Looking back over my life and thinking of people and situations I have enjoyed, beyond my family and close friends, I realize that I like people I can talk to -- especially if they will talk back, or try to talk in “sign language.”
I am not good with foreign languages, but I tried hard to learn some German before going to visit my son when he lived in Germany in the late 1980’s.
On one of our trips, my son was driving us down to the Swiss Alps and back around to Bavaria where he was stationed. His wife was Red Cross Station Chief so she was working that weekend. After driving for a while, we were forced to stop. There had been a multi car pileup on the Autobahn so we had to just sit for a couple of hours. The road was totally blocked.
After awhile, a woman in the car in front of us starting making motions to me -- you know, like this is so boring etc. Also, we were watching folks leave their cars and go climb over a fence and urinate, which isn’t very entertaining, after a while. So I got out of our car and the German lady got out of hers and we met in the middle. My German was pitiful, and she spoke no English. So we used sign language -- some rather lewd I guess, then just howled with laughter at each other! Finally, the cars up ahead started moving so we returned to our cars. I found that Tony and Bruce were still laughing at us, saying, it was pretty obvious what you were discussing.
I really enjoyed the German people that I met.
There was a wonderful small bakery, just outside the gate to the fort. Sometimes, Tony and I drove over to pick up Bruce after work if his wife was not ready to come home, and we stopped by the bakery. Trying to identify the various delicious pastries was what always caused trouble. The two chubby ladies who worked there took special pains to try to teach me the correct words and I did try but we always ended up with the giggles. The most difficult word was the one for peaches which began with the letters, pf. I just couldn’t seem to spit them out correctly, especially when I -- and they -- were laughing so hard.
Looking back, I am not sorry that I didn’t speak the language very well. I tried, and they seemed to appreciate that. Using hand gestures always made everyone giggle, and that was fine.
Laughter is universal.
[below, my son and his dog in Germany in 1988]