Monday, September 28, 2009

Leif and Frau Buhr - Sachsen bei Ansbach, Germany - September 1978 - Age 3 and a half

When we moved to the village of Sachsen bei Ansbach, Germany, we enrolled Leif in the German Kindergarten. In Germany, a Kindergarten is a preschool, not an elementary school class for five-year-olds. Sachsen had a beautiful Kindergarten with several classrooms. It was very modern and had a lot of wonderful curriculum materials and toys as well as a nice playground. Each child had a cubby for his or her her things, and each was required to have their own toothbrush, toothpaste and soap. Before a snack or a meal  they all went to the bathrooms to wash their hands, and afterwards they went there to brush their teeth, so a lot of good habits were taught, too.

Leif's teacher the first year he was enrolled there was Frau Buhr and he loved her dearly. I think you can see that in this photo. In her right hand she is holding a tiny bouquet of some little wildflower that Leif picked for her.

I don't know why Leif took to some people so much and not others, but the two women I remember him being emotionally attached to as a small boy were my sister Lannay and Frau Buhr. He was very affectionate to both of them.

When Leif started in at the Kindergarten that fall of 1978, he was the only American child in the school and the only non-German-speaking child. However, in a mere couple of months he had learned German so well just from being immersed in it that you would have thought he was a native speaker. I imagine that one reason he loved Frau Buhr so much was because during that period when he was unable to understand what was going on around him, she was warm and kind to him.

He had a good year that year but the next year at some point Frau Buhr went on maternity leave and Leif was very unhappy that she was gone. He didn't take to the new teacher who came to take her place. Her manner was quite different than Frau Buhr's and Leif did not respond well. It was a harder time for him and he got into trouble for losing his temper and throwing a toy, which hit another child. He was mortified, partly because of the scolding he got, but equally, if not more so, by what he had done.

The Kindergarten was about a mile and a half from our house. Going there it was downhill almost the entire way and coming back it was uphill. I walked him to school many days but later we had a car pool with a couple of other mothers of boys who lived up on the hill in our neighborhood. Leif had a couple of German boys from our hilltop area that were his playmates, and an American girl who lived about a block away.

I don't know whether Frau Buhr knew how much Leif loved her, but I suspect that all of her students felt the same way about her.

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