Friday, June 11, 2010

1 Freelance Friday: Travels with Vivi, a Young Family in Germany

We last left off with with Vivi booking a cross-Atlantic passage to reunite the family with George, stationed in Germany...

In Germany, Vivi divided her time between George in Frankfurt and her mother and sister in Hamburg, taking the children along wherever she went. In 1955, her daughter Lynn was born. It soon became obvious that Lynn had Down Syndrome. There followed a difficult time during which George and Vivi tried a range of approaches and alternative “cures” to deal with the diagnosis. Meanwhile, their house became an open haven for the many friends and relatives displaced during this post-war time: Vivi’s mother moved in, as well as her uncle, including a number of his girl friends, as well as other friends in need of housing. While the children were being taken care of by the numerous house guests, Vivi and George, often accompanied by Vivi’s sister, went on adventurous camping trips through Greece, Spain, and France.
In 1957, orders came to return to the US, this time to Texas. In Fort Hood, Vivi became the center of the neighborhood social life. She especially cultivated friendships with new German wives, giving them support as they adjusted to life in the US. The prevalence of these friends was so high that her children thought German was the language spoken in Texas, and had no difficulty maintaining their language skills. Vivi also consciously promoted German traditions, such as songs, crafts, and holiday activities, as well as readings in German literature, in order to promote an awareness of what she considered “Culture”. Regular art evenings, during which all family members painted together, were also a part of this effort. It soon became clear that while her daughter improved her ballet, her son Jan had exceptional talent in art, a source of real pride for her. 

Two years later, the family was sent back to Germany, first to Schwaebish Gmuend, then to Bad Toelz in Bavaria. In this picturesque town with the backdrop of the Alps, the family tried to settle in once again. Meanwhile, the pressure of adjusting to life with a child with special needs was taking its toll. Vivi’s daughter Kerstin was sent to go to school in the north, living with Vivi’s big sister, and her son Jan was considered for placement in a boarding school. Meanwhile, orders came to return to the US, and the family traveled to Oklahoma, leaving Kerstin behind to complete her education in Germany.
Next up, the family returns to George's native Cambridge, Massachusetts... 

This is the fifth installment from guest blogger (and Katrina's mom) Kerstin Potter.

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