Thursday, August 28, 2008

Point of View

By some strange coincidence I have seen several movies recently that are set in or about the time of World War II: Gosford Park, Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, Notorious, and Casablanca. I have always been interested in WW II, how it started, who were the key players, how it effected society, art, people. So much of what we are taught about the war here is very one sided, but I have been fortunate to have a couple of chances to chat with people who experienced the war from the other side.

Friede is a long time friend of my husband's family. She has lived next door to them since B was a boy. Friede is in her 90's but you would never know it to see her playing with my niece and nephews. Whenever we visit B's family I sneak over to Friede's as often as good manners will allow and spend hours chatting with her. She is just about the feistiest person I have ever known and I admire her immensely.

Friede was born near Frankfurt, Germany. Her mother was a very devout Catholic who somehow ended up married to a very irreverent Protestant. Her father once swept up the straw, laid out for the towns Passover procession, and fed it to his animals. Friede's mother insisted that she be sent to the nuns for school but, maybe because of her father's bad influence, she spent a lot of time in trouble. There was the time the Mother Superior discovered that Friede and her friends had been eating holiday cookies during the year so that there were none to sell at Christmas. She had to stay late and help bake cookies to make up for her pilfering. Or there was time she started selling holy water door-to-door until her mother found out and made her return all the money.

Later she went to dance school in Frankfurt, and was good enough that she was invited to teach despite the fact that her instructor used to call her a cow. She danced in the ballet at the Frankfurt opera house and was known for playing pranks. During a run of Aida she was cast as a fan bearer. She "fell asleep" during one of the performances and "accidentally" hit the diva in the head. Evidently, the diva wasn't very popular with the rest of the cast.

Friede's family must have been very talented artistically because her brother was a musician. In the years leading up to the war many of the theatres and music halls were closed by the government and he had trouble finding work. Eventually the only job available to him was playing in the military band and he joined the army. It didn't last long though. They eventually trained him to fly planes.

During the Nazi years, the opera was only allowed to perform political pieces. There was a play where a this "heroic" character with an iron fist would hit a table and the edge would fall off. The table had been pre-cut to so that when the actor slammed his fist the table would break on cue. She and the ballet turned the table around so that when he hit it , the wrong edge fell to the floor. She said the audience roared with laughter.

The opera was later closed and she was forced into the service. She said the first night in the barracks she was so eaten by bed bugs that she chose to sleep in a chair instead. She was shipped to a post near the Russian front. Upon arrival she received a telegram informing her that her brother's plane had been shot down over Russia and that he was dead. She said she was so shocked that she just sat down on her suitcase in the middle of the road, not knowing what to do. She remembered that a local woman seeing her distress brought her out a glass of water and how touched she was by the woman's kindness. She has never talked to me much about being in the Army. I'd like to think that Friede kept up her rebellious tendencies and continued to cause trouble where she could.
I can't help but wonder what her life would have been like if the war had never happened. Would she have continued dancing? As far as I know, she never dance professionally again although her ballet slippers have pride of place amongst her belongings.

After the war, Friede married an American soldier and moved to the U.S. They never had children of their own but she must have hundreds of children in her community to whom she has been surrogate grandma. At church on Sunday's, I have seen her sneaking M&M's to all the little kids who come and tell her good morning.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fabulous Friday

I love the movement in this portrait of Diane Sackville, Viscountess Crosbie. I get the impression that she must have had a very spritely personality.

So, earlier this evening Officer B comes upstairs and finds me with a very distressed look on my face. "What's wrong?" he asks as he kisses me on the forehead. I shake myself from my stupor and reply, "Oh, I was just watching the news. I think I'm stupider because of it."

This isn't a new complaint of mine. It is horrifying what watered down pap passes for news these days. I flipped between four channels and heard reports on inner-ear infection causing obesity, University of Florida research that proves beer goggles exist, and a woman suggesting healthy snack options for students who sounded as though she didn't think your kids would be any more interested in celery than you do. Ridiculous. Yet further justification for why I read the news (Some of my favorites:BBC News, The Washington Post, NPR, The Guardian, The Age, Google News and then for a laugh (or a cry), CNN.)

In other randomness, I spent most of my afternoon writing on my new laptop. Officer B sold one of his rifles and bought me a laptop. Isn't he a sweety? I couldn't ask for a better husband. I can't tell you how cool it was to be able to curl up on the sofa and write.
I hope you all have a good weekend!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Gone to ground.

Hi all! I am feeling very well and doing great. Thanks for the kind wishes. I got back home and just fell into a funk. I've got a huge stubborn streak and the more I felt pressured to communicate with the outside world the deeper I dig in my heels and refused. People mean well, I know, and I'm not claiming that my way is the right way, but over the years I have come to discover that right or wrong it is a character trait that is very central to who I am. I don't like to be pushed. In fact pushing me is a sure way to get me to do the opposite of what you want. So, like any good fox, I went to ground and absolutely refused to surface until I was darn good and ready.

Thank you all so much for your kind comments on the story. I've worked along time on it and the characters are like my own children. So it is nice to see them so well received. I will definitely be posting more in the future.

I've been re-reading an old fantasy series that is a favorite of mine (David Edding's The Belgariad) and enjoying rediscovering old literary friends. If you want an excellent example of strong character development, Eddings is one to look at.

I've also been watching lots of the Olympics and have been amazed by both the skill and good sportsmanship of all involved. Now if only we could get the media to adopt some of those good manners. I dream. I dream. The opening ceremonies left me completely awed. Words actually escape me - the artistry, sophistication, taste - all exemplar.

So, that's me.