Every time our parents had a secret or something we should not know about we were taken to Schlossberg where our grandma, Uncle Remigius, also known as Uncle Dittl, Aunt Erna and our cousins lived. I was not very excited about the trip but it was always a welcome change to go there.
Grandma was the old man’s mother, and she was just as mean as he was. Not only did she terrorize her own grandchildren who lived in the same house, and her daughter-in-law, but she controlled all the people in the neighborhood and their children. All day she sat by the window so she wouldn’t miss anything or anybody. She kept a pair of shears close. In the evening she didn’t turn on the light so she could remain unseen. She would sit at the window until late into the night. She didn’t go to bed until the street was quiet.
Grandma seemed to know about everything and everybody. She was convinced she had to keep an eye on the “low class people” as she called them and they had to be thank full for what she was doing for them.
I always wondered why nobody told her to mind her own business and stop spying on the neighborhood. When one of the neighbor’s children passed the house carrying a shopping basket she would ask them, “What are you going to buy?” Or “Where did you get the money to buy all this?” Other times she’d ask, “Who gave you those new clothes? Who paid for them?” It was really embarrassing when she leaned all the way out the window and yelled, “Tell your mother that she shouldn’t let you run around so dirty.”
She bragged about her perfect family and her high stand in society. She said that everyone in the town respected her opinion and that she upheld a high moral standard. To maintain this way of life, her 14 children were raised with a strong hand, disciplined with the leather belt my grandfather, a shoemaker, made especially for whipping.
After these routine lectures the old witch, as I called her, explained that only this ruling and restriction gave her children the discipline they needed and my father became what he was because of it. He was famous as a 14-year-old and directed a 45 brace instrument orchestra and a 60 voice choir in Riffinging, a town close to Schlossberg.
“You useless kids,” as she called us, “don’t deserve a father like him. Neither one of you plays an instrument,” she would say. “And you,” she meant me, “are too stupid and lazy to attend the Conservatorium (School for music) with the beautiful voice you inherited from your father.”
What she did not know was that I had decided, out of hate for my father, that I would never learn an instrument or become an opera singer as he always wanted me to be. I hated her just as much as I hated him. In my helpless way as a child I swore I would pay her back for her evil and not attend her funeral when she died. Since it was her biggest wish that everybody should attend her funeral service, listening to the praises the priest would have for her and stand in tears on her grave. Nigg and I agreed that if the old pretentious holy witch could have her way she would demand the Pope sanctify her as holy and speak at her grave.
Even with all the bad things at her house it was better than being at home. Uncle Dittl and Aunt Erna’s children, Sylvia, Serena, Tanya and Remigius, who was called Miggele, lived in the upstairs portion of the house. Sylvia and I were born the same year and were eleven years old. We liked, and understood, each other even though we were rivals at times. I did not feel like playing with her dolls or any other game. It was nice to watch them play though. Sylvia and Serena never understood why I didn’t like to play house or mama and papa. Sometimes I wondered that myself, because my girlfriends asked me the same thing. They said I was not fun to play with. I wondered if there was something wrong with me.
On Sundays we had to go to their church. Aunt Erna gave me one of Sylvia’s old Sunday dresses to wear. I didn’t mind because they were nice. It made me feel just the way I had when Lella called me “a little princess”. The most important thing for Sylvia and me was the walk down the hill to the church. We made sure everybody saw us. We ignored Aunt Erna’s warnings to walk, and behave, like young ladies. We would swing and turn so our skirts flew up in the air. Serena, always obedient to her mother’s warnings, told Aunt Erna that we were showing off. Sylvia and I would just look at each other. I would get scared and she would start giggling. I was always amazed when other kids were not afraid of their parents. That certainly wasn’t true at our house. My father answered any disobedience with a hose in the laundry room.
These were Catholic relatives and we had to be on our knees a lot when we went to their church. Nigg always said “This is the last time I come to this church, my knees hurt.” The kneeling didn’t bother me.
After church Aunt Erna would be waiting for us with a big Sunday meal. She went to the early service so she could come home and start cooking for her family.
Uncle Dittl started teaching Miggele to fly when he was ten years old. I liked my uncle and sometimes I couldn’t believe that he and my father were brothers. Uncle Dittl was always in a good mood and almost never hit his children. He only gave them a smack once in a while.
When Uncle Joseph, my father’s other brother, showed up at the airport club it was always exciting. He called himself “the Count from Bollstadt”. When Uncle Joseph came in his big Mercedes there was always a crowd of people around him. If he did not wear his SS uniform, then there was always something that attracted people. He always had something special for the kids in his car. One time he had the trunk full of little baby rabbits as gifts for my cousins.
Those weekends did not come often enough for me and flew by much too fast. We I had to return to our everyday no good lives, working and receiving our “beneficial lectures”, as my father explained the beatings.