Bells ring every fifteen minutes here, signaling the hour, quarter past, half past and three quarters past. You get quite used to the ringing of the automatic clocks in this town and I soon realize it’s no wonder Germans invented the cuckoo clock.
But the real reason I’m here is because my mother has sold the house. Tomorrow the new owners take residence and it will leave our family for good. It’s sort of a closure on my mom’s part. It’s not inexpensive to own and maintain a house in Europe that she only visits once every two years. Not to mention, the house is over a hundred years old (and there are all sorts of signs bearing its age). The last relative who owned this house was her Aunt Elfriede, her father’s youngest sister. Elfriede was a spinster, meaning, she was a woman who never married. I met Elfriede once, circa 1985 on my first European trip.
I had never heard the term spinster before I came to Germany. I’m not sure where the term originated from, did single women spin spools of wool? But I do have a girlfriend of mine who was part of a social circle in Southern California called “The Bachelor’s and The Spinster’s” which was an elite group who attended meetings in efforts to pair off. I always thought it was quite odd and old fashioned. Not to mention that “Bachelor” sounds much nicer than “Spinster”. Who would outwardly join this group and stamp themselves “never married”?
But my Great Aunt was a spinster. And I don’t think it bothered her, like it bothers me. Maybe she was onto something. She did have a lover (who is even buried with her across the street). Over the years, my sister and I have combed through photographs, letters, and old relics and have pieced together and romantically fantasized about their love affair. (We’re working on a book/movie about their love story, actually). I’m sure it was quite the scandal back in her day. I kind of relish her vigor to not be pressured to marry. But is this status still taboo?
My Great Aunt lived alone in this three story house, until she met her love, Ludwig. He eventually moved into the house, but held a separate residence on the third floor. Under the same roof, but separate. They had meals together, kept each other company and had their own space. They travelled quite a bit together, and honestly kept each other company during cold, rainy Sundays (like today).
Elfriede was a pharmacist who didn’t travel much until she met Ludwig. He made her come alive. She wasn’t alone, she had a companion. He was also quite attractive, and she was, how do I state this? She was not. Short, round, kinky mop of hair, as compared to his tall, lean and handsome face, but Elfriede had a smile that beamed in his presence.
|The German Village among the grape vines.|
|The bench I imagine Elfriede and Ludwig having date at.|