Mentioning the war

Several years ago on a balcony in the sun, I asked a German friend about the war.

We leaned back on deck chairs and coffee in hand, watching the morning traffic ride by in European streets below.

The season’s first summer breeze glided past, carrying fresh leaves through the sky and placing them neatly in the hair of passers-by.

“My grandma used to share stories about it when I was younger,” my friend replied after a long pause.

“About what it was like as a child, growing up and that. Her parents, my great grandparents, were very strict, she used to say. They wouldn’t let her go out to parties and social gatherings at her friend’s houses. The worst type of parents, really.”

“You know, those places everyone went to hang out, make friends, get kissed, have fun. Vacation camps, school camps, that sort of thing. Not allowed.”

“She probably didn’t get laid until she married. Can you imagine that?”

I said no, I could not.

“What sort of a life is that for a kid. Everyone else gets to be normal. How would that have felt? Isolated and alienated, while everyone else you know is out there growing up. And none of it was in her control.”

Breathing in the Summer air, she paused to enjoy the sun coming out from behind the clouds.

My German friend was from a small Bavarian town. They hold a yearly festival where everyone (mostly the men) go fishing in the canals for a day, and whoever catches the biggest fish receives the honour of serving it to the mayor for dinner in a big celebration.

Born in a city where the oldest building is less than 200 years old, It struck me how different our childhoods must have been.

“Life is a funny thing,” she continues.

“I used to get so annoyed at my parents for sheltering me. Bavaria isn’t a progressive place. I didn’t have the childhood I wanted, either. Which is why I left, and travelled here to study instead.”

“My Grandma told me this story only a couple of years ago, before she passed away.”

“I spent most of my life without having a relationship with her.”

“That sucks,” I said.

“It’s fine,” she replied, looking back at me. “See the thing about that strict childhood was almost every organised gathering back then, including the house parties, was organised by the Nazi youth.

“Not being allowed to go out actually saved her from the fate of many childhood friends, who later joined the movement.”

“I guess sometimes we can’t see the reason for what’s taking place in our lives until long after it’s happened.

“Isn’t that funny?”