17 September 2021
Two major events explain why I visit Celle.
In the winter of 1911, my grandmother Dora left her home and family in Celle to emigrate to the United States. I don’t exactly know why this petite 33 year-old, 5’2” woman, speaking little English and traveling alone would choose to leave her family and move to America. She must have had “spunk.” I know she was a spry 89 year-old.
Dora listed herself as a cook and her nearest relative was her father, Wilhelm Brockmann. Traveling 3rd class and arriving into New York Harbor under the torch of the Statue of Liberty, Grandma cleared thru Ellis Island and debarked to, of all places, Des Moines, Iowa. She stated she was coming as a single woman to join her Aunt Dora, who was her mother’s sister.
My father was born in Des Moines in 1913. And then came me. And now, I am in Celle over a century later. I wish I could discover who “Mr. Chris Brockmann, Celle, Hannover, Bults St. 11, Germany” was as she continued to write to relatives Hans W. F., Karl H., and Chris as late as 1952.
In 1987, I opened my home to another spunky little female who was an exchange student from Hamburg. Being moved from a former, unsuitable residence to mine was a fortunate turn of events for me. Though we only shared a short 11 weeks, we made the most of it. I have many fond memories of Didi. To this day I still repeat her witticism expressed at our first dinner: “I try an olive once a year just to remind myself I don’t like them.” Thereafter, I got to eat all the olives.
There was nothing to not like about Didi. Exuberant, thoughtful, intelligent, creative and yes, “spunky.” We shared some short trips in California, Civil War reenactments where she was an angel of mercy for ‘wounded soldiers,’ and concerts and graduation. I remember all students had to submit to a writing test to graduate; Didi was one of a handful of seniors in our entire district who received a perfect score. I still have one of her beautiful drawings of the local seashore displayed on my wall.
We have managed to meet up on several occasions over the last 30 years and it is always a joy to see her. And so my ICE speeds up to 150 mph to my destination and the making of more fond memories.