In the spirit of President Martin’s call to share our stories, I would like to share a bit about myself here. This bit will also serve the purpose of explaining why I was able to translate portions of Armin Thurnher’s book, Fähre nach Manhattan, from German to English for the feature story “The Most Important Year of My Life.”
In the summer of 1978, right before I started the second grade, my family moved to Germany. My father worked for the Army as a civilian, and he took a job in Frankfurt. We stayed in Germany for four years. I attended a local German elementary school in the village where we lived, Neuenhain am Taunus.
I remember my mother preparing me and my little sister for the move by showing us on a globe where America was and where Germany was. This notion of a bigger world was interesting and novel, and I was excited about the plane trip. But I grew afraid when some well-meaning adult told me, “You’re going to become a little German girl.” Nevertheless, it did happen. I became completely absorbed in the local German community and culture. My mother had to ask my sister and me to remember to speak English at home, since my father didn’t understand German.
We moved back to the U.S. in the summer before I began the sixth grade. I continued to speak and study German. I travel back there as often as I can. On every trip, it feels like returning to a second home.
Thurnher wrote his book as a way of reexamining his own incisive experience of living abroad. His book is a vivid portrayal of Wagner and New York City of the late 1960s, written with the freshness of perspective that only an outsider can bring. If you remember that time, I hope you enjoy reliving it through Thurnher’s words. But even if you don’t, read it to experience a piece of the history of this place, which ties us all together.
— Laura Barlament, Editor, Wagner Magazine