[Written by my Mum]
This I know of course only because she told me, but a similar event happened when she was already in her mid-50s* and we were at an outdoor swimming pool with a 10 m diving platform.
My husband, I and our little daughter sat on the lawn and watched her climb up. (Meike was still in the pram.) When she stood on the diving board, our elder daughter (aged about 2) shouted loudly "Oma!" (German for granny or nana), she waved to us, and then everybody looked up and followed with their eyes her perfekt dive into the water. She repeated it several times.
Those two stories were significant of her character: She was courageous, brave and liked challenges and adventures. She rode her bike, even long distances, often with me sitting behind her on the luggage rack; my parents never had a car. She swam like a fish; once, when she was in her 60s, she crossed a lake in Southern Tyrol, the "Kalterer See". She was always spontaneous; I think if I would have phoned her and said: Pack a bag, we come to pick you up and go to... maybe Australia - she would have been ready in less than an hour!
But unfortunately Else was born at a time when girls had to be good and well mannered, and later also as women, expected to be demure wives and mothers. She was born in the middle of World War I, her father was fighting in France, he never saw his daughter and so she never knew her father. He was shot on the retreat home by a partisan.
Her childhood in a small village beside the river Neckar was poor but happy; she learned to swim when she was 3 years old. That was necessary, as nobody had time to watch the children.
Later her mother married again, and her stepfather ignored her from the day one. She had to go to work in a shoe factory and hand over nearly all her money as long as she lived with her mother and stepfather. A stepbrother was born, he received the best education.
My mother married my father in 1937, and I think they were as happy as could be. Two children arrived, but also Hitler and WW II.
She did not go to work, she had to look after her parents-in-law and her sick brother-in-law (I wrote about him "Onkel Otto"), she had the house, garden and us two kids to care for, and we had a really lovely childhood.
She played with me and my girlfriends. She had many old clothes, dresses and hats, so we often dressed up and had a lot of fun. She taught me many folk songs and when I had to help her in the kitchen, we always sang together.
When I was a teenager, we did not get along very well and often argued. But when my children were born, she was very helpful and always there for us.
My parents never went away on holiday until my gandparents died. Then they went on a cruise on the river Wolga in Russia, on a Russian ship named Uzbekistan. One night they had a "Miss" contest or pageant, and - my mother won it, she was celebrated as "Miss Uzbekistan"! She was very proud of that, she wasn't so young any more, there were much younger ladies on the ship.
She was very parsimonious to the point of miserly when it came to herself (never with us - she was generous with gifts to us and her grandchildren). She loved chocolate and marzipan very much, but she would never ever go and buy that for herself.
Only much later, when she was already a widow, blind and lonely, she allowed us to bring her chocolate and other sweets.
When my father had a stroke, she cared for him at home three long years, we helped how ever we could, but it was very hard for her. Then he died, and a few months later she got blind, all her plans were gone. She wanted to travel, but now she could never do anything spontaneously without being accompanied, and so in her last years she was often depressed, bitter and unfair.
I often think how hard it must have been for her, and I was not always as patient as I should have when she was in a bad mood, and I apologize for all this, my Brave Heart Mother!
- - - End of guest post - - -
My Mum offered me this post on her own initiative quite by surprise earlier this week. After her previous one, this was once again very touching for me to read. As usual (and on her request), I did a little bit of editing here and there, but they are mostly my Mum's original words. The first photo is one that she keeps framed in her bedroom, along with other family pictures.
I remember so much about my Oma, for instance how she loved to act, sing and dance. She was completely un-shy and didn't know stage fright; I believe that I have inherited some of that, as well as her love of foreign languages. She never learned any other language, having received only a basic formal education, but when I was a kid, we often played at "being foreigners" and spoke in a fantasy language (sounding very much like the Arabic she knew through her son and his friends, which must have impressed her greatly).
Another typical story from Else's youth I remember is again about swimming: As my Mum said, she grew up by a river and learned to swim at an early age. The river was wide and deep, and certainly no playground for kids. But that did not stop young Else from swimming to the next town and back, with nobody knowing where she was, just to prove that she could do it.
By the way I think my Mum was very good with her mother, looking after her when she was blind and a widow. She visited every day either after work or during her lunch break, took care of houshold matters and cooked for her so that she could pop her meals into the microwave. She also took her home at least once every week, and went walking with her when time and weather allowed. My Dad was also involved, doing most of her shopping and driving her to doctor's appointments etc.
The way my Oma handled her situation was not always easy to deal with; as my Mum says, she often was bitter and unfair, and is it any wonder that this made us sometimes angry and impatient? All things considered, though, I do not believe my Mum has to apologise. She was a very good daughter to her parents!
*The age I am now!