Project 52, Week 32, Part Two: Moving to Germany!

It’s time for Project 52, Week 32, Part Two!

1996_10 13 Stairs

32 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 32 — June 14, 1996, to June 14, 1997.

However, for at least my first few years in Germany, I think it’s going to take more than one long blog post to cover each year. Two nights ago, I covered June through September, 1996, as we said our farewells to many dear friends before leaving. I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish the year tonight. What I should do is drastically summarize. But I’m having so much fun looking at castle pictures and remembering the joy of coming to Germany — I think I’m just going to indulge myself in memories and keep going with this however long it takes….

Castles, you say? I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet that when we first found out we’d be moving to Germany, we were worried about how Jade (then called Josh) would take it. Josh didn’t like change. When we’d gotten rid of an old junky table and bought a new one, Josh had cried about the old table. How would Josh deal with such a big move?

Well, Josh’s second grade teacher told them there’s a statue of the Bremen Town Musicians in the town of Bremen. And I told Josh, “They have castles in Germany!” Their eyes lit up.

And that’s when we decided to collect castles. We decided that we could only count castles we actually touched. Eventually, we made more rules. It had to be at least a hundred years old. It must have a name. But we’d count castles, palaces, and fortifications, given those conditions.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Picking up where I left off in October 1996, we were making our last preparations to move away from Illinois. I recorded a lot of the details in my calendar.

We sold our Honda Civic — the one that had broken down in every major city in America but finally had a recalled part that would supposedly work — on October 2, 1996. (That was the only new car we ever bought, and one of the worst cars we ever had.)

On October 3, Steve broke his wrist when he fell off his bike. Not great timing, but what can you do?

On October 4, my Dad came to visit for a few days. (He probably had some business out there.) He’s always so good with little ones!

1996_10 1 Grandpa

1996_10 2 Grandpa

October 14 was the Columbus Day holiday, and we took Josh’s best friend Trevyor and went hiking at Knobelich Woods. (I don’t remember where that was at all, but that’s what it says.)

1996_10 3 Hike

1996_10 4 Hike

1996_10 5 Hike

On October 18, our first shipment left. I think these were the things we’d want soonest, and they’d go by plane. I don’t remember what we chose. Maybe coats and winter gear, dishes, and what-not.

On October 19, Darlene came to visit for a few days! We took her hiking at our old favorite, Carlyle Lake. And now we had someone to take a family picture for us! The fun thing about that time is that our family was evenly spaced — we were all about a foot apart from each other in height!

1996_10 12 Stairs

1996_10 9 Carlyle Lake

1996_10 10 With Darlene

1996_10 11 Josh

1996_10 14 Darlene

1996_10 15 Darlene

On October 23 the Packers came, and we moved into Billeting. On October 24, they took our stuff away.

1996_10 6 Moving

1996_10 7 Moving

1996_10 8 Moving

1996_10 20 Moving

We took a trip to Rockford to see my cousin Karen and her family. She was sad, because she knew when we came back to visit, we wouldn’t visit Illinois. (She was right about that, I’m afraid.) It was super nice to get to know her during our years in Illinois.

Here’s Timmy with her youngest.

1996_10 21 Delaportes

A couple of other cousins came over, and we had (as we thought) a bunch of boys, so we took some pictures of all the boys.

1996_10 22 Delaportes

1996_10 23 Delaportes

From there it was pretty much hanging out in billeting and going to good-by parties and dinners.

1996_10 16 Billeting

We still read to the boys at bedtime.

1996_10 24 Billeting

1996_10 25 Billeting

1996_10 26 Billeting

We took Josh and Trevyor on one last visit to Chuck E. Cheese.

1996_10 17 Chuck E Cheese

1996_10 18 Chuck E Cheese

1996_10 19 Chuck E Cheese

And Halloween happened while we were in billeting.

1996_10 27 Halloween

I don’t remember who drove us to the airport. But this was our last day with the Honda before we gave it to the buyers.

1996_10 28 Billeting

1996_10 29 Timmy and the Car

Then, on November 3, 1996, we left for Germany! Here are the kids in the airport:

1996_11_3 Airport

We arrived in Frankfurt Airport at 7:30 am on Monday, November 4, 1996. If I remember right, two band folks picked us up, so as to get all our stuff. Maybe Jody Pratt? Maybe Steve’s sponsor, Bruce Bender? Or maybe just Jody? The memories are vague. I think I rode with Jody, and I do remember that we saw our first castle, Burg Neuleiningen, from the Autobahn. Then Bruce had Steve go straight to work! The kids and I took naps and were far, far the better for it.

Then that night, at about 3:00 am (Germany time), a fire alarm went off in the hotel on base!

Steve had more presence of mind than me. I was just focused on getting the kids out, but Steve thought to bring a blanket with us. We didn’t have winter gear. It started to snow while we were waiting for the all-clear!

The USAFE Band at that time was based in Einsiedlerhof, near Ramstein AFB. But they were planning to move to Sembach AFB, about a half-hour away, in a few months. So we stayed in billeting on Ramstein, but looked for housing near Sembach.

Our time in Ramstein billeting was somewhat dreary. Lots of things went wrong. I didn’t start Josh in school, because they were going to end up going to school at Sembach. We did find an apartment by Saturday, but we stayed in billeting until November 26, when we could get our first shipment of stuff. And we used loaner furniture from the base office set up for that purpose.

We did have quite a lot of people we’d known from Scott AFB who welcomed us. I see “Dinner at Jodi Pratt’s” on the 7th and “Miranda Stanaford’s 2nd Birthday Party” on the 8th. In fact, it was a much, much less lonely move than the move to Illinois had been 5 years before. There was a lot of community spirit between the band families in Germany, because everyone was far from family (not just us).

On November 10th, after we’d bought a used car the day before, we drove to Frankfurt and saw Marie-Laurence, Steve’s friend from Biola! Here’s Steve with Timmy and Marie’s daughter Elise.

1996_10 30 Marie's

We had to get creative keeping the kids entertained in billeting!

1996_10 31 Billeting

1996_10 32 Billeting

1996_11 1 Billeting

1996_11 2 Billeting

1996_11 33 Billeting

1996_11 37 Billeting

Meanwhile, we were busy with paperwork and bureaucracy, paperwork and bureaucracy. But I see that November 14th was our first trip to a German bookstore — and I bought an edition of Momo, by Michael Ende, in the original language (German)! I also bought a book for Josh and Timmy about Flecki — Eric Hill’s Spot! And I bought my first hiking map. Hiking trails marked out for the entire area! I used that map our entire 10 years in Germany! When I first bought it, it was so much fun just to pore over. And that was when I first saw the symbols for Castles and Ruins dotted all over the map!

And on Saturday, November 16, we touched our first castle! Castle #1 was Burg Nanstein, a castle overlooking the town of Landstuhl, close to Ramstein, and even closer to the American military hospital. We got off to a late start, but followed the map and found it — and it was closed! I think it closed around 5:00 pm, though maybe it was 4:00. It gets dark very early in Germany in November (as far north as Seattle).

1996_11 34 Burg Nanstein

Somehow I had forgotten to bring a jacket at all. Steve let me use his.

1996_11 35 Burg Nanstein

We could get into one outer ruined tower.

1996_11 36 Burg Nanstein

On Sunday the 17th (two weeks in Germany), Steve went on tour with the band to England, and everything fell apart for me.

It started out not too bad. I went to church that day at Faith Baptist Church, an American church near Ramstein, and had lunch with two other left-behind spouses, Connie and Alex. But then my phone in billeting quit working, so I couldn’t call Steve or anyone else.

The next day, it snowed!

1996_11 38 Snow

Remember, though — we hadn’t thought to bring snow gear in our airplane luggage for Germany. The same day, that car we’d bought broke down.

They did get the phone fixed — apparently we’d needed to let them know we were still there. And I borrowed a car from a band family, and I guess took our car in to get repaired. I made arrangements to have our first shipment come to our new apartment on the 26th.

Oh, that reminds me — while I’m talking about what went wrong is maybe not when I should mention that we decided to rent the very first place we looked at! And it was at a great price, and it was gorgeous! We’d been told over and over that apartments in Germany are smaller, but it had three bedrooms and was spacious and we loved it. Anyway, you’ll be seeing multiple pictures of Leithöfe….

Back to the comedy of errors — On the 21st, the car I’d borrowed got a flat tire! So I worked with the Kathy Huggins (whose husband was also on tour) to get it replaced. The world was cold, slushy and dark while this was going on.

Okay, I see I got our car back on the 22nd and got cash for the security deposit and dropped that off on the 24th. I remember getting lost on the way there. (German signs don’t use North/South/East/West, but just tell you which town the road leads toward. So you need to know the map. Hard to do while you’re also driving.) I’m not sure why I had the Huggins’ car again (some other disaster with mine?), but on the 25th, their car had not one but TWO flat tires! It turned out that the wheel rims were bad and were letting out air. I was involved in helping them get that fixed.

But on the 25th, Steve got back, and on the 26th, we moved in to Leithöfe, Germany — and everything started going RIGHT!

We had a garage. This is looking out our kitchen window.

1996_11 39 Leithoefe

And here’s the field behind our house.

1996_11 40 Leithoefe

Well, that’s a long enough post for now. I only got through a couple months, but the next post will cover settling in to Germany.

One Response to “Project 52, Week 32, Part Two: Moving to Germany!”

  1. Victoria says:

    I love your story and the pictures of your children are amazing!

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