Fathers & Sons. Pt.1
‘we are not our fathers sons, we are, our mothers’ children.‘
People ask me often, ‘Alex Ferry! Where’re you from?’ That’s not difficult to explain but it takes time. To listen.
My father’s mother, a Franco-German, was born in Elsass-Lothrington to a Hamburg seamstress and a Bordeaux wine dealer. His father was the son of an Austrian pig-farmer’s daughter and a Norwegian carpenter. My father, born in Koblenz in 1920, was a carpenter, like his father before him.
My mother, a Canadian, was born to an Englishman of Dutch descent, a veteran in the trenches of the first great war, and a Maltese woman of Spanish descent. My mother’s mother, the Maltese Spaniard, remarried when my mother was twelve, to a German masseur, and moved from Canada to Germany, to the heart of wine country, Boppard on the Rhein.
My mother spent many late summers picking grapes on the steep hills, back-breaking work, but it became a great passion of hers. “It’s the smell on the vines, it’s lovely,” she would say, when retelling her earlier years. She fell in love with wine. And the duties that accompanied that love: the ‘Weinfest,’ as it’s called in Germany, a great German tradition, when the vineyards open their doors and present their coming issue to the palates, with cheese and smoked meat or whatever helped to enhance the character of the wine in the mouths of connoisseurs and the curious.
Each summer, the country, the continent and the rest of the world descend on the Rheinland, to experience the sights, the medieval castles and architecture, and the breathtaking ballad of the Rhein river snaking its ways for miles on end through mountains, towns and valleys. They come to drink the wine. This, my mother’s passion, is what brought her and my father together, with Koblenz only a stone’s throw away.
My Father is not a great lover of wine, neither does he possess the knowledge, he’s a beer man, and schnapps, but he proudly enjoys a sip from the region. In Germany, being a carpenter doesn’t make you lower class, and my father was certainly not. He was well read and actively engaged for his local councilman, so long as that man or woman held social democratic views and an ounce of decency.
Established in his trade, and deeply analytical, Dad played chess often with the owner of the most successful hair salon in Boppard – Coiffure Magnifique – a certified ‘master stylist’ named Guido, who, with his wife Doris, a fine cultured woman with command of French and the English language, prepared and hosted the finest dinner evenings in Boppard, in a princely house built by my father, and the only route to an invitation, was through chemistry.
It was at one of these dinners where Dad met my mother, whose step-father, the masseur, had spent two months getting Guido’s strained lower back – from falling drunk down a stairs after a long night out – back into shape.
My mother hadn’t met Guido before, she’d only met Doris, at the Weinfest, where Doris revealed Guido’s mishap to her, the remedy to which, she said, her stepfather ‘had on hand.’
Guido was extremely grateful, but there was no chemistry between him and the masseur, therefore, only a business transaction and a further recommendation where and when appropriate. It was Doris who felt the chemistry, with Mum, to whom the invitation came.
My father was no ‘Enfant Terrible,’ he instilled the values of duty, loyalty and trust, and an honest day’s work, in conversation and by his actions. It was his wish, even if left unsaid, that I would someday follow in his footsteps, but they both discovered early, my budding romance with mischievous adventure on the narrow side of the law.
My first ‘business venture,’ at thirteen, was a gold mine: the Animal Club. The coin kept pouring in; what good family wouldn’t open their purses to contribute to such a meaningful ‘school project!’ I cleaned the neighbourhood and surrounding areas with that one(as far as my bicycle would take me), until I was made by one of my father’s acquaintances.
Dad was angry, I think he even shouted at me for the first and only time in my entire life; he couldn’t understand why a boy from a thriving middle-class family would do such a thing. The punishment was ‘grounded for two weeks’ and no pocket-money, but he filled my pockets generously after the punishment ended, maybe to remind me that in our family, money was not an object, or, to be acquired using shady means.
My mother, when he wasn’t there, had a hearty laugh with me over the whole affair. She knew I would never hurt or kill anyone, or steal property, but she sensed my desire to fly higher than imagination would allow, she knew I was drawn to living on the edge; she knew there was more to come.
That wonderful woman would have bulldozed the entire neighbourhood, or school, if she felt I had been mistreated or unduly dealt with in any way. She was not to be trifled with, as far as my person was concerned. And always that golden smile, unforgettable, specially for me, and sometimes a wink, but never a harsh word. My parents were firm, decent, kind, and loving. My father showed be how to be a man; my mother showed me how to enjoy life; she adored me, as I did her.
I’m not blonde and blue-eyed, like my father, quite the opposite; green eyes, with the dark hair and complexion of my mother. 175cm at 73kg, a small nose, not straight and sharp like Dad’s, but rounded, like Mum’s. A small mouth shaped like my father’s, but with full lips like my mother. It’s a rich mixture of ancestry, adventure and southern flair.
So you see, I’m from everywhere and nowhere, and I do have a German passport, but I’m not a carpenter.
notes: the 2nd excerpt from current manuscript ; all excerpts from this story can be found in the primary menu under ‘Earl Grey. Hot.’ The content of this story may not be reproduced in any form without the author’s consent.