A few days ago an old classmate from middle school and I reconnected over Facebook. The irony of this is I didn’t even have a Facebook page for over a year and a half. But, due to quarantine and not seeing family going on a month, I’d decided it was time to have one again. As this classmate and I chatted, middle school came up, and he was amazed I remembered such vivid details about the building twenty-six years later.
The details come as fragmented blips of memory, pieced together from all the events, classes, and fairs we shared. I don’t know why I remember the tiny details, but that conversation made me think about the writing journey I’m now on.
At the tender age of eight, my family and I flew across the Atlantic to spend Christmas in Germany. Dad, an airman with the United States Air Force, had already been in the country for several weeks. So we joined him near the end of his deployment, and toured the usual towns.
There’s a public television show called Rick Steve’s Europe. I used to watch it religiously on my days off. Imagine my excitement when the travel guide’s episode about Germany aired. Finally! A place I’d visited as a child! Granted, he got to go when the snow melted away to reveal Spring, and when I was there the streets of an ancient town called Rothenburg were edged with slush.
Rothenburg’s ancient wall is still intact, and draws thousands of visitors every year. Germany in deep winter chills you to your core. It’s even colder than standing waiting for President George W. Bush’s second inauguration in Washington DC to begin and your toes freeze in your shoes because you weren’t fully prepared. From Rothenburg, in a country with a history deeper than my own, I remember a bakery.
Of course a scene like a bakery on an ancient street corner sear itself, in a fractured way, into my mind. The bakery was on the right side of the street near one of the old gates. A warm burst of air invited us in each time the door opened, inviting us in out of the slush-ridden cobblestone street. It sold all the usual baked good treats, and after Dad ordered in broken German, our family of four shared one giant danish.
My family would joke and say, “Typical Leigh, remembering the food.” (I can’t argue with them – I also remember the giant “Peter Pan” weiner schnitzel we ate in a restaurant on a frigid December night in the Alps). I used to think of my long memory as a curse, though now I try to think of it as a blessing as well.
I wonder: is this why I choose to write historical adventure? I write about history so I don’t forget what came before, to learn from past mistakes and grand adventures, and tell the stories inspired by them.