the sun shining & it was so warm & beautiful, all she could say was,”How much longer must I endure this?” Glad to see you too grandma!

  5. Lisa Bauer says:

    Any way what I was trying to say… is that German “thing” runs deep

  6. Lisa Bauer says:

    Any way what I was trying to say… is that German “thing” runs deep

  7. Lisa Bauer says:

    Any way what I was trying to say… is that German “thing” runs deep

  8. Lisa Bauer says:

    Any way what I was trying to say… is that German “thing” runs deep

  9. thea says:

    What ’til you see what I will write on my next blog – or is it the one after? :)

  10. JB says:

    What a treat Thea to find a link to my blog. XD. Thanks. Be sure and see my blog today, Friday 1/5/10. I finished reading your Doll In The Wall. I enjoyed it very much, challenging and satisfying it is.
    This post of yours is very interesting. I’m looking forward to more. Other cultures are so interesting. Those Germans are tough.

  11. thea says:

    I love your blogs! Everytime I read them I can feel a sense of positivity and peace that you are able to put into your writing. I am certainly looking forward to seeing your blog today (It’s 1:40 a.m. here as I write this – not quite ‘today’ yet :). I’ve been wanting to comment on your blogs, but cannot remember my password to save my life. I’ve been continually trying all sorts of combinations of what I think it is, but no open sesame yet… I’m not giving up, though… :)
    And I am very happy you enjoyed reading the Doll in the Wall! :D Thank you for your kind words!

  12. thea says:

    Ahhhh! I just read your blog! I love it! Thank you, JB! Thank you!! :D

  13. ~ifer says:

    First let me say, I found your blog through JB’s review. I am in the middle of a reading challenge for the year, so good reviews of books are always high on my list.
    Second, I am an army brat whose father (and family) was stationed in Berlin when the Wall fell. I say this not to promote my own blog, but because it is so amazing to me to see someone on the other side of the story.

    I am definitely adding you to my reader :)

  14. Pepper Smith says:

    What a great post, JB! Very nice review!

  15. Lexi says:

    Thea I’m like halfway through Doll in the Wall! I love it! Im glad that her grandpa is in here a lot. :) I find him interesting. Thanks for your post it is wonderfull as always! :) Love ya!

  16. thea says:

    Thank you! I’m having fun with Grandpa, too, Lexi! He’s going to be in Book 3… :)

  17. thea says:

    ~Ifer – thank you for your post! My mom ended up marrying my American father while they were both in Turkey at the time… she was a dancer (ballet and classical pantomime) and he was a career Air Force man. Ancestral memory – genetics – whatever one calls it is a weird thing. I never felt ‘German’ (whatever that is) but when I went to Germany I found that I was mimicking their culture without even have been exposed to it. (Mom never did German things :)) Was your family in Germany in March of 1990? That’s when we were there.
    By the way, I looked up your blog and thoroughly enjoyed your review :)

  18. ~ifer says:

    I lived there from the summer of 88 to the spring of 92. We lived in Berlin before, during, and after the Wall fell. We also lived there during the Reunification of the country. If I might suggest… go to my blog and check out the entry for November 9, It was the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, and I posted what I could remember about that day.

  19. thea says:

    I just read your blog and it was very moving…
    No one that wasn’t there could know how oppressive it really was in the East Zone. You just had to see it. I went after the Wall went down and I was surprised at the cameras and machine guns everywhere, at the poverty that was still in the East. When the Wall went down, there were still bomb craters and bombed out buildings still left over from WWII.

  20. ~ifer says:

    Yeah, it was quite a sight to see. It is very tough for me to explain the general oppressive feeling of GRAY.
    I am glad I found your blog :)

Comments are closed.