Ville de Remich
Friday, May 23, 2014
Christmas in Luxembourg, 1975
Part Christmas Eve Day
From Germany, I headed west, to Luxembourg, crossed the boards with little to no difficulties. I went by car, a 1967-VW, dull green in color, it was not the best running of cars but it seemed it could make at two-hundred and fifty miles, so I decided to take a quick trip. The road was dotted with quaint, rural hamlets that most people associate with fairy tales. It was midwinter, and winter in Luxembourg, is not as extreme as it can be in nearby countries, and I had been to Europe a dozen times, and during this tour duty, I was stationed near Darmstadt, Germany. For a land locked country, it had what I would call pretty standard climate. It was a day before Christmas. The trees were filled with crystal like frost, as I drove through an area that seemed the landscape had its share of wooded extremes. A very beautiful and pleasant area, it was brisk in the woods, and when I drove out of it, it was cool, with a warm sun leaning on top of my car. I had my two boys, Cody and Shawn with me, twins; they were five the previous October. I found myself in a little quaint village called Ville de Remich, I didn’t see much of it, I stopped the car to have breakfast, the street was of cobblestone, and the guesthouse, was old Germanic in style, the owner with an apron on, looked at me and my two boys, it was Christmas Eve morning, and no one was in the guesthouse, no guests that is, no one but the proprietor, and he was I fear about to say: we are closed, but his wife walked up, and asked,
“…do you need something?”
“Yes,” I said, “for me and my boys, a room for the night and breakfast.”
“Well, ok,” she said, “but tomorrow is Christmas, and I do hope you will not be staying over that day, we are always closed.”
I assured her we had just come for the day and evening, that we’d like to have breakfast if possible, and we’d be gone early Christmas Morning. In between, we would go to the nearby cemetery I noticed on the way down, and climb those 100-steps up to its domain, and visit the city. And she and her elder husband both looked at each other, then back at my twin boys, and me, “Ok,” they confirmed, and I filled out a guest slip.
The boys and I sat outside around a wooded table, and chairs, my car parked alongside the road, and cars being driven by, it was chilly, but not cold, cold, everything in the café area was put up on tables, the chairs and ashtrays, and so forth, a message they were not expecting any company on Christmas Eve day.
I ordered eggs and bacon, toast and jam, milk and coffee for the breakfast, and all three of us, Shawn, Cody and me, sat waiting, I think our mouths were salivating, we were hungry. I had thought she understood the order, she brought three pouched eggs, which I did not know how to eat, but would learn quick, I had to ask him how to go about it, “You just crack the egg on the top with your spoon, the shell,” he said, “then dig out the inside of the egg and eat it.”
I had a hard time doing that for some odd reason, can you imagine the boys. Anyhow, we did not get bacon, but we got bread and butter and jam, and that was that, and the boys did get hot milk and I got coffee, and that again was that, I dare not complain, although I left a kind of empty blank face, when I paid for the meal.
And then we did go on to see that cemetery, and the village and that night I bought two large beers and drank them down, and kind of stared out the windows, looked at my boys, cut, blond hair, blue eyes. They were good boys, never complained much, or cried much, only fought and laughed with one another too much, but not creating any profound disturbance.
Part Two: Xmas Day, 1975
It was Christmas day, and we had said our goodbyes to the owners of the guesthouse, and had about 250-miles to travel back to Darmstadt, or thereabouts. As we got on our way, it seemed to be a long road back, our brakes were going out, mental on metal, squeaking and burning up, and you could smell them. The twins knew something was wrong but not exactly what. As we drove further, into a hilly area, the sky turned dark, and the transmission was jamming in first gear, couldn’t get it out, thus I drove in first gear for miles. The heaters had stopped working and the fan belt had broken, the car spit and sputtered; when we’d get to a long hill, I turned the car off, and rolled down the hill allowing the motor to cool, and then popped the clutch to start the car again—it was indeed a long and trying morning, and extended into the afternoon, and we got no place it seemed, I mean we should have been back home by 4:00 PM, but it wasn’t going to happen, we’d make it home by 9:00 PM that evening.
It was turning out to be a worrisome Christmas Day. The boys had insulated snow suites on, I had purchased them in Minnesota, oversized knowing they could and would grow into them, and glad I did. Finally we drove along side of a guesthouse, it was closed for business, but in the back of the building, some lights were on. Actually, we were on a lonely road, deserted somewhat. And I really didn’t know what to do, and I put the hood up, of the car up, and knocked on the door, and asked to purchase some food for the kids (the woman of the house, brought out sandwiches for the boys and me), and they speaking German, and me a little German, along with English, and sign language, I got the message through. The middle aged man in the house saw the car, took a look at the motor, knew we were in trouble, and went back to his garage, and found an old fan belt, it was too big for my car, very loose the say the least.
“You got to drive slowly,” the German said, indicating if I didn’t and if I went over too many bumps, the belt would fly off and perhaps get entangled into my motor, and loosen up or break my fan.
Well, what could I say but thank you and I had a hot cup of coffee, and the boys got some more bread and cheese with ham, and they would not take any money, it was Christmas, and they felt they just couldn’t. It all took an hour or so, and I felt I was intruding, but in life to get a step ahead, is exactly what you got to do, intrude, lest you die where you stand, waiting for somebody to say something only to find out they will say nothing. And I think they both bite into their lips, wanting to say, “Wish we could have you stay until morning,” it was now about 3:00 PM, we had left at about 11:00 AM, and it was now even darker, gray dark, not black dark. A snow storm was building up slowly.
When we arrived at our apartment in Babenhausen, Germany (although we had actually left from Darmstadt on the trip), the boys were tired and fell to sleep like two little sheep, and I sat up, had a beer, a cigarette, and was thankful for the trip, and got rid of that junk heap of a car a week later.
Written: 5-30-2008 (Original name: “An Inn, in Luxembourg.”)