The worst way to wake up from a good night’s sleep for me is to hear my dear husband fall. Through this MS experience, Ken has become a falling expert. So far, he hasn’t hurt himself except for developing a few bruises. But this morning, I found him on his belly, hips balancing precariously on the first step leading to the basement, arms out-stretched on steps three and four, while his legs lay in the back hall.
I thought for a few seconds how I was going to get him safely on the landing, and the only answer seemed to be to tell him to push with his arms while I pulled on his legs. Long story short — I rescued him. This time.
I’ve cautioned him a zillion times not to go near the basement steps, but the MS has formed lesions on his decision-making part of the brain, and he believes he can accomplish tasks he really shouldn’t take on in the first place. Today may have done the trick. I think he scared himself silly and will be less apt to attempt any activity which involves being any where near the back hall.
These kind of experiences first scare me and then frustrate me. My sadness comes from the ever-changing dynamics in our marriage, making me more of a caregiver than a wife. But what’s a person to do? I guess the only answer is to live in the present, try not to think of the past, and not anticipate the future. Yeah. That’s what I’ll do once I can breathe again.
APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 1 1936-1938
Berlin, German -1937—Heidi Schiller considered herself the black sheep of her family because her fair complexion and blond hair set her apart from her three siblings with dark hair and eyes. Heidi stood almost five feet tall, and she carried herself like a graceful bird in flight when she walked. Her dreams of becoming a ballerina and dance on the biggest stages of Europe kept her busy. When she danced, an exciting stimulating current moved through her body. As she moved her body to the notes of classical music, her spirit soared to heights she wanted to keep forever. Best of all she realized audiences sat breathless as she floated across the stage like a fragile butterfly.
Her parents wanted her to travel the regular journey of a girl–to marry, keep house, and give birth to healthy children, which was a world away from what Heidi wanted for herself. Her world centered on dance. Even now at age sixteen she never bothered thinking about boys. The boys her age stayed focused on the expanding army while they dreamed of serving Germany. Heidi found their political talk nauseating.
Her sweet personality endeared her to her father, but her shyness frustrated him. He usually caught Heidi curled up with a book in some corner of the house when she should be attending parties with her schoolmates.
Heidi held no realistic visions after completing her secondary education. Her parents made it abundantly clear dancing needed to be left in her past and she should quit dreaming about such a frivolous future. When the pressure of her future got too much, Heidi ran into the woods and danced among the trees. How could she ever forget about dancing when this art filled her soul?
Berlin, Germany – April 1939—Leisel invited Heidi and Marta to help her shop for a special outfit for the Fuhrer’s fiftieth birthday celebration. Heidi loved beautiful clothes as much as her friends, but such frivolous purchases didn’t fit into the family budget. Instead she encouraged Leisel and Marta while they selected pretty dresses, shoes, and hats for the Nazi party. Heidi only bought new hair ribbons. Over a lunch of bratwurst and potato salad at the Hoffbrau Haus they rested their aching feet and tried to guess what the special birthday party would offer.
“Marta, I just love the dress you bought; that blue suit brings out the color in your eyes.” Leisel commented and added. “Heads will turn when you walk by.”
Marta teased. “No. Boys will only look at you. We are only dust in the wind.”
Leisel blushed. “I can’t help I am beautiful.” She tossed her head back and laughed. “Perhaps you girls should get your heads out of the clouds and get serious about finding a beau. Heidi your parents will never allow you to dance as a ballerina, and Marta you are just as bad wanting to become an artist. You must realize our fates are set in stone. Why torture yourselves with such dreams?”
“What are your dreams, Leisel?” Marta turned the tables.
“My Vater will not allow anything but marriage. He informed me he intended to choose my husband.”
Marta persisted. “But if you dreamed of the most wonderful future in the world, what would you like to do when you graduate secondary school?”
“I would become a teacher. No. A professor at the university. As long as we are dreaming, I may as well make my non-existent plans large, ja?” She laughed.
Marta never heard Leisel be serious about a career. “What would you teach?”
Leisel waited before she answered. “I would teach mathematics. No. astronomy. I wonder what is beyond earth in the stars. I wonder how the sun continues to burn keeping a whole planet inhabitable. Yes. Astronomy. I would choose astronomy.”
Marta and Heidi sat stunned.
Marta said, “You must go to university, Leisel. You would make a grand professor.”
“And how would I so such a thing? My Vater would rather die than encourage a girl to rise to such heights. Even if he condoned my studies, only men get into the university.”
“You must think of a way.” Marta encouraged her. “Women go to university. What about Ida Noddack, the chemist who co-discovered rhenium?”
“Why should I dream of such things, Marta? It is impossible to change my Vater’s mind about anything.”
“Or how about Emmy Noether the mathematician?”
“Marta, please stop. I admit some women are exceptions to the rule, but we all realize only men are professors. If I possessed the stamina to travel such a lofty track, I would only become a bitter unfulfilled woman. I am content to accept reality and be happy about marriage and children.” Her tone showed an element of defeat.
“You are so brainwashed, Leisel!” Marta blurted. “Why should men deem our destiny?” She realized her voice and grown loud. She softened her tone and added. “I guess we all look at the future in different ways.”
Heidi remained silent. She would never let go of her dream of dancing. As the other two girls pictured their non-existent futures, she pictured herself floating across the national stage as a world famous ballerina.
Marta sat silent, too. She vowed she would not let her father quash her dreams no matter what.
The Fuhrer’s birthday party started on the afternoon of April nineteenth and continued for a couple of days. Throngs of his followers lined the streets with flaming torches to light the way for their charismatic leader. People screamed as a cavalcade of fifty white limousines brought the Fuhrer into the city. The motorcade traveled a four-mile route to a newly built boulevard which became the central thoroughfare to Hitler’s new capital of “Germania.”
The parade traveled to the Reich Chancellery, Hitler’s residence in Berlin. He appeared in a window and saluted the crowd below. Leisel didn’t understand why he appeared with no expression. If she thought people wanted to celebrate her in such a flamboyant way, she would be waving with great enthusiasm.
Marta concluded Hitler seemed bored. She didn’t understand why most people screamed with hysteria. She thought he clearly viewed himself above all others.
Because Leisel’s father secured invitations for his daughter and her friends, the three girls went inside the Chancellery to attend the ball after the parade. The girls strolled into the grand ballroom to witness hundreds of gifts piled on tables around the periphery of the room. A twelve-foot high model of a huge triumphal arch designed by Albert Speer sat as the centerpiece in the room. Everyone attending the party got a sneak peak of the architect’s dream of the future.
The over-the-top affair took Leisel’s breath away, and she realized she would carry this special night with her for the rest of her life.
A handsome Nazi officer approached Leisel and bowed. “Frauline, will you dance with me?”
Leisel extended her hand, winked at Marta, and took the hand of the boy. He whisked her away twirling to a Strauss waltz.
Marta’s aristocratic beauty attracted a good-looking young man asking her to dance, but she refused saying she didn’t want to leave her friend Heidi alone. Heidi longed to sway to the beautiful waltzes, but in her plain-looking house dress, no boy approached her all evening.
A bigger spectacle took place the next day on April 20th–the Fuhrer’s actual birthday. Huge tanks, trucks, and half-tracks drove by the crowds. Fifty flag bears escorted goose-stepping Wehrmacht soldiers in straight lines. Leisel put her hand over her heart as the new country flag of red with a black swastika passed by. Waves of the Luftwaffe flew in formation overhead. Hitler seemed more pleased with this show of military strength than the previous night’s events. As his car passed, he stood and saluted the crowd.
“Isn’t this parade the most exciting thing?” Leisel screamed as the most popular leader in Europe went by.
Heidi and Marta nodded. No words could explain such a spectacle.
Since Hitler’s election as Chancellor, Germany took her place among the world’s greatest powers. New buildings and a system of roads named autobahns put people back to work throughout the country. People once again held their heads up with national pride. Down-trodden Germany was the past, and a new Germania emerged. Hitler pulled Germany out of the deepest depression the world ever experienced and now life held promise for a prosperous future.
After the parade, Marta realized the show of military might positioned Hitler as a catalyst of impending catastrophe. She read accounts of the “Night of the Long Knives,” in the newspaper when Hitler executed leading members of the party to maintain his position. Under his instruction, a propaganda program designed to humiliate and dehumanize Jews grew up around Berlin. Posters and graffiti littered windows and the streets. Many people laughed, but Marta felt ashamed because of her father’s involvement with the movement.
Marta believed a man like Hitler should never be celebrated.