Niece1Herisme and Niece2Herisme are turning into beautiful sweet puffin muffin teenagers. Even an objective observer would note their individual beauty and powerful brilliance. I am totes not just saying that because I am their AuntHerisme. I am SO serious, y’all. Seriously. Watch out, world!
There was a realization for me about a year ago to compare NiecesHerisme to when I was making the big transition from being just double digits to a true teenagers – you know that BIG 12-13 year. The year I had a pivotal experience of being pursued as a bride. Not in a sweet puppy love from another 6th grader way, but by an actual full-on adult man.
When I was in 6th grade, my family was relocated to Germany for my father’s work. We moved to just outside of the capital of Bonn at the time. Yes, this was before reunification. Yes, I am old. Yes, I love Beethoven too. To give you an idea of where I was developmentally: While I had “blossomed” so to speak (precocious menstruation commenced at 10 ½), my brain was still operating in the Santa-IS-SO-REAL-because-I-have-seen-his-sleigh-fly-over-my-house-with-my-own-amazing-eyeballs zone. It has been reported that I engaged in a full out tear inducing screaming match on the playground over this. Allegedly.
I still have the bag I decorated for that Christmas to use as my stocking, as ours were packed away on a ship headed for Europe. My glitter adorned handwriting resembles what you might see a cherubic first or second grader produce today – both in content and style. When we had to pack our own suitcases for the journey, I dutifully placed everything into my suitcase according to MotherHerisme’s list of instructions. There was a ton of room remaining in my suitcase, so I unpacked the dolls and stuffies from the moving boxes. I chose the ones I felt would be most vulnerable to overwhelming heartbreak and worry being stuffed into a box on a ship, and put them all into my suitcase.
We were scheduled to stop at GrandparentsHerisme’s home in Athens, Georgia for a few weeks while packers finished up at our house. MotherHerisme came to inspect our suitcases and she was not impressed with my clever fix to helping alleviate the mental stress of my stuffies and dolls. Turns out, the extra space was meant for the Christmas presents we would be receiving at GrandparentsHerisme’s. MotherHerisme is far from heartless and did permit me to keep one doll and one stuffy in my suitcase. It was a tough emotional experience – but everything worked out well. I survived. The shipped dolls and stuffies survived. Christmas was celebrated and we boarded an airplane for Germany.
So very developmentally different than a 6th grade girl today –
very very much different.
Our housing had not yet been secured when we arrived to Germany. FatherHerisme’s company had us stay in a hotel in the city while we waited. Not just any hotel – a super duper 5 star beauty. We had three rooms because BrotherHerisme was not legally permitted to share a room with either ParentsHerisme, SisterHerisme or myself. Parents in one room, girls in one room, sweet baby boy in the 3rd room. We kept our room connection door open between the kids’ rooms, running back and forth, making our own fun, like hooligan kids do.
Living in a big fancy hotel in a big fancy city was an entirely new experience for all of us. The only travel we had done up to this point in my life consisted of camping or staying with relatives. FatherHerisme dictated a very frugal conservative lifestyle.
Fancy 5 star hotels and their guests are not living frugal lifestyles. We had breakfast delivered to the room in the morning before school. We had a driver who picked us up in the morning, drove us to school, picked us up in the afternoon and deposited us back at the hotel. We dressed for dinner in the hotel dining room or we wandered the streets of the city to find a restaurant that would permit children in the dining room. At that time in Germany, dogs were regular restaurant guests, but children were not welcome.
A Balkan restaurant around the corner from the hotel, took pity on my mother one evening when she was trying, solo parenting with 3 children, to find a place which allowed children. They sat us in a booth by the kitchen door to be less conspicuous. We ended up eating there a lot over our 4 year stay in Germany, and almost every night while we were in the hotel. When I was older, my mother shared with me that the restaurant owners gave her free before and after dinner sweet liquors to keep up her good health and stamina with 3 children. Occasionally she would permit us to have a tiny sip. I’m fairly certain this factored in to our frequent dining choice of the Balkan Restaurant. My memory order is champignon schnitzel mit pommes frits und eine kleine lemonade, bitte (I beg your pardon of my awful memory of German).
The thing I loved the most about living in the hotel, other than the extra chocolates the cleaning staff would leave for us, depending on how tidy we left our room, was the pool. They had a pool in the basement! Prior to this, I had never seen an indoor pool except at the YMCA. I loved swimming. I still love swimming. The best thing about the pool in the hotel was that as long as BrotherHerisme or SisterHerisme went with me, I could go as often as I wanted to! SisterHerisme could not be bothered by the silliness and fun that exuded from every pore of mine and BrotherHerisme’s body (she was totally, like, a High School teen and stuff). BrotherHerisme and I would put on swimming suits, sneakers, grab a towel, race to the elevator and swim, swim, swim!
When we first arrived at the hotel, though, neither one of us had a swimming suit with us. It never crossed my mother’s mind that a pool would be available to us. MotherHerisme tried shopping for swimming suits (pre-internet, we had to scour retail spaces called department stores for things. Google this ancient ritual for more information), but other than ridiculously expensive resort wear, no swimming suits were available, due to it being in the middle of winter (again, Google ancient shopping seasons in the 80’s). Luck found us when MotherHerisme was befriended by another American Lady who also had 3 children, the same ages as we were. We borrowed their extra swimming suits and were off on our fancy hotel pool adventures.
I was super excited because the swimming suit I borrowed was pink. All pink. I was a super pink girl and this completely fit in my super pink world. BrotherHerisme and I were unstoppable in our swimming goals! We held our breath the length of the pool. We jumped in and sat on the bottom for tea parties. We raced back and forth. We splashed and squealed. Happy hooligans at the poolagains.
One fun pool afternoon with BrotherHerisme, there was another person there. Usually we had the place to ourselves. I suppose fancy hotel guests are not into pools, I don’t know. It was a man who greeted us in perfect English and played with us. Having come from insulated MidWestern Suburbia, it never occurred to BrotherHerisme or myself that we shouldn’t trust a polite adult. There was no “stranger danger” curriculum back in the day. We readily included him in our play. After this, he became a regular at the pool when we were there. He even started bringing us treats to the pool: candy, French fries, milkshakes, cookies etc. We were having a grand old time at the pool. ParentsHerisme were completely unaware of our shenanigans, other than knowing we were safely together, safely in the hotel, safely in the pool area.
…(to be continued)…
Love, Ms. Herisme xoxo
This is not a secret code to challenge your brain.