Was it the enchanted adolescence,
running barefoot by the onion fields
in view of the centuries-old castle
on forest green hill while riverboats
ran along the Rhein?
Every day at three the Brotchen Lady
rang her bell and we ran out to greet
her, eager for an ice cream treat along
with her pastries and bread. My child
does not know such innocence.
Did that idyllic life make it
that much more impossible because
I believed, I really believed, it would be
the same for me one day when I
would raise my family?
Mom stayed home back then, and
I walked to Middle School, where it seemed
there were no cliques, no petty competition.
We spent Friday nights at the chapel
with the youth group.
Did I ever consider it might not
be so easy for me? No. I bought into
the dream they sold me. Work hard,
you prosper. Love, you will be loved.
Ask, and it will be given unto you.
But in 1977 such things were so far off,
and my days were spent laughing, cycling
around the base where we lived. It was named
for Patrick Henry. Like him, I decided early
I wanted liberty or death, no middle ground.
And one day, unexpectedly, as I watched
the latest tourist boat pull away from the
Heidelberg dock, flickers of a future
truth flashed before my eyes and
I thought I saw a familiar face.
Freedom said follow, follow him now,
whatever the risk. I fought sudden urge to jump
into the river and swim like mad toward shape
of someone I’d never known but somehow knew.
I have always wondered: was it you?