We met during the last weekend of Fasching at the “Blaue Engel” in Sachsen-hausen by Frankfurt a/Main. Ripchen, Kraut and Abelwoi were on the menu and disparate pairings of people was in the air. Who can be sad after three or four tumblers of Abelwoi.

    One must visualize the experience to understand the fun of Sachsenhausen’s ripchen and kraut restaurants. First, no reservations; second, come as you are; third, no private tables, seating is at community tables of about eight or ten people. Strangers welcome! After some abelwoi there are no strangers.
    The ripchen, thickly cut, boneless cured pork loin, tender and juicy with a side of hot mustard. The Sachsenhausen ripchen is not the smoked loin of the Kasseler ripchen but, a subtler brine cured loin all pink and juicy. Then a heaping serving of warm white sauerkraut and slices of brown bread (mischbrot). All sluiced down with tumblers of tasty abelwoi (hard cider).  A feast, a party all in one. We started happy.

        It was Friday. Tomas was down from Hamburg for the week on business at his Frankfurt office. I had stayed in town for an evening with the girls of  my firm and was planning a late night train ride to my home in Walldorf.  Der Blaue Engel was the ripchen and kraut restaurant in Frankfurt and to be there had a certain caché.

    My friends saw that Tomas and I were a pair immediately. How not? Our hair was the same and our manner struck a spark between us.

    Tomas was tall, slim and had this great Viking look about him with his long curly strawberry blond hair. With all that he stood out amongst the other central Europeans. There are few red heads south of Schleswig-Holstein and east of Britain. Mine was one, but, it was from the Alsace where armies and tribes of all nations and continents had trundled through for centuries. He was staying at the Franfurter Hof.

    The next morning after soft boiled eggs,  brötchen and coffee, Tomas and I exchanged telephone numbers as we parted in the Bahnhof on our way to our homes, I to the suburbs in Walldorf and he via a fast, through train to Hamburg. .We had had a pleasing few hours and now had to return to reality. I, of course was madly in love, while Tomas merely showed a fine continental gentleman’s demeanor and appreciation of the event. I couldn’t see his heart yet.

    The next few months became a blitzkrieg of phone calls, meetings, dinners, couplings and breakfasts. Tomas and Claudia became a pair in our experience of attraction, lust, love and finely acceptance.

    One day Tomas asked me to accompany him on a trip. He said it would last a month and be to a foreign land. Very mysterious was he. He said a special prize awaited me should I accept the invitation. When I said we could go together, he then told me our destination, Arizona. My childhood dream was answered.

    When I was a young Mädel of the Rhein river valley the evenings were filled with stories of the Sigfreid, Nibelungen and Valhalla until I found the wild west of the Americas. All I could then dream of was a horse, the sun, the wind and a desert so big you couldn’t imagine its vastness. Karl May wrote volumes about it and I stored them in my memory. All about the cowboys and Indians and true grit. Though Herr May didn’t say “grit“.

    Suddenly maturity interrupted. Boys, guitars and wine became my obsession. Nights and days devoted to one and the other. Now, with Arizona as destination the dreams of my youth returned.  We had found we shared the dream, Tomas and I. He kept a German Warmblood horse on a farm in the Odenwald and we spent many beautiful days riding the hills and valleys.

    The prize Tomas had offered was our everlasting commitment to each other. We married in the Bürgermeister’s office in the Frankfurt Rathaus and began our honeymoon on the train to the airport. After the flight to New York and then on to Phoenix we rattled our way to Tomas’ friends ranch in the Arizona desert and began living our childhood dreams.

    Finally, stealing a few hours to be by ourselves in the desert, we drove an old weather-beaten convertible with the wind in our hair and the sun warming us more than our love could. The rearview mirror’s corroded silver distorted my face into a circus clown. We drove to find a place among the rocks where the sun shone on all our bodies. Where we could experience our love so far from other humans that we imagined us as the last or only beings on earth. That day with the old car, a horse blanket and two feverish bodies we lit the desert with joy and peace. The next day we left that dreamland and returned to our earthly pursuits.

    The night before at dinner, Fred, asked why I wore my wedding band on the right hand. I replied that this is the custom in Germany for many generations. The custom partially derives from the Latin words for the right and left. Right is “dexter’ now synonymous with dexterity and left is “sinistre”, or sinister, a bad connotation. Engagement on the left, married on the right. I guess its OK to be sinister during the engagement, but, one must be dexterous after marriage.

    All those memories. All many years ago. Now Tomas is only in my memories and photo albums. The beautiful curly strawberry blonde hair, changed in color by the emulsions of old color photographs so only a description, not the photos, can do it justice.

    A cliché, but true; The good die young. I have our children ,Tomas II and Cornelia, and their children. They little ones ask, “Was that you and Opa in the car in the desert?’ So I tell them again of a time long ago and a place far away, of horses and sand and scorpions in the boots. I tell them of the love of Tomas and Claudia and why we must savor the moment for the next may never come.

    I do hope there is an afterlife where I will again find Tomas and we might have a magnificent meal of Ripchen and Kraut and drink our Abelwoi with strangers who become friends at an instant.
1. Ripchen: Brine cured pork loin
2. Kraut: Sauerkraut-Frankfurt style (White)
3. Abelwoi(dialect): Apfelwein, (apple wine/hard cider)
4. Fasching: The weeks from New Years to Ash Wednesday (Similar to Mardi Gras-actually begins with the crowning of a King & Queen on the 11th of November each year. ( Die elfte, elfte, elfte - eleventh hour, eleventh day, eleventh month commemorating the 1918 Armistice of WWI )
5. Mädel: Young girl
6. Rathaus: Town Hall
7. Opa: Grandfather (Oma-Grandmother)
8. Karl May: 1920’s & 30’s German writer of shoot’em-up westerns
9. Brötchen: German style Parker roles (but better)
10. Burgermeister: Mayor
11. Odenwald: A Rural area of rolling hills and small mountains southeast of Frankfurt.
12. Frankfurt a/Main: City of Frankfurt on the Main River as opposed to “on the Oder River”
13. Bahnhof: Train Station
14. Sachsenhausen: District of Frankfurt on the south side of the Main River
14 Alsace: Alsace/Lorraine, an area on the west side of the Rhein just north of Switzerland.
15. Walldorf: Now Mörfelden/Walldorf, a town 13 kilometers south of Frankfurt on the way to Mannheim.


Hi! I know it’s early but I had to call. Did I wake you? Of course I did. You never got out of bed before ten in your adult life. I must tell you. 
We had a fantastic night. The touch of his hand, his fingers, his skin, the roughness of his beard on my skin all were more than I could stand. Our togetherness was so complete that I forgot time. And then, petite morté, and a languorous afterglow which descended into sleep and waking and again. It isn’t like the first lust of youth or the constant patterns of married life. It was a new awakening, probably mine, because of the circumstances.
Oh the smells, the odors, I wish I could describe them. It must be the pheromones. I remember my grandfather. Once when I was just starting to fall over the first cliff of puberty I stood by him and the smell was overpoweringly sensual. Though I didn’t really know what sensual was at the time. I knew no other way to say it, so I simply said, “You smell good”. He smiled and gave me a hug. What do we smell that we don’t consciously notice? If only we could know and appreciate.
He doesn’t know and won’t for a few hours. What I have told you before I have kept from him. As most men he is clueless unless we guide them to the truth. I want to tell you all this because I may not remember this night in the future as I do now. He and I have had some good years and some hard times and fights and making-up. But this will never come again.
I see myself in the future, past today, as somewhat uncommunicative. My energies will have to be concentrated. You have been such a bastion for me in the past. Protecting me from the world and my own foibles. You cannot afford to give much more or you will be bereft when you need your own strength.
He is tinkering in the bath now. Soon he’ll fix coffee and toast for us and probably serve me in bed. He loves to serve me on these occasions. I’ll have a long, warm, soapy bath and be ready to travel in about an hour. We have about a four hour drive to the city. Probably the only downside to living in this paradise of woods and animals. The drive will be so beautiful, over the river and through the woods, but, not to grandmother this time.
When we get to town we’ll stop at the barbershop and I’ll have a short conference. When I come out and announce our next stop, he’ll know. He’ll know that the last few hours will never be again. We may come close, but, never again reach the bond we’ve had these hours. It will be forever different. 
I’ll tell him to take the box of my hair and send it to those people in Texas that Paul told me about where they make human hair wigs for cancer patients. Better to have it cut off and be used for that than wait for it to fall out and foul the vacuum cleaner. My head, covered with a babushka, is the sign that will tell him all. I haven’t covered my hair in all these years. Does anyone know what a babushka is anymore? 
Then to the next stop. The chemotherapy clinic.
Here he comes balancing the cup and saucer with a small plate with the toast. He forgot the tray again.
I must ring off now so I can hold court in bed.
Ta! Ta!