During one of my long walks last week I was wondering what to bring my nieces and nephews and their children. Booking a flight at the spur of the moment did not allow much time to find the perfect Canadian keepsake gift. A moment of slight panic quickly dissipated when I had an idea: Why not bring my German fairy tales back to those who speak and read the language.
I have been wondering for some time what I could do with the treasure trove of German books that I brought with me when I moved to Canada nearly 37 years ago. Nobody I know from the younger generation speaks German and I didn’t want these books, some of them leather bound, get lost or worse yet, destroyed.
I made sure to pack only the necessary clothes to allow for the extra weight of the books. I was close to the 50 lb weight limit in no time. It took a while to pack as each book was lovingly fondled, opened and pondered over. many books were handed down to me by my maternal grandmother. I recall the many days she would sit by my bedside when I was ill reading aloud from her favorite fairy tale books. Precious moments remembered…
But, it’s time to pass these books on to a new generation. To children who understand the language but may have trouble reading the italic script… I hope for the best and pass on history.
The book I wanted to share with you is one of the oldest books I am letting go. Bechstein’s Maerchen was presented to my maternal grand-mother by my maternal-grandfather whom I never met.he passed away exactly year before I was born. The book was presented as a Christmas gift in 1926, 90 years ago. I believe that their son was born that year, my mother was born Dec. 15th, 1930.
Here is the dedication in German:
“Vom Vater hab ich die Natur,
des Leben’s ernstes Fuehren.
Vom Muetterchen die Frohnatur,
die Lust zum Fabulieren.”
Dies moechte ich meiner lieben Grete als Widmungsspruch zum diesjaehrigen Weihnachtsbuch vorschicken. Die Mutter soll durch Erzaehlung deutscher Maerchen den Grundstein zur Seelenbildung der Kinder im deutschen Sinne geben.”
Weihnachten 1926 Gustav Adolf (Walter)
“From Father my natural disposition
Life’s serious Guidance.
From Mother (note: Muetterchen means little mother) my happy disposition,
the inspiration to employ my imagination.”
May this little verse be the sentiment for this year’s Christmas book. The mother shall be responsible for the foundation of the children’s spiritual development in the German spirit through the sharing of the German fairy tale.”
Digesting this resposibility-laden sentiment took some time. It is a good reflection of the times. How we have changed during the past 90 years. Women today would not appreciate this condescending message but in 1926 this must have been considered a loving and touching inscription.
I opened the book at random and look at where the pages parted:
Time to let go of the past and the books. They are now safely back in the country of their origin. I might even get a chance to read a story or two to my grand-nieces and nephew, continuing the tradition. 😉