Forty Years’ Hindsight

I view those first three years in Stuttgart through golden-tinged lenses. Such a strange situation! We settled in a snug four-bedroom row home, complete with two balconies stacked off the back: one opened into the first  floor living room, and the other was accessible through my parents’ second floor bedroom. From such luxurious loftiness, we enjoyed a great view of the opposing slope of the valley in which Hemmingen, our town, was situated. Three formidable granite-slab, open-riser staircases wound tightly from the basement to our wooden-slatted attic room. (My mom must have been frightened those first few months; my youngest brother was a very active two year old and could have easily slipped through the gaps. We were delighted; it was quite heady to gaze down from the attic to very bottom, and small stuffed animals enjoyed the ride, we were sure!)

We had an intercom system, too. I recall awesome sibling-scaring opportunities (your poor uncle T!) but it was not so easy to avoid a clean-up summons.

Our small 1000-year old farming town, about 20 km north-west of Stuttgart, was indescribably awesome. The main road we usually traveled led northwest between the “Funny Buildings,” tall avant-guarde-ish apartments, and the Schlosspark, (castle park – yep, legitimate ruins of “Schloss Nippenburg,” one of the oldest castles in the Stuttgart region, lay scant miles away), and then wound rather steeply through streets of small shops, farmhouses complete with odious cow barns, a kindergarten, town square, the train station, across the tracks which ran through the valley, and then a sharp left onto Schauchertstrasse. Our street ran parallel to the tracks for five long blocks before winding north; our postage-stamp backyard hugged the curve and we could run out from our back basement door and in six or seven level leaps hop right onto the roof of our detached garage. (Rarely, since instant punishment awaited any kid stupid enough to hop the safety railing!)

Our immediate neighbors: ultra-reclusive older German couple to the right, large American family to the left. We saw the former perhaps 10 times in three years; the latter became daily intimates. One or two other American families lived nearby, and we were the youngest children, we four, ranging from 8 to two.

Our life in this delightful farming town was very carefree from our young perspective. Only thirty years beforehand, a devastating war had crushed this land, and my grandparents’ generation had been the victors. The steep embankments sloping down from the major roads and train tracks were deliberately reconstructed from the rubble as natural protection against the potential threat of Soviet tanks. The “Fulda Gap” problem,only 300 clicks from our back door, was the reason for our extended visit!  We were confronted with those past and potential realities quite often, but mainly we rode our bikes to the playgrounds and small trough-fountains and the two penny candy stores, and walked to the small local grocery store to try out our awkward German as we bought milk and carrot bunches for Mom.



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