Looking back, often we don’t see anything at all. The past can be colorless or a complete void. All the pieces may be there but you can’t see them.
Such is the past. Forgotten, misplaced or twisted. What we see as having happened can be altered by a simple conversation, a few words, added in the distant future.
I was in grade school. My family and I were refugees in a beautiful little town called Randegg, Austria. The hills really were alive with the sound of music. Majestic mountains were are all around us. All I knew was that we were there to stay. Our planned holiday was cut short by a long detour to a ‘better place’. That’s how my parents chose to escape communism: plan a holiday and never return home. We had a car and whatever ‘normal’ paraphernalia one needs to go on a holiday. That’s all.
I was a kid. I didn’t care. My parents said ‘we’re never going back’. I shrugged my shoulders. I didn’t know what that meant. Then school started. Full immersion into German. I didn’t understand a word. I sat there and did well half of the days in: math, science, and art. The rest was a mystery. I made friends easy enough, so I thought nothing much of our displacement.
The Gasthof, where we stayed, was a large Inn and residence for the local police family in town. We were guests there. Everyday, a fresh breakfast of buns, fresh butter and jam filled our little one bedroom apartment. Life was good. As far as I knew. After many months, we moved to another town, and then again and again…memories.
Years later, my mom sat down with me and told me what life was really like.
We were in the Gasthof, because we needed protection from the communist government and possible spies that were after my parents. My mom had worked for the government. The police house was the safest place to be. Each day that I had walked to school, my mom or dad had followed me (without letting me see or know), to make sure I got there safely. The first few weeks my mom stayed in the back of the classroom. She said she cried silently, as she saw me sitting there. I didn’t know. If I was aware, I can’t remember.
Then there was the man.
After we settled in Randegg, a very small place, the people all became familiar. Then, one day there was a large, well built man, my mom said. He was well dressed and didn’t fit in. He wasn’t touring around and appeared to be loitering. He was often at the restaurant where we ate. He was often on the streets, where we walked. I had never noticed him. She said he was a spy. I asked her why he would have been there and what he wanted. She said he was there to steal me so my parents would be forced to return to their mother country. She feared for my life daily. Then both my parents started walking me to school. I thought they just wanted to walk together as a family. With my dad at my side, every waking moment, eventually the man disappeared. After many months, we moved to another town, and then again and again…memories.
Such is the past. A few words and my memory will never be the same.