When I was five my family moved to Germany. For the first year, we lived in a small rural village. The world view of a five- year-old isn’t broad, but I could pick up on how different things suddenly were.
Country life in Germany was slower to change than it might be today. In 1960, just 15 years after WWII, our village wasn’t very modern. You could buy a Coke or maybe a 7-Up, that was about it for soft drinks.
Village life was different from city life in New Orleans. Every afternoon farmers walked cows though town, from the pastures back home. Sometimes our neighbor would chop one of her chickens’ heads off, to prepare dinner. Washing clothes was done in a big pot on the wood-burning stove.
Being from New Orleans I was used to seeing as many black folks as I would white folks. Our village wasn’t like New Orleans. There were mainly white Germans, and some two-toned older women I’d never seen before.
The older women looked like a grafted tree, a white person’s upper body spliced onto a black person’s lower body. It seemed exotic, but so did most of the things I was seeing in the village. So I never asked my parents about those ladies.
I don’t remember when I figured it out that year, but the two-toned ladies were just old “fraus” who only wore dresses and black stockings every day.
Suddenly, the village made a little more sense and was a bit less exotic for me after that.