My Granny was born in 1891 in Berlin. My father is in many ways identical to her. Not only by appearance – hair, face, eyes and nose – but in this unbelievable capability to entertain people and in this absolute shocking lack of interest in any kind of family history. Both of them developed this weird „hobby“ to surprise and/or to shock people at least slightly by their eccentric behavior.
I once asked her: „When was my father born, in the evening or in the morning?“
She was very indignant: „Why should I know something like that?“
Actually my father was so shocked by her answer, that he nearly drowned himself in a bathtub full of self-pity.
I occasionally asked my father: „What was the first name of your grandmother?“
He hesitated a second and said: „Oma (granny)!“
Therefore I’m wary, maybe the young woman (left) isn’t his aunt Gertrude at all.
She was 93 years young, when my husband met her for the first time. As soon as she laid her eyes on him, every sign of dementia left her in seconds.
She looked at him, stretched her leg, pushed her skirt slightly up over her knee and said: „My legs are still elegant and slender. By the way I was a singer and I still fear to be kidnapped!“
If he wouldn’t be forewarned, he would have blushed from head to toes.
She was a small woman (under 1.55 m), slender build and very vain. Once my mother went shopping with her. My Grandmother was maybe 80 years of age at that time. The shop assistant offered her some black dress, because her husband was not long deceased. She pierced the shop assistant with her dark blue eyes over gold rimmed spectacles and said offended: „Do I look like an old woman?“
She visited a good school for girls. She spoke English and French – maybe Polish and a little bit Russian too -, was capable to type on a typewriter and write in shorthand. On the other hand she must have been very busy to provoke other girls by putting their long braids in her ink well. At least her real talent was trained in this school and maybe also during private lessons too: singing.
She had a extraordinary and well schooled voice. She could have worked as a soubrette and operetta singer. She did entertain people in private circles and in her later years she was invited for special occasions as anniversaries, weddings or christenings. She sang at least until she was over 85 years old and of course she never appeared in a black dress.
She wrote postcards on a very regular basis to family and friends. A habit she possibly developed in her youth, when postcards were still the „SMS“ of the 19th century. Back at the time people send often more than one card a day to the same person! Her correspondence was the center of her life and it was well sorted on her desk.
What did I inherit from her? My dark blue eyes, the oversized nose, the capability to entertain a large audience by not singing, the absolute incapability to sew or knit or entertain small children. Maybe I inherited her habit to write every day too.