Memories of Germany
Remembering Edith & Wolfgang
by Cameron Brtnik
June, 2014 – We’ve lost someone dearly beloved to us. Edith Herzog, 1932-2014. She lived a long, full life, then lost a battle with cancer. Otto, her brother, and my dad, spoke with her on the phone in the weeks prior to her death and said she sounded well, in good spirits. He was able to talk to his only sister before her passing, and I am grateful for that.
I always wished we – my younger brother, sister, and I – were closer with our family in Germany: Aunt Edith and Uncle Wolfgang, cousins Roby and Bepsi, her husband Helmut and their kids, our dear cousins Eva and Kati, and of course, our Omi. Not close in the sense of family, but in terms of distance – we saw them very infrequently as kids, but made trips whenever we could visit. Sometimes Otto would take all three of us. I went alone once, and Adam and Meghan went on other occasions. They were all memorable trips, in no small part due to the generosity and hospitality we felt as soon as we arrived.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are of visiting my wonderful family in Stuttgart, Germany. Our Aunt Edith – sweating and slaving in the kitchen, our uncle Wolfgang – yelling Edith’s name from another floor high above, perhaps about the laundry or maybe looking for his glasses. Taking a short car ride into town to pick up some sparkling water (which I hated. They never drank spring water so I just had to get used to the unpleasant fizzy taste) in Wolfgang’s Mercedes Benz – never the “top of the line model with leather interior,” but a beautiful automobile nonetheless (as a retired engineer at Mercedes he would receive a new Benz every two years, not a bad retirement package!) or to pick up fresh pretzels in the morning (I still have an unhealthy love of those warm, squishy pretzels). And watching Walker: Texas Ranger (which was unusually popular in Germany) starring, yep, Chuck Noris, on TV with my auntie Edith.
Eating is a considerable part of German culture and I can remember Edith working in the kitchen all morning to prepare lunch (in American culture dinner is the biggest meal whereas in Germany lunch is – In Taiwan EVERY meal is the big meal), which was always hearty and delicious. We would then make our way into town to shop, or travel outside of Holzeim (the quaint, hillside town where they lived) to go sightseeing, visit picturesque towns, gothic churches and modern museums (my favourite was always the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart).
They generally made sure we were always busy during our visit. There were also neighbours who had kids our age, so we were never bored, even if there was a language barrier – isn’t it funny that these things don’t matter as a kid? My favourite way to pass the time would be to wander beyond their backyard, cross over the train tracks, pass through the poison ivy, and into the rolling green hills just beyond their home. It was a beautiful, picturesque landscape, and I can remember feeling quite at peace, riding a bike or just hiking through the hills.
One of my fondest memories of my aunt Edith was when I was about 15, and had met a German girl at the local gym. This girl had particularly long fangs that masqueraded as teeth. We went on a date and I ended up with a painfully visible hickey on my neck. Edith nicknamed her “Vampire Girl” from then on. We never had a second date. (If you’re reading this, add me to Facebook! Or should I say Fangbook?)
I’ll really miss Edith and Wolfgang – I never got to say bye to them, and I haven’t visited in almost ten years. But every visit I had was so momentous it never felt that long between visits. I wish I could sit down and have a chat with them now…. Edith’s laugh filling the room (she always did have a great sense of humour), Wolfgang, serious, stern, but generous and always joining in on the joke. They were more than just great but amazing people that I’ll always hold close to my heart.
I remember always looking up to my cousin Roby as a mentor – a fashion expert, music buff, and ladies man (though he’s now engaged with children), he had a big impact on me as a kid. We still have lots of great family in Germany, and we should all make efforts to see each other whenever possible. In fact, Meghan and JP will travel to Germany next week. I wish I could join you guys! I know you’ll have an incredible trip, and make even more lasting memories. And if you happen to see Vampire Girl, tell her…that she left a “lasting impression” on me.
Dedicated to Omi, Edith & Wolfgang
Written by Cameron, September 10, 2014