Tuesday, July 8, 2014


   It was July 9, 1954. I was living with Ruth and Alfred Mänzer in Kassel, Germany. Alfred picked me up from Lehrte, my birth town, where an aunt who had been minding me since the beginning of February but preferred a childless life style. Alfred was a very close friend of my father's. Because of the war He and his wife were not able to have children. Ruth was sterilized by the Hitler movement as she had some Hebrew ancestry.  When my father had to replace my aunt and uncle with new care givers for me he thought that Ruth might enjoy the chance to have a little girl around. She agreed to try this.
   No one asked me. It was my fourth move in a very short time. It was hard. My parents had moved to Canada in may 1953 hoping to have us follow but getting immigration for us children proved harder than they had anticipated. At first my father's sisters and grandpa came to care for us in shifts but it became too challenging over time so by mid summer my father sent my mother back to care for us until she could bring us to Toronto with her.
   My Father fell seriously ill in January 1954. In a hurry my mom quickly sent my brother to her aunt and me to her sister so she could fly to care for him. It was thoughy this arrangement would be short but it was not. As April came to an end my mom's sister had been asked by her husband and his mother that I be sent to a different family member. My welcome was over.
   My father wasn't happy to have to find me another placement but he dealt with this. He wrote to Alfred. Soon, with my small bag of nice clothes that my aunt had managed to amass during my stay, I was picked up by Alfred. After a long train ride I found myself in his apartment. I was given the living room couch by night. I was with strangers. I missed my parents and my brother. I missed all my aunts and my grandpa but I was told not to be ungrateful. I was to be a happy delightful girl. It was tough.
   Ruth worked very hard to make each day special for me. She helped my with homework and with the making a few local friends whom she allowed over for brief visits. She was affectionate and knew how to prepare meals that children would like. She even served them in interesting varied ways. I was given lessons in culture and geography of Kassel, a gorgeous city with hills and fountains.
   On That July day the sun up early , its beams shining on the treetops that were visible from the balcony making them glisten from the morning dew. The breakfast table was set outdoors with a bit of extra fanfare and my eyes gleamed with anticipation. It was a special day, my eighth birthday and I was feeling excited. I had hoped to find mail from my family. I really missed them. Mail was my only connection to any of them. But I did not find an envelope on the table near my place as I went to sit there. I could feel my eyes tear up but I tried to hide that from Ruth. I was hoping my tears would go unnoticed. 
   Ruth was sensitive. She understood pain. Hemce she could read my disappointment. Looking back I now suspect she had known then this would happen and she was prepared. Before I could retreat from the balcony she had her arms around me. With a big hug and gentle words she had me seated in my place fairly soon. Then she served me some fresh pancakes covered with powdered sugar and dotted with strawberries and whipped cream. She poured me a cup of "kids's" coffee and sat down across from me. She was having a plain slice of bread. It made my meal really appear more delightful to me. Brilliant and so thoughtful.
   When we had finished eating she cleared the table herself asking me to remain seated, a kind gesture since I was usually expected to lend a hand.
Then she returned with a small decorated paper cone filled with sweets. I loved my gift and jumped up to hug her but she motioned me to sit down again.So I complied without hesitation. And then she put a pretty small box in front of me. I was surprised. Gifts usually only came on very special days. I usually got a new outfit or something practical. This box suggested by its size was not the usual type of gift. Carefully I opened it. What a beautiful sparkling object appeared! It was to be my very first piece of golden jewellery. 
   Ruth gave me a child sized necklace with a tiny horseshoe pendant on it. It was perfect. Ruth was a gem. She made that day so memorable that I can feel the joy even now.

PS Today I celebrate my 68th and here's a plant I bought for myself because my family is not inclined to show affection in a traditional way. Emails and texts just aren't the same for an oldie like me but I do know how to care for just me and I thank my aunts for that.
Isn't it a beauty??