Referencing a lyric from an Irish band on a day when I learned so very much about my maternal, German side of the family may seem inconsistent, but it actually couldn’t be any more appropriate. We each are the direct product of two people, yes? Of course, who we truly are involves many more than two individual people, as I was reminded on this very day.
Today I saw a WW II monument in the tiny cemetery where my grandparents are buried, with the name of my Opa’s cousin etched into the stone. Hubert Meder was 20 years-old when he died in service to his country. I saw a photo of my Great Uncle Josef, who I had the opportunity to meet many years ago, in the uniform of Germany’s army in that same war. When I knew him he had an accordion in his hands. There were photos of my Opa’s sisters taken when they were young, before they took their vows and became married to Christ for all of eternity. And I saw my first photos ever of my mother as a young child, in the days when she was presumably permitted to be a toddler before she had to mach schnell with always a purpose.
My eldest aunt shared her memories with me of a life when the sole purpose of girls was to contribute to the family’s income and assist in taking care of the younger children. I learned of the outrageous hypocrisy of a young couple, Ludwig and Rosa, who knew from experience the challenges and burden of becoming parents prior to marriage, yet were comfortable damning their own daughter (their third born child, yet the first to be conceived within the confines of matrimony) for the same sin. I felt the pain of a nearly 80 year-old woman who still did not understand why her parents continued to leave her to be raised by her Oma rather than claim her as their own for any reason other than to demand her wages once she became of age to work.
This afternoon the dining table nearly bowed with the feast spread upon it, but the soul was fed even beyond the belly. Seeing the pictures carefully mounted between onion skin, hearing the stories and knowing something of the people who came first, fills a place which will never again feel empty.