The year is 1995, fifty years after the end of the war and I am sixty years old. Where has the time gone. My hair is gray, but only I know.
I asked my husband once if he wanted to see what I really look like and he said 'I like what I see,' so I had it colored once more. The waves are my own.
We are taking our Dodge '74 motor-home out for the last time to our favorite camp ground in California. When we come back here next time at Lake Cahuilla, east of Palm Springs, we will be camping in a small two-person tent. Because I love sleeping in a tent.
We are assigned a site next to a local couple, I notice, as their vehicle license-plate says California. The woman is my age I guess and speaks with an German accent, which reminds me of the end of the war fifty years ago.
My husband and I reminisced about my adventure in the potato cellar in 1945, and the strange affair with 'our' German soldier at that time.
The woman's accent annoyed me for some reason, reminding me of that time in a negative way, and she made it worse by asking me to take care of her 'darlings,' a pair of Chihuahua dogs while they can visit their friends.
I said I would, as long as they would be back before supper time.
They were not, so we asked another neighbor to dog-sit the little things who were no trouble.
When we came back from our diner the doggy owners apologized profusely, inviting us to their campfire.
The woman informed us that she was born in northern Germany not far from the border with Groningen and a little later she started telling a story that gave me goose bumps.
I listened intently as she started
“Our house was located just on the outskirts of a small village in northern Germany not far from the Dutch border. One day a platoon of soldiers whom had retreated probably from from your country arrived in our village. One of the soldiers knocked on our door and ordered us out of the house.
'There will be fighting, we need your house,' he said. My mother was scared and asked the soldier to leave us alone but he insisted that we leave and find a place to hide hide into the marsh immediately.
When mother saw that he would not budge, she begged him to come with us.
'I can not do that Fraulein,' he said, 'I am in uniform.' Mother pleaded for him to come in.
'Take off that uniform, my husband's clothes will fit you fine, he is also in the Wehrmacht and who knows he may never come back to me.'
I had never before heard mother mention her fear that my father might not come back, it frightened and saddened me. I started to cry.
'The war is over anyways,' mother tried yet, but to no avail. And then we left the house for the marsh. I was a little girl then but still I remember, I remember it like yesterday.
That night the sky lit up and the air was filled with the rat tat tat of machine guns. At dawn it was all over. An eerie stillness hung over the village. All the soldiers were gone.
All, except for one.
He laid in the middle of the street. Face up - dead. My mother stood over him. She recognized him as the soldier who had talked to her only hours before.
'Foolish man, is this better than?' she cried. 'Don't you think it is silly to die on the last day of the war. Will you men never learn? When will you men ever learn.'
That was the last day of the war for us. I was little then but I still hear mother cry
'When will you men ever learn?'
It was very quiet in the campground and so were we, for what seemed a long time.
The dark comes fast in California. The campfire was almost gone and the host threw a few logs on the hot ashes, fanning the fire
and then I began to tell my part of the story of the last days of the war which was like a previous chapter out of the same storybook... “
Ten years after our camping trip to south California were we met the woman with the German accent, in 2005, we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary, and then I started to feel signs of weakness. I had trouble making the long stairway up to the reception area.
Instead of camping in the small two person tent, because I was unable to get up from the low bedding, we purchased a van, so I could flip my feet trough the side-doors outside making it easier for me to move in and out.
It still took a year before I was finally diagnosed with Lou Gehrig disease, ALS.
I have never been one to give up easy, so we kept on camping in California and Arizona until it eventual became too hard for me.”
Here ends Anne's portion of this story.
Anne was using a wheelchair already, in fact we were only half a year away from her dead when we received a call from Norma Maarhuis who lived only a few miles from us across the US border, telling us that a dutch couple were visiting them who wanted to see Anne.
When I asked Anne if she was up to it, she gave me that Smit look of who-do-you-think-I-am, and said 'lets go.'
What a surprise awaited us!
The Dutch man introduced himself as the son of Roelof Maarhuis, the fugitive out of Anne's story and his vivacious young wife from Brabant! The reason he had asked for Anne was that she was the only one alive who could fill him in about his father's life during the war.
There was no question about him being the son of Roelof Maarhuis.
'It is as if I see his father' said Anne, 'he definitely looks like a Maarhuis. He proved to be a strong man as well, as he carried Anne up on the stairs into the Maarhuis house, which Anne thoroughly enjoyed.
Anne and the Dutch guest were sitting close together, Anne had placed her hand on his knee as she related to him the story about his father Roelof, the fugitive who never saw his son - to the son who never saw his father.
.... and so the tapestry transcending time and place began far far before Groningen via California and Sumas Washington goes on and on and on ....
where in the world did I hear that?