Many people who come into the office ask me where I’m from.
The German accent gives me away.
Most people get the same answer: “From a little town an hour from Bamberg. Many veterans here have been stationed there.”
I grew up an hour from Bamberg behind the “Iron Curtain.” I am from East Germany. Many veterans from around here might have stood on the other side of the border from people I knew and cared about as a teenager.
The wall between East Germany and West Germany came down when I was 17. Many people remember the celebration and happy tears on both sides of Germany, but little was mentioned about the confusion and sense of displacement that many people felt.
I find it difficult to express how everything we were supposed to believe in came tumbling down overnight. It was one of the hardest things I experienced in my life.
I was young, and the world had seemed just fine. I had a happy childhood, and yes, we had running water and inside toilets.
After the initial shock, I began to accept the “new world” and started seeing things that had been wrong with the “East bloc” and how confined we had to live and think.
One thing I didn’t get back for many years was my sense of belonging. I wasn’t East German anymore, but I also did not feel at home.
We traveled a great deal, moved many places. The military life of those supporting the Armed Forces demands mobility.
We lived at Fort Hood in the 1990s, in Georgia, Germany, Maryland and Pennsylvania, and then back to Texas last year.
Here I regained something I had lost. It was a vague feeling, something I barely remembered: the sense of being home.
A place feels like home because of the people around you. Texas is a proud state, and so are its people. Here, we still have a sense of value, a sense of patriotism that is unrivaled, and warmth in the hearts of Texans. I came home to my best friend in the world — Rebecca. Her restaurant is my “Cheers” — the place where everybody knows your name.
I made new friends. Erna, without whom my family would have difficulty functioning. My breakfast buddy, Bill, who can brighten up the dreariest of mornings. Carl, who has an interesting story to tell every time I see him, and too many others to mention, from my lovely hairdresser to the funniest gas station owners in Kempner.
Many things have changed in my life, most importantly, my ideologies. Living here, feeling at home, helped me make a big decision that will transform my life.
Stay tuned for the rest of the story ...
Contact Alex Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7470