Vienna 1977-78

I believe it was the day that Elvis Presley died that I was flying across the Atlantic, with a big tag around my neck with two letters on it, UA.  Unaccompanied Minor.  I had just turned 11 the month before. 

The stewardesses were all nice to me.  I am guessing Franz, Lisl, and Franzi met me at the airport.  Straight off, we were going to Tulnerbach, and I felt a sense of excitement, wondering what this place was, and what we would do.  We made a stop along the way and Onkel Franz and Franzi went into the store while Tante Lisl and I stayed by the Volkswagen van.  She smoked a lot.  Right after her cigarette, she would pop a mint in her mouth.  I don't remember her being friendly or even really making an effort.  I didn't speak German and they didn't speak much English.  Little did I realize Tulnerbach was the 'cottage' and we would spend a lot of time there.  A big, cold, dark building of which we only used about 3 rooms.  I think there was an upstairs but I don't know if we ever went up.  Franzi is a year and a half younger than me but we didn't really connect.

I explored around a bit, there was a decent yard and stream, and close by there were two ponies.  I wanted to ride one of the ponies.  Most of our time in Tulnerbach, I was bored.  I spent a long time on the swing.  I sang a few lines of a song I made up but never got beyond the few lines.

'As she disappeared in the mist, we knew that she was crying.

As she disappeared in the mist, we knew that she was sad'

At some point, I saw the fifth-floor apartment on Saulengasse in Wien.  The family owned this building.  Wow.  My mom had given up her third of the apartment to her sister, Lisl, in exchange for Lisl housing each child for a year.

There were a couple of English books in the apartment.  I read through them in no time.  And then what…?

My bed was in the living room, the bedding rolled out from the corner of the couch.

We did have Kamillo, the Wofspitz (aka Keeshond).  A dear, sweet dog.  He had a way of sitting on chairs ( or couches).  His weight on his hind legs and his front legs resting on the seat.  Tante Lisl complained that when I took the dog for a walk, we were back in no time.  When Franzi took him they were gone for a long, long time.  He would wander, watch construction, or who knows what.  Kamillo would get ticks, Tante Lisl would pull them out, turn the burner on the gas stove, and incinerate them.

Both Franzi and I were lefties but they were switching Franzi.  One thing I remember a lot of, is Tante Lisl yelling at Franzi.  His writing was atrocious (no wonder, they made him write with his right hand) and he hated school work.

I threw myself into my school work.  First day, Tante Lisl went with me on the subway to the school I would be attending.  An all girl's school.  I was in class 2B.  Basically, I did grade six twice and never did grade seven.  I liked the order and organization of the stationary store where we got my school supplies.  I learned to write with a fountain pen and loved it.  By the end of my year, I had the neatest writing but it didn't last.

I remember the first story we had to write in class.  I sat there with my dictionary looking up almost every word.  Probably translating word for word.  I put so much effort into it and got an NA, not applicable.  What I wrote was unintelligible.  I had a hard time learning to speak or write without the use of the word, hmm, I don't remember now, was it 'then' 'when'...

By the end of the school year, I believe I was a high achiever with good marks.

Before I absorbed German, I wondered about thinking in a different language.  By Christmas, I was thinking in German.  I was on the phone with my friend Catriona back home and it was hard to speak English. 'We no snow have here.'

December 6th, Kriskringle Day.  It stands out.  We went to church then.  I do remember the church on Christmas was so festive and upbeat and busy.  All people were given a kaiser bun.

Before going to Austria, I was horseback riding and diving.  I never did ride a horse while in Wien and was very sad about that.  I did diving lessons and they were good.  Near the pool was a trampoline, lessons of which were included with the diving.  I don't remember if it was there or when I got back when I stopped lessons.  I had been doing back somersaults and was supposed to be doing a back one and a half.  A block, mental, psychological, or emotional, I don't know.  I could no longer do a back somersault.  Don't even know if I could do a back dive.  That was it, I gave up because I couldn't get beyond the block.

One of my adult front teeth grew in quite crooked (I was called a witch) and while in Vienna I had simple braces and the tooth was straightened.  I did also see an optometrist, and got a prescription for glasses but it was never filled.  I sort of wanted glasses so I do wonder if I made my eyes seem worse.  I am glad I didn't get glasses.

Tante Lisl would cook stuffed peppers.  I remember one meal, someone was there with us raving about how good these peppers were.  What was in them? Horse meat.  I sat at the table and the tears rolled down my cheeks.  To this day, I have a hard time with cooked peppers and dill.

One time in Tulnerbach, Franzi and I were hiding out on the top bunk of the beds, looking at tampons, and then each other's bodies.

Ever so often, Opa would like to take me to art exhibits.  I have never had great appreciation for art.  He would bring along lemon Manner wafers to snack on.  How I wished for a different flavour, hazelnut or chocolate.  How ungrateful.

One time, Opa took me to visit his friend.  Her house was the top of a mountain with no other houses close by.  There was a big thunderstorm and they tried to park me in front of the TV but I was soo scared.  I was sure that by having the TV on, the lightning would strike the house.  I don't know if I was crying in fear but I was not happy.

I don't remember seeing much of Tante Suzi.  I did see her kids a few times.

In the winter, we did ski, and I really liked that.  Not sure how long we went for but several days of skiing and races.  I got pretty good.  I remember winning a chocolate bar (it was berry flavoured and not so good) by placing in a race.

By the end of the school year, I did have a friend.  Ursula, another outcast like me.  I remember being with her, up in a cherry tree, eating cherries.

I liked Onkel Franz.  He was kind and gentle.  He showed me the stars.  One night I couldn't sleep because my chest and breathing hurt when I was lying down.  He stayed with me.  How is it the Schananek girls married such kind, gentle men?


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