The washerwoman came every morning. We children chatted with her through the basement window and watched as she placed wood under the copper wash kettle in the back of the cellar and then inserted the heavy, iron laundry poles into the holes in the garden and stretched the line. In the morning we handed her clothespins for the white wash, in the afternoon for the colored wash. We sat with her when she drank her coffee in the kitchen and ate a slice of bread thickly slathered with drippings. When she left, she always said: "Many thanks, then." Once mother asked her what she was saying thank you for, to which she responded: ". . . for having work for yet another day."
Already as children we were often sent to the shopkeeper, the grocer. The store looked exactly like the doll houses that are in museums today. The wall behind the counter consisted of large drawers with labels like rice, coffee, flour; you could see pickles and herring in barrels, potatoes in sacks, honey, lard, and stewed plums in pots. All the goods were weighed on the scale, including salt, butter, oil, and honey. You could buy raisins for five pfennig, sauerkraut for ten, even a small paper cone filled with candies for one or two pfennig.
One person was always there: Aenne, the nanny. She got us dressed and put us to bed. She patiently brushed our tangled hair and poured cold water over us in the evening, which I endured shivering and freezing, my more robust younger sister snorting and laughing. She bandaged our bloody knees, pressed a spoon against our forehead if we had fallen to keep the bump down, made throat compresses for us, took us on walks, and tirelessly told us stories of poor girls and lost princesses. She prayed with us and slept with us. Aenne had come into the family when I was born, and she stayed until I entered school. She then went to take care of a lawyer's children, was given an unheated garret, got sick and died of tuberculosis.
We followed the hustle and bustle in the house and the kitchen with curiosity. But that is only the backdrop I have for the picture of my parents that stands before my eyes. In terms of background, nature, and education they were very much opposites.
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