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251 53 When Wilhelm’s parents die in quick succession, the loss does not affect Wilhelm too painfully. Maria gives him so much emotional and practical support that he feels completely at home and secure. His siblings Lisa,­ Luise, and Josef marry deaf spouses, and the spacious house has enough room for them all. Maria and Wilhelm move down from the attic to the middle floor. It is a sunny flat, with three nice rooms. The kitchen and living area has a large window facing the street. Here, they can stay for good. Here, their little girl will grow up and learn sign language, the language that her deaf parents and relatives use. She will learn to lipread so as to understand her parents when they speak to her in their deaf voices, and she will also learn to converse in the language of hearing people. Maria sets her child on the windowsill, holds her by the hands, and smiles at her. “All my litt-le duck-ies are swim-ming in the lake.” Maria cannot go any further. She speaks the first line of the song over and over again, ­ heavily, in monotone. Little Maria joins in with her and sways to the rhythm. Wilhelm also“sings” his song to his daughter every day, carrying her on his arm or letting her ride on his knee. The only song of his life is one he has made up himself and, like Maria’s song, it has only one note. Wilhelm is sure that it is a song, and it is called “Tarakapafoto—Tarakapafoto— Tarakapafoto.” Little Maria likes the song, and she sings it with her father while he watches her mouth. Wilhelm often says to his daughter “Mama deaf—I deaf—you hear. Wonderful! A miracle!” Wilhelm doesn’t mind Maria spending four weeks each midsummer in Freilingen with their child, so that she can help with the harvest. Maria’s Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 251 4/26/2017 12:17:50 PM 252 Maria Wallisfurth sisters Setta and Christina, who both are married and living in Cologne, also come to the farm to help. Father picks Maria up from the railway­ station in his black, open landau carriage, the first in Freilingen. On Sunday, 25 August 1929, Wilhelm decides to accompany his wife and child to Freilingen. They want to travel via Cologne, so, early that morning, they get on the Paris–Warsaw Northern Express train in the main station in Aachen. It is the first time they are riding on a fast, luxury train, the fulfillment of a long-held dream of Wilhelm. Maria remembers her father’s admonition that he drove into her as a schoolgirl: Always take the last carriage on a train! Wilhelm and Maria with little Maria in 1929. Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 252 4/26/2017 12:17:51 PM The Stories They Told Me 253 After a brief dispute with Wilhelm, Maria has her way, and they board the last carriage. Wilhelm finds so much caution unnecessary. Their little girl sits between them in the compartment. During the ride, Wilhelm and Maria put their hands on the child’s knee, and the girl playfully turns her parents’ golden wedding rings around. The parents sign to their child and the other passengers watch with interest. All of a sudden, there is a terrible jolt. Little Maria is thrown under the opposite bench, suitcases crash down, and one man has blood all over his face. Maria and Wilhelm lie in a tangle with other people, and Wilhelm’s leg is injured. Outside the shattered windows it is dark. The train has derailed and crashed into an embankment just before Buir, near Cologne. It is the worst railway accident of the 1920s, and it shocks the whole of Europe. Thirteen people are dead and forty are critically injured at a time when train accidents are rare events. Maria,Wilhelm, and their child climb out of the wreckage. The carriages are completely wedged into one another; two carriages are smashed together. Trembling, they realize that they have survived. What they see is dreadful. Later, they Wilhelm, Maria, and little Maria survived the crash of the Paris–Warsaw Northern Express in August 1929. Wilhelm took this photograph. Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 253 4/26/2017 12:17:51 PM 254 Maria Wallisfurth read in the newspapers that most of the passengers on the luxury train were foreigners. They came from...

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