My husband informed me that my blog is confusing at times because it’s not clear who’s talking (Dad or me). The reader has to figure out who’s saying what. I’m sorry about that—this is a work in progress. From now on, I will be clearer about attributing the words spoken to the correct person. (What a concept.)
This is me, Debbie, starting this story:
So it was 1958, we had just arrived in Europe and there was a major change of plan. We wouldn’t be staying with the German relatives while Dad fulfilled the requirements of his fellowship as my parents had originally hoped. The alternative? Well, fortunately, Mom had the knack for making a home anywhere.
“Perhaps,” Dad said, “I should explain first the reason I applied for this fellowship. It’s many sided. Central, was studying church architecture but It also involved my faith, family life and various other factors. I’ll summarize by saying we were seeking an opportunity to stand back from our every day living to study life and architecture in other places and ages so that we could better understand ourselves and our own time.
We planned our itinerary so that our travels allowed us to study the various historical periods in approximately their chronological order.
After a week and a half in Spaichingen, during which time the three kids recovered from an illness that all the children on the ship seemed to have, we bought a 1954 Volkswagen and the papers, insurance, taxes, etc. required to drive in Europe. Our first problem was to get all the baggage and ourselves into the Volkswagen. We worked it out by removing the rear seat and arranging the suitcases to make a platform for the kids to play on, and left it at the hotel.
Our first reaction to our travels through Switzerland, Austria and northeastern Italy was that we were somewhat challenged. We found we could not associate ourselves with any group. Neither our budget nor our interests placed us in the “tourist” class with reserved hotels, guided tours, planned entertainment, etc. Traveling as a family with three small children kept us from being a member of the “student” group–youth hostels and the American Academy in Rome were out. We met G.I. families with small children who had been very helpful and friendly but obviously we were not in that group either. It gave us a very strange feeling to have the responsibility of a family with the only “home” available being a 4′ x 10′ Volkswagen.”
Thinking about Dad’s story now, I can’t help but wonder what I would have done at this point, knowing my home for the next six months would be a 4’x10′ space to be shared with my husband and three young children, one still in diapers. I don’t even like camping for a weekend. At two and a half years of age, it was an adventure for me and I fit in the Volkswagen pretty nicely. At 28, like Mom was, I’m not so sure I would have felt the same way.
I did take a vacation once during my first marriage in a 1968 Volkswagen, so I have a little sense of what she must have felt. Justin and I traveled the entire southeastern coast for days in search of a camp-site on the ocean. They were all packed with people and trailers. We decided to keep driving instead of pitching the tent. On and on we drove. I slept, making a nest out of my seat. Though I had sufficient leg room and a pillow, it was hot, stuffy and mosquito-ee. I would have given anything for a bed and a shower. We drove and drove until we ended up back home. Home never felt so good.
I recently uncovered an essay my mom wrote entitled What is a Home?. This is a section of it:
“To me, a home is a place of happiness and unity with one’s family. A true home must consist of more than rooms and furniture with nice lace curtains…. It must contain something which will serve as a magnet to draw us back to. That something, I believe, is the warmth, tenderness and understanding of our families.
All families have their differences of course but these small difficulties only serve to strengthen the love and to make us realize even more how much we need each other. Basically, the real foundation of a home is our family and our desire to assist and comfort each other. We must never expect to get more out of our homes than we put into them. We must always be willing to do our part in making our home what it can be.” –Dolores Rahn 1948
Thanks for the reminder, Mom.
(to be continued)