Life in the Kootenays is regulated by the ferry schedule. Last week, driving over the Monashee pass, we had 15 extra minutes. So we decided to stop at Lost Lake, which is located some 1200 m above sea level. Great was our surprise when we spotted four trumpeter swans that apparently made a short stop-over at this tiny mountain lake on their journey south to their winter quarters. They seem to be papa and mama swan with the two youngsters they had raised in the Yukon during the summer months. We had never seen these graceful birds in the wild.
In the previous post, I reported that on October 15, my wife and I went swimming in the nearby Whatshan Lake. In the meantime, we finally had some much-needed rain but the temperatures for this time of the year are still way above normal. My followers in their comments asked me when we would get our first frost. This question brought back some fond memories of my annual pilgrimage to the mountains. In the 1980s, I never climbed up to the 8200 ft McBride mountain alone. At least one of our five sons accompanied me. Our hike would take place near the end of August. Often the meadows of the lower valley were covered by a white blanket of frost. Fast forward to the presence. Heart Creek, our main source of water, almost ran dry this year. Our garden is still producing red beets and cherry tomatoes. Only yesterday I picked a basket full of these delicious fruits from the vine. This is just another piece of evidence of climate change. Quite frankly, as pleasant as an extended warm spell may be, it makes me quite a bit worried.
Our son Tony and I are on the plateau of McBride. (1986) The ridge behind us leads to the higher Mt. Hilda
My wife planted the tomatoes in the soil under the gravel. They enjoyed the extra heat from the rocks.
Gisela’s grandparents always received us warmly when Gudrun and I came for a visit, and they treated us with delicious homemade refreshments. They took a genuine interest in our lives and liked to tell us stories of their exciting past, Unlike Gisela, Gudrun was very outgoing and radiated warmth. She always had a sweet smile on her round face. Blond, blue-eyed and well-developed, she liked to take life easy and have fun. While I still wore hand-me-down clothes from my second cousins, Gudrun had the most beautiful skirts, blouses and dresses, which her mom sewed for her. Like Gisela’s mom, her mother was a war widow and a seamstress. She also had a tailoring business at her home. Gudrun’s grandma lived with them. But her grandfather was dead. Gudrun’s Oma did the household chores while her mom sewed on a big long table in the corner of the spacious kitchen close to the window. Gudrun’s well-dressed mom looked glamorous with her fashionably styled blonde hair, heavy makeup and bright red, enormously long fingernails. They were curved like claws. I secretly wondered how she could handle delicate materials with them. She would take frequent smoke breaks showing off her long fingers by gracefully holding the cigarette. She half closed her eyes leisurely and slowly exhaled the smoke through her rounded red lips. Smoking looked so pleasurable and alluring to us girls. Periodically. a male friend of the family who was a truck driver for a brewery would visit Gudrun’s mom. At those times, much laughter and joking occurred, and thick clouds of smoke were coming from the sewing corner, distracting us from studying for school. I think her mom’s friend was a father substitute for Gudrun. Gudrun had a record player, a luxury our family could not yet afford. She owned records of the top hits, most of them gifts from her mother’s friend. We would listen with excitement to the catching songs and rhythms of Little Richard, Elvis Presley. Connie Francis and Brenda Lee. We would even dance around as soon as Gudrun’s mom and Oma ran errands. When our top idol Elvis sang, “Love me Tender,” we were mesmerized and started dreaming of first love.
Biene Hiking with her Father Walter Panknin
With this final post of chapter 6, Biene concludes her contribution to the Walter Panknin story. I will carry on with this family history in Chapter 7.
After our return from summer camp in Berg Neustadt, our parents told us the exciting news that the construction of the apartment building was nearing completion. If all went according to schedule, we would celebrate Christmas in our new home. Angelika had moved to Wolfsburg during the summer. My friend and I had been an inseparable pair, mainly keeping to ourselves. Angelika did not like to “share” me with other girls and had jealously guarded our friendship. I felt lost without her. I was apprehensive about going back to school, fearing being without friends. Once in a while, Angelika and I were invited to for a special occasion to Gisela’s house. Gisela was the girl from Eisenach, the famous town close to Gotha, where the Wartburg castle is located. But as so often in my life, my fears were unfounded. Gisela and her friend Gudrun felt sorry for me and asked if I wanted to walk with them during recess. They also invited me to do homework at their homes. They always took turns. Knowing my situation, they did not mind that I could not ask them back because of the Old House. I promised them they could always come to my place once we moved. They were okay with this prospect. Gisela lived with her grandparents, her mom and her older sister in a new apartment not far from our prospective home. Gisela’s pretty mom, a petite, dark-haired woman, was a war widow. Gisela had never known her dad, a pilot, who was killed shortly before her birth.
After the war and their flight from east Germany, Gisela’s mom worked as a seamstress while her parents took care of the household chores. Gisela, a tall, long-legged girl with big brown eyes, always wore the most stylish and beautiful dresses which her talented mom designed and sewed for her. Gisela was a bit more serious and reserved than most classmates and appeared to be older.
On October 15, a bright sunshiny day that felt more like summer than fall, my wife and I went again hunting for chanterelle at a nearby mountain lake. While we did not find many mushrooms so late in the season, we enjoyed a picnic at a tiny beach framed by forests and the brilliant blue sky. The sky’s reflections on the crystal-clear water transported us into a dream world rarely encountered on our troubled planet. Whether you believe it or not, Biene and I jumped into the lake for a very, very refreshing swim. Enjoy.
One day, we were all supposed to write a postcard home. I wrote a desperate plea to my parents to come and get me as soon as possible. A few days later, I received a letter from my father. I eagerly opened this welcome message from home with joyful anticipation. But what my father wrote to me seemed to top off all the bullying I had endured. Instead of comforting words, my father wrote what he may have thought to be a witty “dissertation.” He explained the linguistic origin of the German words ‘dämlich’ and ‘herrlich,’ roughly translated as ‘dumb’ and ‘masterful.’ Unfortunately, the allusions and fine points of his linguistic examinations are lost in translation. There are no equivalents in the English language. He told me that the word “dumb” derives from the word “dame.” On the other hand, “masterful” or “manly” originates from master or man, and ‘Herrlich’ also has the connotation of wonderful or glorious.
I could not finish reading my father’s letter because tears of shame and disappointment blinded my vision. But miraculously, my pain was short-lived. A supervisor approached me and told me I had a visitor waiting for me in the main office. When we entered, there was my beloved mother! It seemed like a miracle. She had made the long and costly trip by bus and train to see me against my father’s advice. I was overjoyed. We spent the beautiful afternoon together walking in the forest and talking. I unburdened my heart, and she listened with empathy. When evening approached, she gave me the choice of going back home with her or staying for the remainder of the vacation.
One thing my father’s letter had accomplished. It stirred up my pride and courage. I was going to show him that I was not that ‘dumb’ weak ‘dame’ intimidated by the ‘wonderful masters.’ I would not give him the satisfaction of proving his point. I decided to stay.I enjoyed the remainder of my time at the youth camp. I learned to ignore verbal assaults and not take them personally. I avoided playing unsupervised games with rough boys and sought out the company of friendly girls. I also noticed that the supervisors intervened more readily when they saw inappropriate behaviours. Maybe due to my mother’s visit, they were more vigilant.
Summer camp, in many respects, was a great learning experience for me and made me stronger. Thanks to my mother’s love, I felt happy and relieved that I did not quit or give in to fears and feelings of insecurity. In retrospect, I also appreciate my father’s words. Although it was not so obvious, he acted out of concern for me. He knew that by taunting me, I would rise to the challenge. In his words, I learned to ‘master’ my fears.