Friday, October 17, 2008

Christmas with Peter and Elisabeth

When we lived in Germany in 1972, we lived with Peter and Elisabeth. Elisabeth was our German landlady, but Peter was from Latvia, a refuge of World War II. During the war, he was forced to leave behind a wife and all his family. We were always told that if he went back to Latvia, he would be imprisoned. So after the war, Peter settled in with Elisabeth. Though they were never officially married, they were always like husband and wife.

My fondest memories of Peter was his gentleness and his love of Jack Daniel's whiskey. Dad always got him a bottle of that stuff when we visited. Elisabeth always greeted us boys with chocolate bars from her pantry, and then at dinner, she filled us to bursting.

We'd chant, "Ich habe genug! Ich habe genug!" (I've had enough! I've had enough!) before she'd stop filling our plates. As a very small child, I could get through three or four plates before giving up. Elisabeth loved me very much because of this. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more endearing to an old German frau than a kid who loves to eat her cooking.

To me, Peter and Elisabeth were like grandparents. I'm pretty sure that to her dying day, Elisabeth still had a pair of my baby shoes hanging decoratively from a pipe in her basement lounge.

We kept up with them clear until the 1990's, when we got word that Peter had died. We've never gotten word about Elisabeth or her family since then, and our cards and letters aren't answered anymore, but we're pretty sure she has passed on by now. She'd be near 100 if she were still alive.

There are more fond memories of Peter and Elisabeth in my blog here. My favorite is the time I learned to use a bidet.

But I digress--back to the video. In the video below, Peter and Elisabeth show up around 2:10. Video of Peter and Elisabeth is extremely rare in our family. So too is video of Dad with hair! And here is more!

Looking at Dad's hair in these videos, I can't help but thinking, "Dead man walking!"


Dad said...

Seeing Peter and Elizabeth sure brought back nice memories. They loved you and Michael like you were their grandchildren. I don't believe Peter had any Children, so you and Mike were their only grandchildren. I believe the young man sitting by Peter was Uwe. He was a relative of Elizabeth's and often served as our interpretor. Thanks for the video's, I am really enjoying them.

Mom said...

I didn't realize we had any movies of Peter & Elisabeth. It was wonderful to see them! When you & Elisabeth were sitting at your table & you gave her a kiss, she stroked your face & called you a "schoen boy!"

Elisabeth lost her husband during the war, I think at the Battle of Stalingrad. They never had children. By German law she inherited all of his property as long as she never re-married.

Peter had a wife & no children in Lativa. The Russians took his family to Siberia until the war was over. He was in the woods & was found by the German's & conscripted into one of their service units & wound up in Germany at the end of the war. He was not able to go back to Lativa. He did occasionally hear from his wife & family, but communication was difficult.

He & Elisabeth settled into a very comfortable loving relationship. They were a great couple. Peter was such a sweet, sweet man, much like Grandpa Harris. He had this broad Latvian face with snow white hair & crystal blue eyes. Elisabeth was a very loving & giving person. She always considered me the daughter she never had! When I used to go somewhere with her & Peter, everyone thought I was her "16 yr old daughter" (I was 26 at the time!)

Your shoes were still hanging in the basement party room the last time Dad visited in the early 90's
Elisabeth always said they would hang there until you came back to get them!!!

They were such a wonderful part of our lives. I still miss them & the friends that we made while we lived there.

When I came home from having Michael, the house was covered with flower arrangements & someone had come in & cleaned the house so I wouldn't have to. (In those days my house was spotless - so there really wasn't much to clean!)

The German's loved me because I washed my windows every week, scrubbed the front steps & swept the sidewalk & gutter in front of our house, Plus I was a good cook & would bake for 4pm coffee! Just doing a few things that the Germans did traditionally, endeared you to them.

I can thank Peter for teaching me how to make sauerkraut & Elisabeth for teaching me how to cook lots of German dishes. The only thing I didn't get to learn how to fix was sauerbeans with Rippchen.

Mom said...

I forgot, Peter LOVED Jim Beam Bourbon. When we got ready to leave Germany, we had all kinds of liquor that we couldn't take back to the US with us, so we had a huge party in Peter & Elisabeth's party room. All of their friends came over to help get rid of the booze. Those guys were mixing everything with coke - once they ran out of Jim Beam they went to the Jack Daniels, scotch, vodka, even tequila. They were a bunch of sick drunks the next morning!! Beer & wine were also served that night. When Elisabeth was a little queasy, she would always grab a beer to settle her "digestive". When we ate too much of her delicious cooking, she always had "Bonnekamp" to settle our "digestive".

Scott said...

I still have Boonekamp in my liquor cabinet to this day. I have to special order it from Germany.

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