Last Thursday would have been my parents’ wedding anniversary. They only made it to their 32nd, still a remarkable stretch considering their inauspicious beginnings. I’m going to be sentimental, but it’s only natural—I’m half-Viennese.
My mother Margarete was both a war widow and a war bride. She grew up in Vienna, Austria, the daughter of a watchmaker and a plump little hausfrau. Her older brother died in a climbing accident, knocked off the mountain as he was changing his shoes by the sliding carcass of a frozen mountain goat (Really. Who could make such a story up?). She worked for a couturier (and once, just like Scarlett O’Hara, made dresses from my Great Aunt Helen’s drapes). Margarete married a tall, blond, handsome guy named Tony, who was immediately conscripted and died on the Russian front. He was not a Nazi but did wear the uniform.
My father David was short, dark and chubby, a decorated cook in the Rainbow Division of the U.S. Army. Yes, he single-handedly won a Bronze star for accepting the surrender of a small group of young German soldiers as he was reconnoitering a town for the best place to set up his kitchen and any stray bottles of wine. He had been somewhat unsettled as a young man, the only child of two “society” people. They sent him to boarding school when he was nine so they could get divorced. A disappointment to them and a prep school drop-out, he followed the horse racing circuit up and down the east coast before he was drafted.
Towards the end of World War II, my parents met in the Vienna Woods, long a trysting place for lovers. My dad was with a buddy, my mom with a girlfriend. My dad spoke no German but fractured French and so did my mother’s friend, so he got stuck talking to her when he really wanted to hit on my mother. Eventually, he learned fractured German, my mother learned fractured English, and they carved their initials on a tree where they first met. The war ended, they married, moved back to America, and had me. A happily ever after.
My parents did not share a culture, language or religion. In fact they had very little in common. But they did have romance. And that was enough for a while.
How did you/your parents fall in love? How did you get your characters to meet? We had friends who tried to fix us up for years. When my husband finally met me, he thought I cursed too much, and I thought he was too handsome. But we got married nine months later anyway.