The Sisters 2/53
The Kinderheim was an asylum so to speak. Nestled very neatly in the wrappings of Germany’s famous Black Forrest (Schwartzwald) in the southern corner so close yet so far from France and Switzerland.
Kinderheim in German means a children’s home. A home for kids basically. As well it serves a respite for persons of means with adequate wealth to briefly forgive the responsibility of parenting and lend their sons and daughters to the custody of women clothed as nuns. Protestant or what not, Nuns nevertheless. Taskmaster would be a polite description regarding the earnestness with which their will is applied.
When I think of sterile I think white. I reflect on floors immaculately clean and shining not only with brightness but sheer vastness and emptiness. A huge expanse of clean and empty, a little bit like being on a chess board as big as a soccer field except for the fact that just this once I have become very small but the board stays the same.
The reason that this comes to mind is because as a little boy, that was pretty much how I viewed the Kinderheim. Large and long, very crisp, shiny floors, kids lined up in the barracks rack to rack, absolute pristine cleanliness and so much space. So very much space. This of course is after being lined up like little chickens in an incubator smeared in oil, under biliruben lights. That seemed to last for quite a while. Germans don’t take much to chance they like to be prepared. Hence Beer and War seem to be the solution(s) to the equation: both have similar outcomes, a nd clearly a need for more Germans, of which I am one.
Of course there were the sisters. A very solid bunch of if-not-religious- definitely German bred and disciplined women that took their profession very seriously. Marching was not a mystery for them- in a sense it was their calling. And we marched. Through fields, apple orchards, vineyards, hills and castles, and deep woods- that make any child’s imagination stir away for a moment here and there. We kept marching- the whole lot of us- a little German army in the making. None of us knew this of course- but we were all encouraged to climb to the top viewing tower of some castle somewhere in the depths of Bavaria. To the top it was. A tiny metal platform- that overlooked all expanses- and Christ for that matter- the entire world for a 4 year old. Since I was one of the few that actually had the courage to climb this awe inspiring rig- I should have been promoted to General in this man’s army.
It was seriously scary that little platform, and the flimsy steps upward to heaven. But I did it! And did it I did! Wow! The Kingdom was mine just for a second. That being said, I was once again just another member of the herd- although I always felt I was special.
The mystery of being a child in the Kinderheim was unencumbered with fast food diners, videos or other such things, rather it was nurtured with the dread of wondering whether or not to tell the Schwester (you know…. The Schwester…) that your thumb might have been broken when the bus driver came to a halt, having hit a lay pedestrian. Seeing him unconscious was disturbing for a 4 year old, wondering if your thumb was broken is an entirely different matter. I was too afraid to say anything. So where was the courage and bravado? I think I was pretty much whipped, but if you wish, send me a note and let me know if that was a normal reaction or just regimented fear?
I think fear is being unloved. We are not alone if we are loved- If we love, we are not alone.
That being said, I was basically on my own. There are cowards in life that just lash out and try to beat some sense into their own existence and then are people that do otherwise… I think I am one of those. Just a person that for a second has a dream.
There were late night fantasies as I laid on my back and dared to dream, and dared to share, and like a little Shakespeare would speak of things- in the darkness of the night- to my fellow 6-year old- inmates to a degree- that gleefully they left their own beds for a moment to engage in the fantasies of life in the fabulous “America” that was somehow confused with a child’s musings of lions, tigers, giraffes, alligators, and African people equally clothed and mixed up with the dressage of native American Indians. It was America I was going to. I was certain of that. Those were heady times filled with hope and a gasp of a young prayer- that life would certainly change…