Child that I once was, advance,
What now brings us together?
And what have we to say each other?
-- Adonis, a Syrian Poet, in his Beginning
It was a child's game on a splendid scale. Fighter planes circled each other like gnats, and I waited for what would come: A sudden puff of smoke from one of the gnats followed usually but not always by a small figure emerging out of the smoke and soon trailed by a white umbrella. That was only part of the fun, for afterwards was the hunt, as a small posse of farmers led by a policeman looked for the shot-down flier, eventually found him, and depending on whether friend or foe and whether injured or not, delivered him to the jail or a hotel or a doctor.
This was autumn of 1944. I was eight old, and living with a farm "family" in Driedorf, a small farm town 42 miles northwest of Frankfurt a/Main in Germany, where I was born in 1936. "Family" in quotes because of its odd make-up: Three farm women and one French prisoner of war, who attended to their needs in return for staying out of Nazi POW camps. That all ended in late March 1945 when an American column of tanks, trucks, and jeeps moved through the town, a smooth and impressive and exciting parade, enlivened when one of the tanks left the road and rumbled directly through a farm house, offering an open air view of the kitchen. Deliberate or a slipped tread, I don't know. Several weeks later -- the trains were a mess
-- my mother came and took me back to Frankfurt, but not to the elegant apartment we had lived in much of the war. It was now occupied by American officers, and we lived instead in the fifth story walk-up of "Aunt Else", since replaced by the headquarters of the Deutsche Bank.
To New York
There we stayed until August 1946, when my mother and I left Bremerhaven on the North Sea with 942 other refugees on the USS Marine Perch. We arrived in New York harbor at the West 48th Street Dock on the last day of a very hot August. There I met in effect for the first time my sister and my father. My sister bought me an ice cream pop. I was nine.