Friday, September 30, 2011

One, two, buckle my shoe. Drei, vier, Offizier

My mother was an Air Force brat. She spent her entire childhood moving from base to base which I can only imagine is both exciting and depressing as a child. I would have been terribly sad to up and leave everyone I knew every three years. Of course I never had to move growing up. For her it was normal and I doubt it bothered her as much as it would have bothered me.

One of the many places my grandfather was stationed was Germany. My mother was ages 6-9 while living overseas. She has on more than one occasion mentioned that in no way does a young child appreciate being in a foreign country. The significance of Europe and things like history and culture sort of escape children.

In fact the only things my mother really recalls clearly about her time in Germany was fainting in the Sistine Chapel, what type of gloves she had to wear to tea, dinner, and funerals, the fact that they lowered a basket out the window at night and in the morning pulled it up full of fresh bread and milk, and the only cartoon in English on TV was Felix the Cat.*

Because of this last bit my mother picked up some interesting German phrases that she never quite let go of. For example she does a fantastic Yogi Bear impression in German. She also remembers a number of German nursery rhymes, all of which she attempted to teach my brother and me when we were growing up. There was one I love that roughly translates to "This is you: Farmers cow, farmers donkey. That is you."**. I love it because it is fun to say in German and is insulting. As a kid it was cool to be able to say mean things in other languages.

The other one my mother taught me was this:

Eins, zwei, Polizei
drei, vier, Offizier
fünf, sechs, alte Hex'
sieben, acht, gute Nacht!
neun, zehn, auf Wiedersehen!

Which is the German equivalent to 'One, two, buckle my shoe.'
When I was little I could recite this one perfectly and on occasion would use this instead of its English counterpart in class. While my classmates were impressed I could speak German, my teachers were always a little annoyed after the first few times. It was well worth irking the teacher to be cool in my friends eyes.

 These days I can barely remember more than a couple of lines of any of the old German rhymes my mother taught me, but I am sure if I asked my mother would remember every word to them. Some things just never leave you.

* My mother to this day despises Felix the Cat. She says if it was the only cartoon you could watch and understand for three years during prime cartoon watching age, you would hate it too. I try and tell her kids watch animes these days and probably wouldn't notice the language barrier.

**I took French in school, so while I can speak some German, I can't write it down. My translator tells me there is no translation for farmer in German, so I didn't bother translating it. Sorry.

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