At Kunzmann’s I felt just as at home today as I did at Grandpa’s and Lella’s (my grandmother’s) house. There was Theresa, the daughter of “Grandma” Kunzmann, who was as old as Lella, and the other grandmother who always lay in bed.
When I got bored at Lella’s, or when I wanted to hear a story, I walked across the courtyard and knocked on the Kunzmann’s kitchen window. “Grandma” Kunzmann opened it and I would climb in. I never used the front door of their house; I used the window. Sometimes “Grandma” Kunzmann would read the story Snow White, but her favorite story was about the day I was born. As she sat in her chair by the window I would sit in front of her on the foot stool anxiously waiting for her to start. She always began the story with the same line– “Marie, your mother, was having a hard time since Saturday. Your grandma and the midwife stayed with her the whole night.
Mielemom, our neighbor across the street, came and told your grandma to rest a little. Strobelmom who lived at the Adler, a few houses down the street, showed up very early in the morning and changed the sheets. It was a sunny Sunday morning, the 27th of March, shortly after 6 a.m. The sun had just come up and Marie’s time was near. Yes, she had a hard time. Then at 6:30 everything was over.
Your grandpa was so excited he shouted from the bedroom window across the street, ‘it’s a girl!’. Everybody, who was already awake, rushed over. Miehlepap the cattle dealer, brought a fresh baked meat loaf and told Marie in his clumsy way, ‘have some of it right now; you need to regain your strength, so you will have enough milk for the little heifer’. You were everything but little,” Grandma Kunzmann said, “you weighed over nine pounds. That’s why Marie had to work so hard.
Your grandma, the midwife and the women from the neighborhood sat in the kitchen having coffee and making plans for your future. Everyone agreed that this needed extra effort because you were born on a Sunday, therefore you were very special.”
“See,” she said, “all the children born on a Sunday are God’s favorite children. They are only born to please God. God gave them special gifts and blessed them with a double portion of strength, goodness and a very strong feeling for honesty and the understanding of right and wrong. They need all of these extras.”
She continued, “They need all of these extras because the Lord also gives Sunday Children different and sometimes more difficult assignments in their lives.
A heated discussion started when your father demanded that you should be named after his mother, Sophie. Your mother thought you should be named after her mother, Theresa. The women sitting in the kitchen dismissed these, saying, ‘this is not a name for a child with such an important destiny. It must be a name with a strong purpose. The name must affirm beauty, discernment and power’.
“After a long controversy you were named after two Valkyries, God Wotan’s (Odin) daughters; Sieglinde the Sword and Waltraud the Guardian and Custodian of the warrior’s souls of Wallhall. When it was time to go to church, nobody from your house went. Your grandpa wrapped you in a blanket and took you. He showed you to all the people who came by on their way to church. Your grandma had a fit, the morning was sunny but cold. She was worried that you might catch a cold.
But your grandpa said, ‘She is so healthy and strong, nothing is going to happen, the people need to see my little girl’. Oh yes, you were his little girl. You see, it never bothered him that your father was upset about it. There was no question that you would grow up at your grandparents. They didn’t like your father and could never understand why your mother would have him as a husband; they called him the lazy academic. Your grandparents did not like people who had studied music and sat around all day expecting others to take care of them.”
Now, as I looked at the house I grew up in, it looked so lifeless, dreary and sad. It still had the ugly gray color the new owners insisted on after we moved out. The big window in front of the store was still cracked from when my brother threw a rock into it.
For a second I thought I would ring the doorbell to see if anyone was home. I didn’t; I was afraid. I didn’t want the people living there to know who I was and wonder what I was doing there. Upset, I turned around and spoke to my husband in English, telling him that the house had been painted a light soft yellow with white trim around the windows when we lived there. It seemed nothing had been done to the house since we moved and it hurt me. My grandparents were such caring people, constantly updating their “city house” as they called it.
“Let’s go,” I said.
I tried to catch my breath without showing emotion. It wasn’t that I didn’t want Alex or Maus to know how I felt; I wanted them to see my hometown free of my bias. After all, it is a wonderful historical town that dates back to 950. I sighed and led them away.