Tag Archive | memoir

Fishy

beach enjoyment fun leisure

Photo by Scott on Pexels.com

Once upon a time, on a warm and sunny summer day, a little girl went to the beach with her mom. They packed up a picnic lunch, beach blanket, towels, sunscreen, a bucket, and a shovel. There was a little spot on the beach just for them. Many people were together enjoying the day too, and those peoples’ conversations floated away with the wind. All the talking didn’t cover up the sounds of the waves splashing on the shore or the rustling of the leaves in the towering trees.

They walked hand in hand in the Minnesota sand, which felt very warm on the bottoms of their feet. The little girl, who would be two years old on her next birthday, looked confident in her pink one-piece swimsuit with a picture of the Little Mermaid on front. They quickly toddled off to find the cooler wet sand. The waves tickled their feet to welcome them in. Soon, the little girl was up to her knees in the very clear blue lake water.

“Fishy,” the little girl shouted and dove into the water face first as quickly as she could, somehow wiggling out of her mom’s grasp. The mom was surprised how courageous her daughter was and was sure the little girl had kept her eyes wide open as she held her arms forward trying to grab the fish with her hands. The mom instinctively pulled her little girl out of the water.

“Did you try to catch the fish?” the mom asked.

The little girl looked surprised, her curls now smashed down after coming out of the water. She didn’t seem to have lost one beat to the rhythm of her breath. The mom held her little girl on her hip and felt little goosebumps form on her own arms. They waded out to the deeper water.

“I wonder where the fish went,” the mom said.

“Fishy,” the little girl repeated in a softer voice as she looked down at the deep water trying to find the fish. The mom and daughter held onto each other while they bobbed up and down with the waves. They twirled about to feel the water cool them. The fun melted away the mom’s goosebumps.

“I think it was a sunfish,” said Mom. “I’m surprised it was so close to all these swimmers at the beach. That was very brave of you to try to get it with your hands!”

The little girl giggled as the mom carried her. They went to the shore, played in the sand, and had a lunch that included gold-fish crackers, which reminded them of the Fishy they found at the lake on a warm and sunny summer day.

The world is as many times new as there are children in our lives. ~Robert Brault

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Ancestral Home

The next leg of our Switzerland trip ended up being the one where we got in the most steps. When we arrived in the small town of Ringgenberg, after a short train trip of a little over three miles from Interlaken, we walked a couple of blocks to find the tourism office. It didn’t seem like anyone else was visiting the quiet town, which has a population of 2,700. We told the nice young man at the tourist office that we came to visit Ringgenberg because my grandfather was born there. He told us there are many people who live there with our last name. I told him my grandfather would be about 140 years old by now, so it was unlikely there were any people there who would have known him. That gave him a chuckle, and he told us about a couple of the main attractions: Ringgenberg Church and Burgseeli Lake.

Ringgenberg Church, which was built into castle ruins in 1670, sits on top of a large hill. “Ringgenberg Castle was inhabited from 1240 until 1380 [by the Ringgenberg family].” Before we climbed up to see the church, we noticed the small cemetery by Lake Brienz. What makes the cemetery unique is that in front of each tombstone there is a little garden where spring plants actually live in the ground. The little gardens felt as if a lot of love, pride, and care lives there. We noticed Grandpa’s last name on some of the tombstones, and I guess this was the closest I would get to some of my relatives. Looking closer, I realized the people who were in the cemetery were too young to be my great grandparents, and I wondered where their final resting spots might be. We continued exploring by walking up the steps to find a spectacular view. Even though it was a Friday, we happened upon a happy couple getting their wedding pictures taken behind the church. There was a little bit of hustle and bustle going on as people were getting ready for the wedding ceremony.

Ringgenberg

Home Across from Burgseeli Lake, Ringgenberg

We walked to Burgseeli Lake, which is located between the towns of Ringgenberg and Goldswil. I thought I snapped a picture of the lake, but I must not have pushed the button hard enough. 😦 To see a picture, click here. This may have been the spot where Grandpa saved two girls from drowning many, many years ago. The water in Burgseeli Lake can reach temperatures in the upper 70s, and people can swim there from May through September. “The water reaches such comfortable temperatures so quickly in spring because it is moorland water with a low oxygen content and very slow circulation.”

We found our way back to the train station and headed to the adorable town of Brienz. Our main goal was to find the woodcarving school my grandfather attended. We ended up walking along the shore of the lake from one end of town to the other, and eventually found the school. We would have found it sooner, if we held the map the right way! 🙂

We met a young woman at the carving school who is a student there. She told us how the students are required to go to school for four years and said when my grandpa went there, there would have been about 2,000 students. Now there are about 30. My husband asked if the school sells any of their wood carvings, and she said they do not want to take business away from the woodcarving shop down the road. So after a few more pleasantries, we headed off to visit the Huggler Wood Carving Shop and bought a few little souvenirs to bring home to the kids.

When we got back to Interlaken, we visited the Golden Egg Restaurant again, since we enjoyed it so much the night before. Besides the bread and salad, we each had a meal of pasta. I had macaroni and my husband had ravioli, which was swimming in olive oil. We relaxed in a comfy booth by the window. My husband and I wondered how many miles we walked, and I wondered where my Great Grandparents were and thought it was weird I didn’t think about them before we went on the trip. Funny what visiting a cemetery can do to someone, but they had passed away almost a century ago. Maybe I’ll be able to find them some other time. It’d be nice to go back and spend more time in my ancestral home and the Golden Egg! 🙂

Inside the Golden Egg.
See the Polar Bear in the Middle Picture?

Next stop: Grindelwald

Trains Run on Time

The morning we left Amsterdam to go to Zürich is the day I should not have worn my money belt around my waist, because that’s when I got frisked at the airport.  I had gotten used to strapping the belt on every morning.  When the lady who worked at the airport started patting me down is when I realized the money belt that held my passport and credit cards was triggering this activity.  “Next time, don’t wear that when going through security,” she politely said.  Whoops! 🙂  Before leaving on our trip to Europe, I read a few articles about the pickpockets, which is why I was careful about wearing the money belt. For that reason and the reason that a friend of mine had her purse and passport stolen when she was in Italy.  It’s a big mess to go through when losing a passport.  I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to me.

After the frisk, we boarded our flight on KLM Airlines.  The flight attendants wear white blouses, light blue blazers and skirts with a matching pill hat balanced on top of their heads.  It seemed as if they were coming out of a decade we’d already lived through, but it was nice to see!  Plus, they gave us little chicken sandwiches in a white and Dutch blue paper box covered with pictures of old-fashioned windmills.  It was the simplest of meals, but left quite an impression.

When we arrived, there was a different feeling from what we experienced in Amsterdam. Zürich seemed to be a bit more serious, quiet, and less crowded.  We found the office of the train station, and the lady there pointed us to the train tunnel.  This is where I started to feel a little anxious.  What were we thinking?  Could we really navigate our way through Switzerland by ourselves via train?  What if we ended up on the wrong train?  But all went well.  The lady at the train station handed us a train schedule and told us about the SBB Mobile app.  The app has the timetables and has the ability to purchase tickets.  We didn’t have to worry about buying tickets since we purchased them before we left for our trip.

The tunnel wasn’t very crowded, and since I didn’t have the app loaded on my phone yet, I asked one of the train workers if the trains have numbers (like the bus I take at home). He said, “No, it all works by timetable.”  In true Swiss fashion, each train has a spot on the car where it indicates its destination.  All the trains ran on time, just as you would expect when traveling in Switzerland, the clockmakers of the world.  There was no need to be nervous about numbers on trains.  To be sure though, we asked fellow travelers if the train was going to Bern.  🙂

We noticed a lot of graffiti on walls and under bridges as we travelled to Bern, which I didn’t expect to see. I also saw billboards or signs for Electrolux vacuum cleaners and Elna sewing machines – things my dad bought when I was younger.  After we got off the train in Bern and were trying to figure out where to go next, a lady walked up to me and asked for directions in English!  I thought I must look like I belonged there but told her we were trying to figure out the same thing.  We ended up following everyone else and found our way to the restrooms and some restaurants.  Luckily, we bought the best chocolate, chocolate chip muffin I’ve ever eaten.  Back to the tracks, we found our next train, which was going to Interlaken.

The scenery improved more and more as we traveled along and left the big city of Bern. When we got to a valley by a lake and mountains surrounded us, I knew we were in Interlaken.  The beauty of it all took my breath away!  So much so, that I did not take pictures at that time.  After a few more minutes of train travel, we were at the train station in Interlaken and took a cab to our hotel.

We stayed at the Hotel Bellevue, which has been in business since 1801 and is located on the River Aare. Above are pictures of the outside of the hotel and an adjacent restaurant, reception area, headboard on bed (thought it was cute!), updated bathroom with clear shower doors, and view from our hotel.  Carla, at reception, told us “people around here like to watch the parasailers jump off the mountain and try to land in Hohematte Park,” a short walk away.  After checking in, we leisurely walked around town where we found a beautiful church, the park, the spot to go to buy a wristwatch – there were many watch shops there – and more beautiful architecture.  Even though we enjoyed our short stay in the Netherlands, it was nice to be away from the Hectically Moving Crowds and busyness of Amsterdam.

Interlaken Hotel Where We Did Not StayFancy Hotel, Where we Did Not Stay

We ended up having dinner at the restaurant next door to our hotel – Goldener Anker (Golden Egg) – which Carla recommended. Our waitress brought us a little basket of bread.  We both had a dinner salad which came with finely-shredded beets and carrots.  I had chicken schnitzel.  In case you don’t know, schnitzel means the meat is tenderized and pounded thin and covered in flour, beaten eggs, and bread crumbs.  Instead of bread crumbs though, mine was covered in coconut flakes and came with a mustard sauce.  My husband had fresh perch with a rice medley.  The atmosphere was relaxed with hushed conversations and soft American rock music in the background.  The staff was very accommodating and the food was delicious.

The reason we travelled to Switzerland was to see where my grandpa grew up. My dad received many postcards that were sent to him from his cousin, John, who traveled there many times.  John encouraged my dad to visit, but Dad did not like to travel by airplane and never went.  Those postcards, the picture calendars Grandpa received from his hometown, and Grandpa’s stories made me want to visit my ancestral home.  Knowing we could get to Grandpa’s birthplace by train the next day made me excited for our next adventure.

Next stop:  Ringgenberg and Brienz, with more mountain pictures to come.

Anne Frank’s Hideaway Home

It was a cool and windy day when my husband and I went to tour Anne Frank’s House and Museum. Thankfully, the sun shined down from a light blue sky to warm us. There were many people standing in line with their previously ordered tickets in hand. A group of about 20 people enter the museum in 15-minute intervals. Right now, tickets need to be ordered on-line 60 days prior to the tour because there is a renovation in progress.

263 Prinsengracht

When we first entered the bright museum, we each were handed a monitor for our guided tour. Every room has a sensor on the wall. A recording on the monitor gives details of each room plus other historical events about World War II. After seeing a few rooms in the museum, we entered the first floor of 263 Prinsengracht. The first floor is the warehouse of the spice company that Anne’s father, Otto Frank, and his partner, Hermann van Pels, set up. We climbed the narrow and steep wooden stairs to get to the second floor, which was the office space.  There we saw a beautiful view of the canal below. At the end of the hallway is the bookcase that hides the Secret Annex. The rooms were mostly empty because the Nazis removed the items after they captured the eight people in hiding. There were a few personal items on display that included: Mr. Frank’s Charles Dicken’s book – he was teaching himself how to read English; Margot’s, Anne’s sister, writings from her Latin correspondence course; and copies of Anne’s diary. The original diaries were not on display due to the renovation.

Each room has a photograph on the wall of what it looked like when it was furnished. The first room we entered, after going through the door that was camouflaged as a bookcase, was where the Franks stayed during the day. Before we entered Anne’s room, we noticed the wall where Mr. Frank marked the growing heights of his daughters. Pictures of movie stars were pasted to Anne’s bedroom wall, just as she left them. There is a small bathroom on this floor where they also did laundry. Up the next level is a small kitchen area that everyone shared, and Mr. and Mrs. van Pels also used that area as their living quarters. Peter’s room is adjacent to the kitchen and the walls are decorated with photos of movie stars that Anne also pasted there. From Peter’s room, we could see the steps to the attic. The attic is closed off with Plexiglas at the ceiling. A tilted mirror gave us a view of the place where Anne liked to go to get fresh air and look at the sky and trees.

The exit took us to the museum store, and as we walked down the stairs to exit the museum, there is a giant portrait of Anne on the wall. One can’t help but think about the sweet girl and others like her and her family. Even though we know the outcome, a person’s heart sinks when they read the last sentence in Anne Frank’s diary: “ANNE’S DIARY ENDS HERE.” When my 13-year-old self read The Diary of a Young Girl, I never thought my older self would visit her hideaway home. I was fascinated with the diary back then and felt I could relate to some things she was going through. Familiar things such as how she got along with her family and friends and how she appreciated the outdoors. Anne’s story stayed with me.

I recently read the book and was amazed by how great a writer Anne was. Anne described her surroundings and circumstances so well. Not only her emotions came through, but how she loved and how she thought she didn’t love some people. Anne was wise beyond her years in the ways she understood humankind.  Of course, Anne had bad days – who could blame her with being stuck where she was – but she mostly managed to stay optimistic and hopeful while she was in hiding for those two years. Most likely her positive attitude was due to having her diary. Anne wrote, “When I write, I shake off all my cares.”

At first, Anne wrote her diary for herself, but later she decided she would like to write a book about the war based on her diary. She edited her diary many times as she was going to use it as a reference. Immediately after the Franks, van Pelses, and Fritz Pfeffer were arrested, the secretaries, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl, who worked in the office, found Anne’s diary and held onto it until after the war. Mr. Frank was the only one of the eight to survive the camps. In the late 1950s, the house was going to be torn down for a new development, but many people in Amsterdam campaigned against the demolition. The house was preserved and turned into a museum which opened in 1960. The Anne Frank House is the third most visited museum in the Netherlands with 1.2 million visitors every year.

After the war, Mr. Frank worked at getting Anne’s diary published and it has been read by people from all over the world. Mr. Frank answered thousands of letters that he received from readers of the diary, and he concluded each letter with: “I hope Anne’s book will have an effect on the rest of your life so that insofar as it is possible in your own circumstances, you will work for unity and peace.”

Being in the Secret Annex was a surreal experience for me because I could not believe I was actually where I was at the time. Even though it made me feel heavyhearted, I am glad I was able to visit Anne’s hideaway home. That visit will help Anne’s story stay with me all the more.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment
before starting to improve the world. ~ Anne Frank

The Right Amount of Sweetness

Every Saturday when I was a kid, my mom made pies – two pies of the same flavor – to be exact. The kinds of pies Mom made were blueberry, apple, cherry, rhubarb, pumpkin, or lemon meringue. She used the same two glass pie pans. As she rolled out the dough on the wooden board in our kitchen, I watched sometimes, but didn’t quite get the knack of making a crust like Mom made. It was flaky on top and crunchy on the edges. When my fork dug into a piece of Mom’s apple pie, tiny flecks of cinnamon could be seen in the juice of apples that had baked away. Each remaining apple chunk was the same size and each bite melted in my mouth. The rhubarb was just as nice as the cherry and blueberry.

The fruit and pumpkin pies were Mom’s specialty, and then she experimented by making lemon meringue. The lemon was tart and made my mouth water and pucker up underneath my cheekbones. The meringue reminded me of clouds floating up to make mountain peaks, and the taste was just the right amount of sweetness to blend with the lemon and chase the tartness away.

It would be nice to get a taste of any one of those pies today because no store or restaurant can top the flavor of what Mom used to make. I never became good at it myself because it seemed like such a chore. A pie crust needed to be made, and it had to be an even thickness and in a circle to fit a pie pan.  Apples needed to be peeled or pumpkin had to be cooked (yes, she really made it from scratch), and an entire hour would have to pass by before the pie was done baking. Mom would always laugh and tell me it was so easy to make a pie crust! To me, the entire process seemed like so much work and the pre-made crusts at the grocery store weren’t the same.  Plus, what had been created disappeared faster than the effort.

I wonder if I ever really appreciated that labor of love when I was making Mom’s creations disappear. Even if I forgot to thank her for the pies, I bet she knew we loved the treats by how fast we made them vanish.  If I can drum up a little patience, I’ll bake a pie and hopefully it will taste just as good as Mom’s. I just have to remember to use the right amount of sweetness.

I think careful cooking is love, don’t you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone
who’s close to you is about as nice a Valentine you can give.
~ Julia Child

Helping Us Celebrate Christmas

Flexible Flyer

It was only a short ride, and after we got out of the car, Dad pulled the sled along. When we got to the edge of the hill, the hill going down looked huge to me.  There was a lot of snow, and many people were sliding down the hill while others were walking up the side to go back down again.  Everyone looked like they were having fun.  Dad sat on the Flexible Flyer, and I sat in front of him.  I wasn’t scared because Dad was holding on to me very tightly.

“Are you ready?” he asked. I must have nodded my head which was covered in my little white cap.  The cap was as fluffy as a lamb and had a little doll’s head sewn to one side.  I wore my red boots that were wide opened at the top so my snow pants could fit inside.  Dad pushed the ground with his hands and we slowly went over the top of the hill. Suddenly we were flying down the snowy path.  Dad still hung onto me while steering with his feet by using the wooden bar in front. Little flecks of snow hit me in the face, and the ride gave me a feeling I didn’t like and never felt before.  It seemed like something was fluttering around in my stomach.  Those butterflies were trying to catch up – they bounced up and down with each bump in the hill, and I wished they would disappear.  I held my breath and decided to just look at my boots until we got to the bottom. I thought if I focused on something, I wouldn’t get even more dizzy.

“Wasn’t that fun?” Dad asked me after we got off the sled. He bent down to look into my eyes.  “Do you want to go again?”

“No,” I said. I didn’t cry, and I know I didn’t think it was fun, and I told Dad.  He was disappointed I didn’t want to go again.  Scary rides or feelings of butterflies in my stomach were not for me at the age of four.  As I followed Dad back up the hill while he pulled the sled along, I was so glad we weren’t going to use the sled again. Now, when I think back, it’s a wonder we flew down the hill as fast as we did. Those old Flexible Flyers are made from solid wood and steel and probably weigh at least thirty pounds. Those sleds are antiques now.

When my brothers cleaned out my parents’ garage, neither one of them wanted the Flexible Flyers. I took them mostly because I couldn’t see us getting rid of them for sentimental reasons.  Luckily, a friend of mine told me how she decorates her old sled and sets it out on her stoop as a Christmas decoration.  After I found a picture of a decorated sled on Pinterest, I went to the craft store and bought some fake foliage, ribbon, and bells.  I used a bunch of floral wire to keep the decorations in place.  When I finished the project, I was pleased how it turned out, but I couldn’t figure out where to put it without having to rearrange the entire house!  Eventually, the sled ended up sitting in our entryway.  Now that big old sled decorates a corner of our home helping us celebrate Christmas while bringing back some fun memories.

Next year, I might decorate the other one with gold ribbons and bells. I’ll just have to figure out where to display it!

Merry Christmas!

 

They Think I Dressed Them Weird

Christmas Picture of Girls

It seemed like such an easy plan, but the process completely wiped me out. The idea was to take a trip to the mall to get the girls’ pictures taken. The baby was only a month old, and I didn’t think it would be a big deal to get both children ready all by myself. The pictures had to be taken in time to be given as Christmas presents and sent out as Christmas cards. Well before that day arrived, I decided the outfits should match and that Laura would wear a dress. Since we didn’t know the gender of our baby before she was born, I made Katie’s outfit using one of my favorite patterns – a one-piece ensemble. I used a red, stretchy cotton fabric for the bodice and cuffs and booties to match. The rest of the outfit was red, blue, and white plaid.  Laura’s dress was the same plaid material with lace added to the hem and with a frilly collar sewn to the top.

After the girls were in their outfits with their shoes and baby booties in place, winter coats, hats, and mittens all where they belonged, I remembered the red bows. One bow was attached to a barrette for Laura’s hair and the other was a ribbon to get stuck on top of Katie’s fuzzy head.  I attached the bow to Katie’s hair with some sort of gooey stuff that was invented for just that purpose!

By the time we got to the mall, I was feeling less stressed and happy to be among the crowds of people. We hung out there for a long while on our first of many shopping trips together.  Luckily the bows and everything else stayed on for the adorable pictures.

Sometimes when our three kids look at old photo albums together now, they tell me that they think I dressed them weird. Doesn’t every older kid say that? Isn’t it because the fashions change? Probably it was because I didn’t dress them most of the time. I let them wear what they wanted . . . (Just saying!)

Anyway, luckily Laura and Katie think this picture is a cute one!  Looking at it brings back a lot of great memories, and I’m especially thankful I remembered the bows!