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Auf Wiedersehen, Oma

When I was little, my dad and mom would take me to Germany to see my Dad’s mother. I called her “Oma” (which is German for grandma or granny). She lived in an apartment in Hannover. The apartment was filled with old people stuff. And old people, too. My Uroma and Uropa (great grandma and grandpa) both lived with her. I remember being chased by my Oma, telling me in her broken English to quit stomping around.

In the back of the apartment, there were black cherry trees. Me and my brother would go down there and practically strip the trees clean. The back yard was communal, so we really shouldn’t have been doing that, but we were silly kids. The rest of the back yard was divided into plots for each tenet to use for gardens and stuff.

The apartment building curved convex, following the outside of the curved street. If you followed the curved street one way, there was a shop that sold all the strange German sweets, such as Kinder Eggs, and comics in German like Biene Maja, Cubitus, and Asterix.

If you went the other way, there was a park. One of the neat things at the park was a wooden a-frame and wood boards, nails and hammers. Children were encouraged to build a tree house using the supplies and tools. I remember spending a whole afternoon there with a German speaking child, neither of us speaking the other language, but happily building a fort together.

Oma used to walk to the local market almost every day. The market was mostly outside, though some of it was inside in small stores. She only had a small fridge that fit under the counter top. The size of a dorm fridge. She usually bought supplies just for a day or two. She took me and Erik along several times, though I know we wore her out. I was fascinated with the fact that the milk came in a bag that would be put in a special pitcher so you could pour it.

She would, with my Dad and Erik, take the trolley with us to downtown Hannover. The center of the city was a pedestrian only. If you had a car, which Oma did not, you parked it outside the center and walked. There were glorious department stores, amazing toy stores, and fabulous candy stores. The closest thing to fast food was a chain called Nordsee (translated: North Sea). The food you got from them was delicious (and really, even obliquely comparing it to a chain like McDonalds is horrible).

She even went with castles to all of us, cheerfully complaining about our excessive energy. I can remember calling down to her after climbing up to scary heights and her calling up to tell me to get down.

We would tease her and make her go, “Ach, mensch” in a long drawn out exasperated exhale while rolling her eyes. Erik and I would endlessly imitate it, driving my Dad up the wall.

She bought her honey in a large metal tin. When it ran out, she brought the large tin out of the basement and heated in over the stove to liquefy the last of the honey. She poured out what she could and the rest would slightly burn and turn into a hard candy. She then chipped it out and gave it to me and Erik to eat. It was tasty.

After college, I didn’t return to Germany for a while. However, when I lived in San Antonio, Oma visited me and my wife, Robin. I was happy to see her. She didn’t walk so well any more, but we took here to see the Botanical Gardens and got her some good beef steak (Europe still had problems with Mad Cow at the time).

A couple years later, Robin and I went to Germany. We celebrated her 90th birthday. She didn’t walk much at that point, but we used a wheelchair to take her to a really nice restaurant in the middle of a deer park. We visited a lot of cool things in Germany, like castles and things, but Oma was too tired to join us.

Oma died last night (August 4th, 2007), almost making it to the age of 94 (her birthday is September 3rd, 1913). I will miss her.

Goodbye, Oma, I love you.

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The personal blog of Christian Höltje.
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