We All Giggled
A Bourgeois Family Memoir
Publication Year: 2010
We All Giggled tells the stories of two families that came together when the author’s parents met and married in 1945. The Hüglins had lost most of their fortune in the course of two world wars, and the Wachendorff s had survived the Nazi years despite their Jewish ancestry. The families’ roots are traced back to a vineyard in southern Germany, a jail in Geneva, the Conservatory in St. Petersburg, and the hometown of a Jewish merchant in Silesia.
This engaging book centres on the author’s recollections of his grandparents, his parents, and his own growing up in postwar Germany in an environment of bourgeois stability and comfort. As the author chronicles his family’s ups and downs and abiding love for music, food, and art across several generations, a rich tapestry of anecdotes unfoldsabout opera singers, restaurants, and travels, and about family relations, romance, and the kind of “impromptu reactions to people, places, and situations that often result in uncontrollable giggles.”
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Series: Life Writing
I was surprised when everyone seemed to think that these stories should be published. The first one to suggest it was Brian Henderson, director of WLU Press, to whom I had mentioned only in passing that I had put together a kind of family memoir. Then Rob Kohlmeier, managing editor at WLU Press, very diligently and congenially reviewed the first draft...
What This Is About
The plan was simply to write down the old stories for my children, Hannah and Jacob. My father had been the storyteller in our family, and we had urged him many times to write it all down. But he was nearly incapable of writing. He said it hurt his thumb. From one of the very few trips he ever took without us, accompanying a group of film actors on a...
PART I: THE HÜGLINS
When I was very little I was woken up one night by strange shuffling noises coming from downstairs. My mother was alarmed, too. Together, we tiptoed to the railing of the big staircase and peeked down. There, illuminated only by the light coming from his open study door, was my grandfather, in his felt slippers, practising tango steps on the yellow marble tiles of the...
PART II: THE WACHENDORFFS
There was neither caviar nor music at the wedding of my other (maternal) grandparents. Money was not the issue. The wedding took place on 19 October 1918 in the northern German university town of Rostock. The groom, my grandfather, Alfred (Fred) Wachendorff, was still recovering from the loss of a leg during the opening days of the First World...
PART III: RENATE AND HANS
After the first encounter with his future mother-in-law, my father had become a frequent visitor to the Wachendorff house up the street. As my grandmother wrote a few years later, in her essay "Der kleine Doktor" (The Little Doctor) and subtitled presto agitato: "It was curious: He had hardly stepped into our house for the first time when we could no longer...
PART IV: TUTZING (1950s)
What followed after that return from Hattenheim were the Ebenhausen years—growing up in the shadow of the sanatorium, with the shops (and the dentist!) down the hill in Ebenhausen, and the school in neighbouring Hohenschäftlarn. I learned how to ride a bike and to ski, we did our first trip to Italy, and I spoke with such a strong Bavarian accent that my...
PART V: MUNICH
I cannot remember the move at all. The first thing I do remember about Munich was my mother and me getting out of the tram at the stop almost in front of our new apartment, and some guy pushing my mother because he thought she was too slow. It was summer and my mother was very pregnant. I yelled at that guy. I was very protective of my pregnant mother. Later...