Babysitting My Mom – Part II

On my last blog, I promised to talk about how far one can push the Eastern German authorities without getting shot.

The answer is, apparently, not far for some, but pretty far for others.  My mother grew up in West Berlin during the occupation.  She, her brother, and her mother – my grandmother – made a sport of outsmarting Communists with guns.  Ahhh . . . the fond memories of childhood. 

This time was no different for my mother.  No force-imposed East German authority was going to make her do anything she didn’t want to.  I did not know this until after we had been through the Eastern Zone three times.  I did wonder, however, when I silently watched her performances from the sidelines.  I say ‘sidelines’, but in reality I was in line to get the first bullet.  Or trailing behind her one step as she fled. 

On one such occasion, she ran past a gun-laden Eastern official at the train station turnstile.  We were supposed to wait in line – behind the nice couple getting their luggage searched – for our turn to gain admittance onto the train’s platform.  I didn’t know what Mom was going to do until she broke into a sudden run, wrestled with the turnstile, passing through and somehow jamming it, before disappearing around a corner.  She did this even though I yelled, “Wait!” and the man with the gun yelled, “Halt!!!” several times. 

I looked at the official’s gun strapped over his shoulder, his hands full of someone’s underthings, and the jammed turnstile that I couldn’t pass through, and made a split second decision.  I was much more afraid of ticking off my mother than I was of some duty bound East German told to shoot on sight.  I took off after my mother and jumped the turnstile like Rudolf Nureyev.  I didn’t have much of a choice.  I didn’t speak German well enough to dig my way out of getting lost in the Eastern Zone.  I didn’t even know the address of where we were staying in the West.  I never ran so fast, nor jumped so high.

Mom’s excuse?  We were going to be late for our train.

On another occasion, we were just through the passport counters and one step away from stepping out on Eastern Berlin soil when we were accosted by an armed East German soldier demanding if we were carrying East German currency.  We were, as a matter of fact, since we had exchanged West Marks into East Marks just that morning before heading out.  However, instead of answering the question, Mom suddenly became a half-wit.  I was immediately suspicious.  Why was this man asking us this, and why was my mother suddenly confused by the sunlight?  This went on for a few moments while I prudently stayed silent.

I found out what was going on once we had been dismissed by the irritated, yet resigned, official and shoved out of the train station.  I found out once we were both deep into East Germany.  Apparently it is illegal to bring any money that we had exchanged in the West into the East.  People had been incarcerated for having an unaccounted penny under the floor mats of their cars.  It would have been easy to obey their law.  There was an East German Bank in the train station.

Mom’s excuse, however?  The West gave a better rate of exchange.

So, until next time, when I will talk about our public brawl on the way to the Opera.  In the meantime, I will leave you with some pictures . . .

Looking through a hole in the Berlin Wall at "No-man's land" where the East Germans stood guard, ready to shoot any trying to cross over.

Looking through a hole in the Berlin Wall at "No-man's land" where the East Germans stood guard, ready to shoot any trying to cross over.

A close-up of one of the guard towers in "No-man's land" as seen from a Western train's window as we passed... looking into the Eastern Zone.

A close-up of one of the guard towers in "No-man's land" as seen from a Western train's window as we passed... looking into the Eastern Zone.

Checking passports at Checkpoint Charlie

Checking passports at Checkpoint Charlie

And a picture for ~Ifer –  (See the first three comments at the end of this blog)

Standing at the West side of Checkpoint Charlie, looking into the East at the guards.

Standing at the West side of Checkpoint Charlie, looking into the East at the guards.

Me, standing in front of Checkpoint Charlie

Me, standing in front of Checkpoint Charlie

And last, but not least . . .

...the guards we made faces at to see if we could get them to crack a smile.

...the guards we made faces at to see if we could get them to crack a smile.

So until next time . . .

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15 Responses to Babysitting My Mom – Part II

  1. ~ifer says:

    I said it last time, I will say it again… your posts make me miss living in Germany. Especially the picture of them checking passports at Checkpoint Charlie… wow.. the memories there. (although they weren’t allowed to see our passports, they had to check our special entry papers we called “east passes”).
    Well done.

  2. thea says:

    Thank you!
    I was going to post a picture of standing at Checkpoint Charlie on the West side, but looking into the East at the guards. Now I wish I did. I might add that anyway. As a visiting American, I wasn’t allowed to pass through Checkpoint Charlie. I had to pass through the train station checkpoint at Karl Marks Platz… I think, if memory serves me right. Checkpoint Charlie was moved to some museum after our visit, but I was glad to see it before it went. That, and the museum dedicated to those who tried – some successfully, some unsuccessfully – to go over the Wall. As far as I know, the museum is still there.

  3. thea says:

    I think I will add that picture now. :)

  4. Mallory says:

    Great story! Loved the pictures and the big hair :). Reminds me of Maddy…I hope she sees this. When you were running were ya scared? I would have been.

  5. thea says:

    :D Big hair and shoulder pads – well, it was 1990 – fresh from the 80’s. :) Actually, the hair was from the Berlin water. It made my hair do really odd things. Even when it was drizzling outside.
    And, no, I wasn’t too scared when I was running. Felt guilty, yes… scared, no. Being raised by a WWII West Berliner had already inured me to fright. Instead, over the years I had developed adrenals the size of basketballs.

  6. Mallory says:

    Haha you crack me up! hey, at least there weren’t many dull moments!

  7. Ron E. says:

    I’m surprised the armed guards didn’t cower in fear at the intimidating sight of your mom…;-)

  8. thea says:

    That’s a thought… :)

  9. Lisa Bauer says:

    Good thing you went with your mom, any one else would have coward in fear, just think of what you would have missed! Got to love her!

  10. Lisa Bauer says:

    Good thing you went with your mom, any one else would have coward in fear, just think of what you would have missed! Got to love her!

  11. Lisa Bauer says:

    Good thing you went with your mom, any one else would have coward in fear, just think of what you would have missed! Got to love her!

  12. Lisa Bauer says:

    Good thing you went with your mom, any one else would have coward in fear, just think of what you would have missed! Got to love her!

  13. thea says:

    If only she had bothered to warn me…
    Still, an adventure is an adventure, I suppose… :)

  14. ~ifer says:

    I just saw that you added more pictures of the Checkpoint… YAY! Great pictures. I wish I had more pictures of when I lived there… well, not pictures of ME (read:I was an unfortunate nerdy kid with horrid 80s hair), but pictures of the city.

    Also… a side note… you had TOTALLY RAD hair ;)

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