This account is told in the first-person manner of narration. It is something that could have happened, but didn’t. It had a real genesis in Germany in early 1956 – around February. I had just arrived in Stadt the previous late fall and within a few weeks I’d met Virginia. We hit it off immediately and began seeing each other from then onwards. This is a fact. We ‘went steady’ for almost three complete years – a fact that astonished the teen population of Stadt at the time as normal romances very seldom lasted longer than three or four months. This made ours very unique. I have posted many entries concerning our romantic progress on my blog over at Wordpress. You can find them here at this URL: http://tom1950.wordpress.com/
Within the last year, Virginia and I have managed to find each other and start a dialog. She is happily married and has three children and three grandchildren. So, with the permission of my first real love and definitely the permission of my second, and permanent (50 years and counting) real love, I have used some incidents in our real life and melded them into what I hope is an engaging tale. She has reviewed my story and, more importantly, approved of it.
What follows is what could have happened; definite wishful thinking. Events didn’t play out this way, although the two of us did talk about this very situation, we never actually carried it out. Not because we didn’t want to. Oh, how we wanted to. But more because of the trouble we would bring on both sets of parents, and because of our age; neither one of us were ready for parenthood.
During my three-plus year stay in Stadt, there was a couple who did act as I suggest here and wanted to get married while seniors in high school. The boy was ultimately grounded by his parents (yes, they knew about that way back then), and the girl was immediately sent back to the States by her parents to live with a maternal grandmother and have her baby. This very effectively ended their romance. My story takes this rather sour circumstance, turns it around, and makes lemonade out of it.
Step into the way-back machine. It is now 1958…
Virginia and I celebrated our one-year ‘Anniversary of Going Steady’ in downtown Stadt. The weather was rather rainy, but our spirits were soaring. We had walked hand-in-hand down the hill from the housing area and made a visit to our favorite little restaurant, "Die kleine Prinzessin", or, The Little Princess.
Our meal was wonderful and, after we mentioned to Herr Krause, the proprietor, that it was our first anniversary, he provided a very nice bottle of wine. We ate our meal, drank the wine, and after taking our leave, walked down towards the center of town.
This was the end of summer or, actually a little into fall, and the trees were shedding their first colored leaves. The wind swirled them around our feet as we walked. Eventually, we found our way down to the Gasthaus we used exclusively for our lovemaking.
We had been using this certain place for almost six months now. We didn't really, consciously, look for it, but one day we were shooting pictures and it just spoke to us. There was a little grotto bar inside, a large seating area with a fireplace, and low tables to hold drinks or even an occasional meal.
Since both of us spoke German fluently, we were able to converse with the owners. Possibly under the impression we were married (although very young) they made us feel welcome in the inn. That very first night, we reserved a room for the next weekend. Now, that was six months ago and we'd used the room at least once a month since then.
I had a feeling that the owner, Franz August, and his rather stout wife, Angelina, had their suspicions, but neither of them made us feel uncomfortable. As far as our own parents were concerned, they had pretty much resigned themselves to the fact that Virginia and I were lovers - in every sense of the word.
It was for this reason, that they allowed us to spend weekends by ourselves. We were both cautioned that spending more than two nights was not allowed however - especially during school. We were both now seniors in high school. My father, after a rather embarrassing (for him) and painful (for me) session concerning the form of protection I was using, just accepted it as a fact and hoped for the best. My mother, bless her soul, was much more romantic and took things in stride.
Virginia's parents, however, were a bit more careful. We had to tell them at least a week in advance before we took off on any jaunts unless they were just day trips. This way, they at least knew where we were if they had to reach us right away. In Virginia's case, I think her father was more tolerant of our behavior than her mother. Strange, but true. Actually, I think he liked me even though I was an officer's kid and he was enlisted; senior enlisted, but still enlisted.
Between Virginia and I we tried hard to speak nothing but German. If she got stuck, she'd use the English word and ask me for the translation. She was getting much better now and we could hold long conversations entirely in German. Willi, my friend at the German-American club downtown claimed I spoke just like a native. I doubted that a little, but it made me confidant I could mingle properly.
This afternoon was very crisp. The sun was a bright, hard point in the completely blue sky but gave little warmth. Virginia and I were in an area of town we were rather unfamiliar with. She wanted to find a particular church she'd read about in the town brochure. We'd set out at around two in the afternoon and, an hour later, still hadn't located it. After a lot of walking around we finally gave up and wandered into a shop to get our bearings. The shopkeeper was helpful and gave us directions to the church.
Virginia was very happy to finally see it up close. We could see the spires from a distance, but kept ending up in dead-end alleys at first. A quick conversation with a strolling policeman straightened us out. The church itself sat on a high piece of ground that projected out into the city. What we had to do was go up the hill above the church and then walk down a peninsula to cross over an old bridge into the courtyard. Technically speaking, I'd have called it a castle, but for over three hundred years it had been occupied by a sect of nuns. Between us, we shot four rolls of film.
Tired, but happy, we climbed back up the hill to the base and headed for my house for dinner.
* * *
A month later found us again walking down the hill from the housing area. This time, we were going to a movie, dinner, and an overnight at our little Inn. Everything I needed was in a small backpack I wore and Virginia kept all her stuff in a largish purse. We held hands to keep us from slipping on ice that had formed on the sidewalk because of a slow drizzle and below-freezing winds.
Virginia turned to me. "Tom, do you realize that we've been together much longer than Pearl and Jack?" Pearl and Jack, our closest friends, were graduates from the same high school Virginia and I attended, but stayed on after graduation to work as substitute teachers. They'd been together for almost three years.
"Yes. I do realize that, Honey. Next month is their anniversary. We need to think of something to give them."
"Well, true. But, I was thinking more about us – what will happen to us when we graduate?"
I was silent for several steps; lost in thought. What would happen to us? Her dad was nearing rotation time and my father’s wasn't that much further past that. For once in my young life I was almost sad that I was a military kid. Being such made it very difficult to put down any sort of roots or make long-term friendships because of orders that moved you away. This three-year tour of Germany was the longest tour of duty my dad had ever had before.
"I really don't know, Virginia." I said quietly. "I don't want to lose you … ever." I pulled her close as we walked.
"Hush. We'll deal with things as they happen; not before. Besides, we could be invaded by Martians tomorrow."
Virginia looked up at me and wrinkled her nose. "Yeah, there certainly is the risk of that."
We arrived at the Inn and greeted our friends, the proprietor, and his wife. They ushered us into the lounge and signaled for the bartender to bring us a drink. The four of us sat facing one another over a low table and chatted for a while. Franz and Angelina had good news: their daughter had finally given birth to a son - after two girls. Virginia and I congratulated them both on being made grandparents for the third time. I waved the bartender over and ordered a small bottle of champagne.
The owners protested, but I just told them to add it to my bill. We toasted them both, and then proceeded to refill our glasses. Sipping at the very decent wine, we talked of other things. Finally, they both rose and excused themselves, saying it was time to supervise dinner. We were invited to join them.
The Inn did not have a formal dining room and, rarely, had guests eat with the family, but Virginia and I were considered special guests and joined them. The fare was excellent. First, we had small appetizers of rolled pastry filled with meats and cheeses; followed by a course of small potato pancakes and sausages. Everything was delicious. For desert we were given a cherry cobbler still piping hot from the oven. The fruit came courtesy of the two cherry trees in the rear courtyard of the Inn.
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