There was something that Louise needed to do before leaving for Germany and that was clean her room. It was a royal mess. Louise’s stepfather came to her one day and asked if he could have a talk with her. He said it was very important and that he wanted Louise to think of a time that she could give to him, ‘’It will only take about 15 minutes’’ he said.
Louise said she had time right now and so the two sat down on the couch. Papi began by taking a deep breath, ‘’Ok, at work we have been taking a seminar to help us deal with conflicts in a healthy and productive manner. I have a conflict that I would like to solve with you.’’ He waited for Louise to reply.
‘’Ok’’ she said, not knowing what to expect.
‘’Ok, I would really like for your room to be clean when you leave for Germany. Do you think you could do that for me? I am willing to help you if you would like me to. How do you feel about that?’’
‘’Ok, I can do that. No problem. When do you have time to help?’’ Louise replied
‘’Well, I’ve already looked at my calendar and I would like to have it finished before to big going away party this coming up weekend. I could help you on Friday if that’s alright.’’ He said.
‘’Sure, that sounds great! I’ll go ahead and get started. That way we won’t have as much to get finished on Friday.’’ Louise said.
‘’Ok, thank you Louise.’’
On Wednesday Louise’s brothers came and thought the idea of helping Louise clean sounded great. They jumped right in doing most of the work. Louise just had to tell them what to do with the things that they found in her walk-in closet, bathroom and room. There was so much stuff. It took quite a while. The four had loads of fun cleaning and when they got tired of cleaning they would go into the front yard to play football of golf of tag. Louise’s brothers also took turns sitting on the John Dear lawn mower. Of course they wanted to help out their father, but also just wanted to ride ‘the monster.’ Louise room got clean and the party began.
Sally threw a big party for Louise before she left for her exchange year. All of her mother and step-fathers side of the family came to say goodbye. Everyone wanted to wish her luck, give advice or comment on her choice to leave. Louise took the chance to say her goodbyes.
Her older cousin said, ‘’Why do you want to go spend time with all those Nazis?’’
‘’There’re not Nazis. That was a long time ago and Hitler is dead.’’ She laughed, wondering if he was making a joke or if he actually was that ignorant.
‘’Oh, is he?’’ was his reply, before turning toward the grill to eat his third hamburger. Louise couldn’t quite believe that he was serious, seeing as he had just become a father for the fifth time.
Louise’s grandmamma took Sally to the side asking, ‘’Well, what are you going to do if she goes over there and decides to marry a German and stay forever?’’
Sally wasn’t worried, replying with her typical reply to all difficult decisions, ‘’I don’t know. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.’’ Not thinking that she would ever have to cross ‘that bridge.’
There were loads of pictures taken and people saying ‘’don’t forget us now, you remember who your real family is.’’ As if Louise could ever forget her family, it was unthinkable. There was one picture of Louise with her three brothers and sister taken that day. She had it printed out and stuck it in the photo album that she brought with her to Germany. This was a fun loving party with lots of food and laughter, kisses and hugs, much in contrast to the goodbye she received from her Step-mother and father.
The two invited Louise over to their house to spend the night and say goodbye. But there were no sweat hugs and kisses. Devlin, Louise’s stepmother, took her on a jog. Devlin ran regularly. Louise dis-liked running. She was more of an aerobic girl. Devlin made Louise run close to the curb where the road dips down on one side so that rain water can smoothly flow away. After a while Louise’s leg started to burn and she needed a break. Why did Louise go jogging with Devlin? Louise thought Devlin wanted to bond and felt sorry for her, so she went. She told Devlin, that she was not into jogging, but Devlin insisted. She thought Devlin would take it easy on her, knowing, that she don’t jog.
Louise’s leg starts to really burn. She stops for a minute and tells Devlin, that if they are to continue jogging, that she must switch to the other side of the road.
”Oh, now see there. You are weaker than you think you are. You don’t realize how weak and unfit you are until you start to work out. Then the truth is revealed to you. Just like when you go to Germany. You think you are strong in your faith, but when you get to Germany, where temptation is high, that’s when you will realize how weak you are. But it will be too late. You should reconsider going on this exchange year. What you really need is to be around strong Christians, who can show you how to follow Christ.” says Devlin.
Louise’s thinking ”What is she trying to prove? I’m not hurt because I’m unfit rather because I’ve been running at a tilt for about two miles. Neither do I claim to be a supper fit Christian at age 18. But what do I say to this woman who wants to prove a point and make me feel bad?” So Louise said she just wants to run on the other side, that way she won’t be in so much pain.
”See there, you go making excuses for yourself. The truth is that you are not in shape and you don’t want to admit it. Just like you are not ready to spend a year in another country and you don’t want to admit it.” says Louise’s stepmother.
‘’Well, that sure is the way to keep me here,’’ Louise thought, ‘’Not!’’
When the two returned home, Ted, Louise’s father wanted to take Louise for a walk. ‘’I’m really tired I would like to take a moment’s rest, if that is alright.’’ She saw her stepmother roll her eyes and walk upstairs to the bedroom. Louise knew that she was not allowed to lay in bed at her father’s house during the day. Devlin said sleeping during the day is sinful and found passages in scripture to back up her theory. Louise believed Devlin only obeyed by this rule when she was around to prove a point. She almost knew for sure that Devlin took a daily nap when she wasn’t there. But even if she didn’t, Louise knew for a fact that Devlin didn’t get out of bed until 9:00 and spent a good part of the day in front of the computer, and she spent the evening in front of the television letting Ted rub her feet. Louise figured it was easy not to need a nap if life is that simple.
Louise got up around 5:30 on weekdays, spent 7 hours in school, anywhere from 2 to 5 hours dancing after school, somehow managed to fit homework in there and went to bed around 10:00 or 11:00. So yes, on the weekends, Louise liked to sleep in and take a nap during the day. She didn’t sleep the entire day. Most of the time she went swimming and sometimes she had dance class around 9:00 on Saturday morning. She also never missed church on Sunday. The church started at 8:00. On these days sleeping in meant sleeping until 7:00.
Ted finally did take Louise on a walk telling her that he strongly advises her not to go to Germany. He said she should move in with him and Devlin. They could show Louise how to be a true Christian. She could come to church and prayer group with them. They could be around other ‘strong Christians’ who could teach her how to ‘live for the Lord.’ Louise wondered why he thought she wasn’t living for the Lord. Hadn’t she sworn off boys for the past three years? Did he not trust her? Was he trying to keep her a virgin? Sorry, but the virginity boat sailed long ago. No, he was probably just trying to please his wife. She probably told him that Louise was not ready for a trip to Germany and that she would be better off with the two of them. Louise doubted that Devlin actually wanted Louise to move in with them. Louise never once actually heard Devlin say that she wanted Louise to move in with them. And how convenient would it be for Devlin, if Ted tried to get Louise to move in and she didn’t? Then Devlin could also talk about Louise, the bad child, who didn’t listen to her father or Louise, the bad girl, who thinks she knows more than her father or Louise, the prodigal child, who runs off to Germany then comes back into the arms of her father who receives her with a banquet, ‘’what a good father!’’ ‘’Poor Teddy, no one loves him other than me.’’ She could say. But it wouldn’t be true. Through the actions of Ted’s wife Devlin no one wanted to be around the two of them. She had little respect for others and thought that nice presents and good food could heal everything. The truth is that these things can help but without an apology, they are worthless.
Louise felt in her heart that Ted wanted her to go to Germany, but was playing a part. She felt in her heart that, the Ted she used to know, the friend she knew before he married for the third time, thought it was great to have such an opportunity, and thought she was brave to take on such an adventure. She felt like he was now just playing a part and didn’t even know why he was playing it. She felt deep in her soul that Ted has been just a little afraid for her, which she could understand. So she let him go on about all the reasons she should not go to Germany, but knew that he was proud of her.
At the end of the weekend as Louise was about to drive back home to her mothers’ house, her father handed her a CD to listen to on the plane ride. She didn’t end up listening to the CD until about a month after being in Germany. What she heard on the CD was not at all what she expected to hear.
© Rebekah Schmidt and Ten Years in Germany 2013, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rebekah Schmidt and Ten Years in Germany with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.