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12 5 Village life is set by the seasons and by the weather. The children build snowmen and get frosty hands. Snow melts, then spring comes with fresh green. Summer smells of hay, and harvesting is hard work. Then apples, blackberries, and hazelnuts will ripen. And finally, snow falls once more. Everything has its set order. Everyone has to work in order to eat, and the earth and the beasts are there for the people. Life carries on around Maria in its customary rhythm. She has no idea that everything has a name. She does not know that her village is called Freilingen and that she goes to church in Lommersdorf. When the street is swept in the evening, and the shoes are cleaned, greased with oil and lined up in a row, Maria knows that the next morning Grandmother and Mother will wear a good dress and a dark, fringed headscarf. Father will put on a clean shirt, a proper pair of trousers, and a jacket. In groups and in rows the villagers of Freilingen make their way to Lommersdorf, to the white parish church there with its Romanesque steeple. They carry thick prayer books with them. In the afternoon, when they again make their way back home, they have rosaries wrapped around their hands. Maria sees pictures and thinks in pictures. She observes all movements, sees colors, and has a nose with a sense of smell she can rely on. She trusts in everything in her small world. Everywhere is safety. Maria’s home is in the lower part of the village near the chapel, whose history dates back to the Middle Ages. Opposite the chapel is the splendid, ancient Gilles Farm, one of the largest farms in Freilingen. All along the rising village street are the little farmhouses, close to each other, separated only by the low, dark stables and open yards around manure heaps.Animal urine and sewage run down the street into the gutters. Some of the houses are so old that their doors and windows have become crooked in the halftimbered framework. Large patches of yellow loam and interlaced branches Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 12 4/26/2017 12:17:33 PM The Stories They Told Me  13 are visible beneath the plaster.The mossy roofs have sagged.The windows of the houses built during the French occupation in the early 1800s are less than two feet square in order to avoid the window tax imposed at that time. The school is in the middle of the village. It is a stone building with large windows. The schoolmaster’s wife has hung homemade curtains in the windows of their rooms above the one and only classroom. Maria gazes at them in wonder because no one else in Freilingen has curtains or shades in their windows. Maria rarely goes to the upper village, only when her parents take her along on a cart to the fields in the direction of Reetz, a village to the west, beyond the woods and heath. Maria’s deaf sister Gertrud lies buried among age-old stone crosses in the old churchyard in Lommersdorf. Maria can hardly remember her anymore. Weeds are growing on the small grave, as they are on most of the graves. Who has the time to care for them? she wonders. The stone parish house stands behind the tall churchyard trees. One day, Hubert and Elisabeth Giefer go to see the priest to talk about their deaf and mute child Maria. She is now seven years old. How glad Elisabeth is that her husband wants to send Maria to a school! Without his consent in this paternalistic society, this would be impossible. His will alone counts. When “paternal authority” is officially laid down, a mother has no rights at all. Hubert is not required to send his deaf child to school; there is no law forcing him. He would even save money and have more help if he kept Maria at home. The priest promises to make inquiries. Maria is a great help to her mother and grandmother around the house. She helps five-year-old Willi into his knee breeches and buttons the flap at the back. She pulls three-year-old Klöss’s frock on, which he wears because he is not yet big enough to wear trousers. She feeds her baby sister Christina who will soon be two years old. Maria carries her in her arms and, if the neighbors...


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Subject Headings

  • Prisoners of war -- United States.
  • Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp.
  • Prisoners of war -- Cuba -- Guantánamo Bay Naval Base.
  • Afghan War, 2001- -- Prisoners and prisons, American.
  • War on Terrorism, 2001-2009.
  • Khan, Mahvish Rukhsana -- Diaries.
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