Succulent Peaches and Playful Friendship with a French Girl
The yard around the house at Maria-Theresia-Str. 4 was beautiful indeed. A hedge completely surrounded the property except for the iron wrought gate near the main entrance of the house. Various fruit trees decorated a good part of the yard, and the peaches were reaching full maturity. There was nobody who expressly told me not to eat them. I ate them, because they were there and because they tasted delicious. With each new bite the juice was squirting into my face and running down on each side of my mouth. My taste buds were so delighted that I overindulged in the pleasure of eating the succulent fruits, until my stomach began to grumble and was sending warning messages, which I chose to ignore. Too late! At first I barely made it up the two flights of stairs to get to the bathroom on time. Then the visceral revolt became too strong, I ran behind a bush to relieve myself. A woman from a next-door balcony watched in horror the revolting sight and rushed over to complain to my aunt, “This boy did not have the decency to go to the washroom and he disgusted himself on the lawn.” This was the way she described it in her excessive sensibility regarding bodily functions with that the rare German expression ‘Er hat sich verekelt.’
On the ground floor lived a high-ranking officer of the French occupation forces with his wife and a daughter, who was about my age. She often came out on the yard to play with me. There was no language barrier. We played all the simple games we had learned in school that required no or very little equipment, such as hopscotch, throwing pebbles into a circle, hide-and-go-seek, etc. Prejudices of our two different nationalities did not exist in our young hearts. The extent of my French vocabulary after three months of instruction was still under one hundred. However, under the tutelage of this vivacious little girl bubbling over with words and gestures my stock of words grew by leaps and bounds. When I made my first attempt to use some of the new phrases I had learned from her, she giggled goodnaturedly over my enthusiastic effort to communicate in her mother tongue. I have very fond memories of my summer holidays in Freiburg, and they will remain as one of the pleasant highlights of my childhood years in Southern Germany.
Upon my return to Messkirch things were looking up for awhile. My homeroom teacher Fräulein Welte was quite pleased with my sudden interest in French and with the general improvement in the other subjects as well. My more positive attitude was in part prompted by the so-called ‘blue’ letter. It was sent home to inform parents about their child’s poor performance in school. Now I was no longer in danger of failing the grade. Also there was a more pleasant atmosphere at the Stoll family. They must have enjoyed the break from having to deal with me during the summer holidays. The focus was now on the upcoming joyful event. For the baby was due in less than two weeks.