By Frances Harder, June 22, 2016
Return to Lederhosen and Dirndls
Our return to Munich as a family was a very different experience from my first crazy time when working on Airbus! We found a great apartment in what turned out to be the Beverley Hills of Munich in Soln. Our neighbors’ living in the many big villas in this exclusive district had titles like Von Bulow, Von Bismarck and Von Helberg. So began a new life and a new networking experience!
For me, the biggest challenge was the children’s schooling and the schedule, which began at 8am and ended at noon. This made it hard to really plan any other activity and hard for German mothers to think of working outside the home. Then living in an apartment there were “Haus rules” that were supervised by the “Haus Master” or in our case the Haus Mistress, Frau Braun! She was for sure left over from the 40’s and enjoyed dictating the rules but for me this did not go down too well with a very opinionated Brit! One rule was that no children could play outside from noon until 3pm as they considered this to be the “quiet time” when people needed to rest. This rule of “quiet time” also included the rule of no vacuuming or using the washing machine! My poor German husband tried to make me follow rules but quite frankly I enjoyed doing my house work during noon and 3pm. But all things considered we loved the whole two year experience and both our children and we also made some lifelong friends. During this time as a “haus frau” I began to paint in the style of the Bavarian wood painting artists. I painted wooden trays, wooden plates, wooden boxes and any other bits of wood I could find. Through a friend I was also offered a couple classes a week teaching art at the local International School that was mainly attended by the American service people stationed there in southern Bavaria.
Our children enjoyed being immersed in the local German school culture. For the first few months we had a tutor for our 7 years old son Hans so he could learn the language and fit in with his new class mates. The class teachers that Hans and our daughter Erika had were wonderful and spoke English to help them to fit in, plus most of the parents also spoke English proficiently which made their assimilation much easier and enjoyable. They soon made some wonderful new friends and through the children we met their parents and we too made lifelong friends. I also learned the art of constructing and sewing a dirndl and proudly created one for Erika, which is still hanging in her closet waiting for her daughter to grow into. For our son Hans we purchased a pair of leader hosen and a tracken jacket. So now they both looked the part and fit in with the other Bavarian children’s traditional clothing.
After two years in Munich, we began to discuss returning to California. As much as we all enjoyed our time there I think I knew that I could never really assimilate and work as a designer or teach at college level. Besides the language barrier this was also due in part to the short school days and the demands of the homework that really required a dedicated parent (mother) to help oversee their schooling. In our two years living there our now two adult children still have wonderful memories and both can still speak and understand German conversation! It was for sure a wonderful life experience!
In preparation for the return to the States we purchased a new blue VW van that we had customized to have a fitted three seat bench in the front that we knew we needed for our dog to sit in and also to stop the children from flying to the front if we stopped too fast. It also turned out that another added benefit to this bench with a wall behind that we had not consider was that our son enjoyed to stand against it and ask endless questions while driving across the states! J We shipped the new vehicle over to New York and then after a short stay with friends and a visit to the top of the World Trade Building we set off for our next adventure to drive across America and to our return to our home in sunny California.