“It was the summer of 1943. Although she couldn’t remember much about what happened, she still remembered the loud gunshots she heard.”
Maritta heard a loud boom. She looked around and saw her mother holding baby Martin close to her. Other women were hugging their children and crying. In the underground chamber, there was nothing but a table and a few chairs. She heard another loud boom.
Poor Papa, she thought.
It was the summer of 1943. Although she couldn’t remember much about what happened, she still remembered the loud gunshots she heard.
Finally, the war had been long over. Being in Fifth Grade without Papa was hard. She woke up every morning, wishing Papa would be there. She knew Papa was dead, although no one had said it out loud before.
After the war was over, her Mama told her, “Papa is missing, but you know that he would want us to stop searching for him.”
But Maritta could hear the hesitation in Mama’s voice. Her voice was dry. She could feel her fear and sadness.
“Maritta,” Mama continued, “we have to let him go.”
Middle school wasn’t any easier. Mama met a new man named Waldemar. Whenever Maritta saw him, she couldn’t bear to look at him. Papa’s name had also been Waldemar.
Maritta asked Mama what she saw in him, but Mama only gave her a weak smile and said, “It’s what Papa would have wanted.”
Mama married Waldemar in 1953. Martin was very happy to have a new father, especially since Waldemar finally bought Martin a new bike that he had always wanted. No matter how much she missed Papa, Maritta was happy that Mama finally found a new love.
“Can you come home for Christmas?” said Mama to Maritta. Maritta was finally going off to college. Her dream was to become a dentist. She couldn’t wait to get to the school.
The school was a big university packed with a lot of students. She made her way through the crowd and went into her dorm.
“Is this room #311?” she asked.
“Yeah,” said the girl sitting on her bed. She was painting her nails with a popping turquoise color.
Maritta set down her things and hung up her three outfits that she brought with her. She took out her white marble necklace. She held it in her hand and started to cry. The necklace was a locket in the shape of a flower. There was a picture of a blond girl sitting outside, surrounded by flowers of all colors. On the back of the locket were her initials engraved in cursive, MB, for Maritta Bauer. Papa had made the locket for her when she was one year old.
Papa used to point to the older girls parking their bikes across the ice cream parlor, and say, “Maritta, that will someday be you.”
She put the locket back into her bag and blinked back the last of her tears. She was about to leave when her roommate dropped her bottle of nail polish on the ground. Maritta jumped at the sudden sound.
“Relax, I’ll clean it up,” teased her roommate.
Maritta forced a small smile and turned around to leave. She could feel her roommate staring as she reached for the doorknob.
“Hey, you haven’t even introduced yourself yet,” said the girl.
“My name is Maritta,” she replied.
“Gisela,” said her roommate.
“No, it’s Maritta,” Maritta said.
“My name is Gisela.” She rolled her eyes and went back to cleaning up the nail polish that she’d dropped.
Maritta looked around the room. The room was very dull. It was about the size of a normal bedroom. There was a small bathroom across from the beds. Next to her bed was a small wooden nightstand. There was dresser and a closet on either side of the wall. Gisela stripped the beige bedsheets and replaced them with turquoise sheets. Maritta eyed her bed. It was white and felt like leather. She got a light lavender blanket out of her bag and threw it over the bed.
This should do for now, she thought.
Maritta opened the door and peeked her head out of door. There was no one there. She stepped out of the room and walked towards the main door. She walked past the cafeteria, but something caught her eye. She looked at the flyer hanging on the cafeteria door.
“Medical class for dentists and doctors,” she read to herself. She yanked the flyer off the door and stuffed it in her pocket. She had always wanted to be a dentist. When she was eight years old, she used to walk past the dentist office on her way to the ice cream parlor and stare at the huge model of a perfectly shaped tooth. When she went for a check up, her favorite part was receiving a piece of caramel when she was done.
“Martin couldn’t make it this time, the train closed because of the snow,” said Mama as she was putting the boots on the windowsill for St. Nikolaus. She took out Martin’s boots, but then she hesitated and put them back into the closet.
The living room was filled with candles and wreaths hanging everywhere. The kitchen smelled like hot chocolate and cinnamon. Maritta went up to her bedroom and sat on her bed. She touched the bed sheets and immediately stripped them off the bed. She stuffed them into her suitcase so she could replace the blanket in the dorm with her old sheets.
“Dinner’s ready!” called Mama from downstairs.
Maritta ran down and saw Waldemar sitting by the fire. Maritta quickly walked past Waldemar so it wouldn’t awkward.
After dinner, Maritta helped clean up and did the dishes. She couldn’t stop thinking about Martin. She missed her little brother.
It was finally time for classes to start. Gisela wouldn’t stop talking about the sororities that were offering her a place with their group. Maritta pretended to listen, but she couldn’t stop thinking about the medical class she was attending this afternoon. She couldn’t wait to finally join a class she was interested in.
“Which one?” asked Gisela.
Maritta snapped out of her thoughts. “What?”
“Come on silly, which sorority should I join?” teased Gisela.
“I don’t know, whichever one you want, ” Maritta replied, then quickly grabbed her books and ran out the door before Gisela could say anymore.
The first day went by super fast. But the only thing Maritta was looking forward to was the medical class. After her last regular class, she packed up all her books and walked into the room across the hall, where the medical class was held. There were about eighteen people in the classroom. It seemed like Maritta had missed the first few minutes. She took a seat in the middle of the classroom and tapped the guy sitting next to her.
“What did I miss?” she asked him.
“Not much. The teacher was just introducing himself,” said the guy.
Maritta sat back in her chair and took out a notebook.
“What are you studying?” he asked.
“I’m studying dentistry,” she replied.
“I’m studying medicine to be a doctor,” he said.
Maritta smiled at him and dug through her bag to find a pencil.
“I’m Heiner, by the way,” said Heiner.
It had been about six years since Maritta graduated university. She couldn’t believe her dream was finally going to come true. Heiner had already started his job, but Maritta was still looking. Ever since the Berlin Wall had been constructed in 1961, it had been hard for people to find jobs. The Berlin Wall separated West Germany from East Germany to keep people from fleeing to the other side. Anyone who tried to escape was punished or even shot.
Heiner had become the health minister of East Germany about a year ago. He’d also proposed a year ago at their favorite restaurant. Maritta had been super excited and Mama even came to congratulate them.
Finally Maritta found a job as the head dentist of a company not far from where Heiner was working. Being in the company reminded her of when she was little, always staring at the glass window of the dentist office back home.
On May 8th, 1967, Maritta and Heiner’s first child was born, Ulrich Apel. Only a few months after, Maritta and Heiner finally got married. Mama came and took care of Ulrich. She helped Maritta get ready for the wedding.
The day was here. August 19th, 1967, Maritta and Heiner got married in the church. Maritta wore a short white dress and her hair short and curly. Mama and Waldemar sat in the front. Mama stared at Maritta the whole time. The wedding was beautiful. Maritta’s favorite part was the perfectly assembled bouquet sitting right next to the priest. Mama walked her down the aisle when the ceremony started.
If only Papa could walk me down the aisle, she thought.
After the wedding, there was a photoshoot with the flowers. Ulrich also had a few pictures taken.
It had been exactly twelve years since the wedding. Heiner had to go to West Germany to see his mother. But there was no way to get there.
“I’ll pretend to fly to Switzerland on business, and then I can fly to West Germany from there,” suggested Heiner.
“Are you sure it will work?” asked Maritta.
“I’m very sure,” replied Heiner. “If I’m back in time, no one will suspect a thing.”
Heiner left in the winter.
“When is Papa coming home?” Asked Maritta’s second son, Christian, who was now ten.
“I don’t know, as long as it takes for your grandma to feel better,” replied Maritta.
Two years and still no Heiner.
Why hasn’t he come back? thought Maritta. She stared out the window at the two men shoveling snow.
“Ulrich! Come down and look at this, please!” yelled Maritta from the living room.
Ulrich ran down from the stairs. “What?”
“Look at the two men shoveling snow.”
“What about them?”
“Don’t you remember?” she asked, “A few years before Papa left, you and Christian were shoveling snow in the driveway. ”
“Oh, I remember! We wanted to get rid of the snow but we ended up building snowmen again.”
“And those men” — Maritta pointed to the men again — “will someday be you.”
“Dinner’s ready!” yelled Maritta. She set the table and went to get milk from the icebox. When she came back to the dining table, the boys still weren’t down yet. She went upstairs to their room. “Are you two still playing chess?” she asked as she walked into the room.
“Just a second, I’m about to win,” said Christian.
“No, you’re not!” said Ulrich.
Maritta just sighed. Ever since Heiner had left, the kids had been banished from school. They would only be able to continue when Heiner came back. A few months ago, the government noticed that Heiner wasn’t on this side of the wall anymore. Being the Health Minister of East Germany, it was important for him to be present.
Suddenly Maritta felt too sick to stand. The feeling of waiting for someone to come home pierced her heart. She remembered waiting for Papa to come home when she knew he was never coming back.
Don’t worry, Heiner’s coming back soon, she thought to herself.
“Can I go to Sven’s house?” asked Ulrich. “I’ll be careful.”
“I guess,” answered Maritta. Now that more conflict had been happening with Heiner’s disappearance, more victims suffering from the wall, and more people escaping, she had to be careful that no one got hurt. Even though Ulrich was now a full-grown adult, she still didn’t want to take any chances. But Ulrich’s best friend, Sven, was the only thing that distracted Ulrich from Heiner. “But let me come with you, I need to buy a few things,” she said, grabbing a shopping tote.
They left the house and walked through the neighborhood. They got on the sidewalk and saw a black car pull up at the town office. A small crowd was watching as the driver got out and opened the car door. A man wearing a hat and a thick winter coat stepped out of the car. Maritta couldn’t see his face, but something about him seemed familiar. The man turned around and started walking towards Ulrich and Maritta. It was Heiner! She ran towards him and hugged him very tight. Tears rolled out of her eyes.
“Even if we are miles and miles apart, we will never be separated,” he whispered.
Heiner had finally come home after ten years in West Germany.
A few months later, the wall was finally torn down. The president reassured the community the wall would come down. The citizens ran to the wall and climbed over. There were fireworks and people hugging their loved ones with tears in their eyes. Germany was finally one again.