Looking back to the day I left home for the first time to work and live in another city I remember feeling full of expectations. Three of my classmates and I were going to work as housemaids for a year.
I had been labeled as ungrateful and not worth being a member of the family. The explanation was simply that I was not willing to support them financially. The reason I left Stuttgart didn’t seem to be important to either of my parents.
It was suppose to get better and we would not have to steal anymore. My parents were both gone, sometimes for days, taking care of a new business. I had finished school and most of my friends had gone on vacation with their parents or to visit their relatives before starting new lives working.
My youngest brother, Siegfried, had his first year in school and was visiting Aunt Erna. Nigg, Hans and I had a good time. There were no parents at home, no responsibility and no one to beat us. Heidi was not on vacation and we had time to see our boyfriends twice a week. I had fun sewing clothes for myself. The lady who helped me was a seamstress and said, “I’m not worried about you, you are very handy, you are going to make it in life.”
It was to be my last Saturday at home and with Heidi. I saw Werner for the last time. He asked me if he could give me a good-bye kiss. It was the only kiss. That was the last time I walked up to the castle and looked out over the town. I knew every bush and tree, every big rock I sat on and thought about the times I had come there to regain strength, look for safety or just needed a place to calm myself. The castle had been my rescue.
Sunday morning my mother told me to pack my suitcase. I was surprised because I was not suppose to leave before next Saturday. There was not much to pack. I didn’t have many clothes. I was glad to be leaving the house. It was not ours anymore. Grandpa sold it and my parents had to move out the next month. I wrote a letter to Heidi and told her my mother decided to take me early, that I would write her from Stuttgart. I asked her to update me with the news from town and if she had married her boyfriend. Nigg promised to deliver my letter.
In my mind I was saying good-bye to Mrs. Reischel and to all the other neighbors. My parents did not allow me to go and say good-bye to each of them in person.
My mother came into my room and said my father was ready to go. I was disappointed and said, “I thought you were going to take me?”
“Well, your father decided otherwise.”
It was a three hour ride and I pretended to sleep so I could avoid any conversation. I didn’t like the idea of spending a year as a housemaid, but I was so glad to leave the house. All my dreams to go to college and become an internist or surgeon were finally over.
I heard my father glorifying himself. How he had rented a room in the most expensive area in Stuttgart when he attended the music college; that only wealthy and educated people lived on the Killesberg. He kept babbling on and on.
Then my mother began her lecture. “Just remember this,” she said, “Family Schatz is your boss, you are nothing but their housemaid. Don’t tell these people anything about our family. You help your own family by working there for only a year.” The last part I did not understand, but it wouldn’t make a difference whether I did or not.
Once we reached the Schatz home and got out of the car mother smoothed my dress and tried to comb my hair. I wondered what her problem was, she never cared how I looked before. She had stopped combing my hair when I was about seven or eight year old. This time it made me nervous.
I didn’t think I was going to like where I was going to live. There was nothing but tall houses. There was no greenery. I watched my father walk proudly up to the tall gray building, with cigar in hand. To me, he looked very much like a cartoon character. I wasn’t sure what he had to be proud of. According to him his children were stupid and his wife fat.
In my opinion he never earned the money to feed his family, everything he started he never finished. His life’s philosophy was one of violence and hate and he taught his children to be slaves and thieves. I couldn’t imagine why he walked with his nose so high.
At the front door a voice came out over a speaker. When he told them who we were he then turned to my mother and said, “They could at least welcome us at the door.” When the door opened we walked up to the third floor. A maid opened the apartment door and asked us into the library. Mr. and Mrs. Schatz appeared and asked us into the living room. They even had snacks prepared for us.
The old man made it immediately clear that he knew Stuttgart very well and he made sure the family understood that he had attended college there.
They seemed impressed. I thought of the times my father said, “You have to let people know who you are.” In my opinion it is not necessary to talk about it, let your actions tell who you are. After listening for a while I thought, Oh God, two more fools who are going to agree with him. Then, two words, contract and money, caught my attention. I was shocked to hear my parents had sold me to the family for one thousand marks. I now had to work for them until the money was paid off.
Once aware of the full situation I died inside. Any feelings I might of had for my parents died at that moment. Now, I really knew how much they thought I was worth.
Mrs. Schatz told me to go unpack and that I could have the rest of the day off to get acquainted with the area.
After six months I was very unhappy in that house. Mrs. Schatz was never satisfied with my work, and Mr. Schatz always found a reason to be near me. One night he came to my room. Experience told me what I had to do. I pretended to be asleep. When he put his hand under the covers I started screaming. At that very moment the light went on and Mrs. Schatz stood in the doorway. Of course he lied and said he was concerned about me because I had a nightmare.
All Mrs. Schatz said was, “Get out, I know why you are here. Now I also know why all the other housemaids left.”
The next morning I found myself on a train heading home and with a letter of apology saying it was not necessary to return any of the money to them.