Monday, 4 August 2008

A story from the old old days


My Mother, her friend, her friend's mother, and I. Why?

My Mother told us a story yesterday, when we pestered her with THE question again ("did you really not know about anything during the war"?) No, she really didn't, she was young and she was having a whale of a time all through the war. For her, a good time mainly meant skiing and walking in the mountains and giggling with her girl friends, and when the air raid alarm sounded they all went to a friend's garden and played cards. In 1945, when no-one was allowed to travel anywhere, she and her friend walked illegally across the Austrian border to collect their skis which they had left up in a mountain hut in the winter. Skiing, in those days, was nothing to do with jet-set and white-painted lips and ski-lifts: you put hairy skins on your skis to walk up the hills and then you skied down (I still remember that from my childhood).

Once, she cycled all the way across Bavaria - illegally - to visit her sister in hospital with a broken leg. Another time, she had to go up to Munich to find a hospital place for her dying father: she did not recognise anywhere, because it was all rubble.

She had a beau, an American soldier stationed in her town, who walked her home from work every day. And every day, when she said good-bye to him, he asked: "Why?" She didn't know what "why" meant, and asked the neighbour upstairs, who told her what she thought he wanted. But my Mother had no answer for him - or I might be American now.
"Why" is probably a good start for a lot of things.

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