Frau Pomerine

If I were a composer, this would probably be called a coda—a few measures that bring a musical piece or movement to an end. If I were a doctoral candidate working on a dissertation, what I’m about to write might be considered a footnote. If I were my mother, sending a weekly letter to my daughter who was away at college, it would be a PS—a post script.

And that’s what this week’s blog is—an afterthought on what I wrote last week about Carolyn Niethammer’s and my adventures in Europe during the summer of 1965. As I explained previously, we spent eight weeks working in a calendar factory in Bavaria, making the backboards for Seiberling Tires’ 1966 company calendar.

The factory was an assembly line operation. The woman at the head of the line ran large pieces of paper though a glue machine before sending them out on a conveyor belt. Half of the glue-backed papers, the top side—der Obere Seite—featured a beautiful photo of an alpine scene. The other half, plain white glue-backed sheets of paper, were the back sides—der Rückseite. The top sides had to be carefully folded around each of the corners. The back sides needed to cover all the folds. Carolyn and her partner were top side girls. Frau Pomerine and I were back sides.

I remember Frau Pomerine to this day. At the time, she seemed very old to me, but then I was only 22. She was probably somewhere in her mid to late forties at the time, or maybe early fifties. She had plain features and a stout figure, more rectangular than curvy. She wore her graying, curly hair cut short and parted on the side. She always wore buttoned house dresses to work and Oxford shoes with white anklets. Oh, and she always wore an apron as well to keep from getting glue on her clothing.

Other than the word for clothes hangar, my German was non existent. Her knowledge of English was “Wenig, wenig!” In other words, almost non-existent, and yet there we stood, face to face, working together eight hours a day. As I said earlier, she brought us aprons to wear to work. She brought us treats to have during coffee breaks. And she invited us to a Sunday dinner at her very humble home in a nearby village where we shared roast pork with Frau Pomerine, her aging mother—(probably younger than I am now) and her special needs daughter.

The last week we were in Kempten, she brought me a paperback copy of Dr. Oetker’s German Home Cooking. That book, along with Byrd Granger’s Arizona Place Names, and my father’s copy of the Treasury of the Familiar, are the three books that have followed me on my travels up and down the I-5 corridor between Washington state and Arizona.

By the end of that summer, I had learned a bit more German, and it turned out Frau Pomerine knew more English than she had originally let on. She gave me the book during one of our last coffee breaks together. When we went back to work at our station, I asked her, “Frau Pomerine, why are you so kind to us?”

I’ve never forgotten her answer. “After the war,” she said, “I have no husband, no money, no food for my kids. A woman from America send CARE packages. By helping you, I thank her.”

We both ended up crying.

I have no idea who that anonymous woman was who sent those CARE packages, but I benefited from her kindness and compassion. As far as Frau Pomerine was concerned, America was a beautiful place where strangers cared for strangers, even ones who used to be enemies. She knew nothing at all about our political differences or Democrats or Republicans. She saw all Americans as a miraculous kind of oneness.

In this time of total divisiveness, thinking about Frau Pomerine made me wish we still were. But you know what? We are. When someone sends me a note asking for an autograph or a birthday wish for a ninety year-old mother who happens to be a fan? That gets done, due in part to Frau Pomerine and the lady with the Care Packages.

Some sixteen years ago, my daughter and my late son-in-law, Jeanne T. and Jon, participated in a charity called “The Box Project.” They were matched with a woman named Shirley, a Black single mom from Mississippi whose son had serious health issues. Jon passed away fourteen years ago last month, but Jeanne T. and Colt still send Shirley a box of goodies each Christmas. Sometimes they’re household goods. Sometimes the gifts are something more personal. When Habitat for Humanity was building a house for Shirley, Jeanne T. and Colt sent Subway gift cards to help feed the work crew.

And when you get right down to basics, Frau Pomerine’s opinion is correct. America is still a beautiful place, from sea to shining sea.

30 thoughts on “Frau Pomerine

  1. Thank you for sharing this with us today. This is a good reminder that we are blessed to live in the U S A. That trip certainly changed your life and opened your mind to how others are touched by simple kindness.Today we might call it paying it forward. Frau Pomerine and her kindness and the story she shared is still making a difference in our world. What we consider little things could be life changing to others. You brighten our Friday’s with your words.

  2. Beautiful post today. Thank you for your inspirational words. America has so much good in it and may her people come together in hope and peace now, more than ever before. Amen.

  3. Thank you for sharing these good memories, and the reminder that we in the U.S. are a better people than we sometimes seem to be right now. I’m in the older at-risk age group, and in my small(ish) town, all thru this pandemic, people have been kind (and I wrote to our local newspapers with a public thank you). The librarians put books in my car trunk so I don’t need to risk coming inside (but I do miss browsing). A local printer office figured out which inks I had bought in the past and brought them outside to my car. Our grocery stores have curbside delivery, as does our good restaurant. A nurse at the hospital gave me a yummy Dove chocolate after my stress test (I couldn’t have chocolate for a full day before hand and I’d jokingly told her that was the hardest part of the testing).
    I came back in a few days later with a big bag of them for her as a thank you. Looking at the computer screens in the hospital while I was going thru testing, all of which showed I was fine, thankfully, I could see that one of the messages to their staff was that we don’t know what all people are going thru, so just “BE KIND” (in huge letters). And everyone I encountered was, though I’m sure it’s nerve wracking for them to work in the public health sector now. We are doing fairly well in this tough time thanks to the kindness of people in my town and I’m sure that is also true all over this country.

    • Those people were very kind and considerate. I had a man at the hardware store bring me the bolts I needed to the outside of the store because he saw I had a cane. However, we need to consider those who do not have cars. No curbside delivery; no grocery pickup; only digital downloads from the library. As much as people moan and complain about Amazon, I would have starved without it and its food deliveries. Want to go to the doctor? Forget it, senior bus service was shut down. I had to one woman to take me to the eye doc and my driver sat in her car for two hours.

      • Attached to wrong post. Sorry.
        I do know what you mean. I live in a rural area. No grocery stores deliver and I am not driving right now and also high risk. I depend on my niece to pick up my groceries from Walmart p/u. I order the things I can’t order online from there. Praying we get back to a similance of normal soon.

  4. Wonderful things are happening in America every day. We just don’t hear about them. My daughter spent a semester in France and is still friends with the family.
    They’ve never been able to travel here.

    I’ve spent some time in France and England. On one trip home a young man knelt on the floor to kiss it as we came down the hall at JFK. I don’t know if he was a native American or a visitor, but I thought it was a great thing to do.

    I think things will turn out alright in time. I try to be positive.

  5. Kindness does still exist but nowadays it’s at the local level only. Once the political people get involved, kindness evaporates. That’s why I keep my charitable donations local, to ensure what I can donate actually goes to the people I want it to.

  6. Thank you for sharing this wonderful message. I, also, believe Americans are a good people and I do my best to share with others, to not disparage those I don’t agree with, and I have passed on my beliefs to my children and grandchildren who are caring, productive, and happy people.

  7. I must have been about 10 years old when I watched my mother gather supplies for a Care box to be sent to Germany. She had a letter from someone in Germany that had a hand drawn picture of a women’s suit that the writer would like supplies sent so she could make the suit. That picture has stayed in my memory all these years.

  8. Your blog today brings tears to my eyes. If only we all realized how much everything we say and do touches others. We may not ever know first hand how we either inspire or discourage someone. That’s why it’s so important to always try to be understanding and kind. Look for the good in others and tell them they are appreciated. Just one kind word can cause a ripple effect. Thanks for today’s beautiful blog, Judy.

  9. Thank you for sharing Frau Pomerine. As a person of German heritage your description of her reminded me of my aunts (now passed on). They were rather stout and wore simple housedresses even though they were born in the US. They were kind to strangers and loved their families fiercely. I thought of them today as I read your blog and once again felt gratitude for my heritage. The US is a great country and their is still great kindness here. We all just need to try a little harder to bring harmony and piece to our little parts of the world. Thank you for your writing. I truly enjoy it.

  10. I love your blogs, today’s especially!

    I have 5 sisters and we all love to read & share books. Your JP Beaumont series we’re a delight when we were young moms in Seattle area….reading about Belltown & the infamous dog house!
    Our mother was born in Bisbee, AZ and late in her life we took her there to reminisce & tell us stories. My own daughter has ended up in Phoenix, so we’ve visited Bisbee again to enjoy the history!

    We continue to read whatever you write, you feel like family with our Bisbee connection! ? I had the pleasure of seeing you at the UW bookstore. I worked at the UW at the time & my office mates & I we’re all thrilled to see you live!

    Today’s blog is such a great reminder to be kind amidst the craziness happening in our country & world! We are a loving, caring people (though many would doubt that with our current turmoil), my hope & belief is there are more of us lovers than the haters & love will indeed prevail ??.

    Know your writing touches so many, to inspire & to relax & enjoy….many or most of your books, are the kind I hate to see end!!!

    After 45 years of living in the Seattle area, my husband & I relocated to Coos Bay, OR. Retirement gives me time to read among other things…. I think it’s been long enough, I can reread all JP’s adventures again ?!

    Take good care, stay safe, and thank you for your reminder today, kindness stays with us ??????

    Sincerely, Jackie

  11. I love the town of Bisbee Az! Lavender pit was the first attraction. I used to car camp with Napa highschool students along the route between the Salton “Sea” and Midland Texas. (no air conditioning of course. After all they need the full desert experience.) Your stories allow me to visualize the locations you describe. Not long ago I was camping out at the gun range and we had a “parade” of walking sticks attracted to the light of the fire. I have never seen so many in one location. Is that common for the area?

  12. I loved your story, and I agree! America is still a wonderful place with way more good, kind, loving people than the ruffians we keep seeing in the news.

  13. I look forward to your blog every week. Thank you for this one as it was a reminder to “Be Kind” and also that we live in a wonderful count, even with everything going on right now.
    I remember packing CARE packages for my uncles who all served overseas during all the wars and conflicts. We always did 3 boxes for each uncle and then cousins, 1 for them and the others for servicemen who never received packages. I remember during Desert Storm my niece was a Brownie and we bought cases of Girl Scout cookies from her and shipped them along with boxes of hot chocolate powder to mycousins for them to share. They said it was so fun eating girl scout cookies and drinking hot cocoa in the desert at night when the temperatures plummeted. Just a little thing meant so much to the troops. Most times it didn’t matter what was in the box, itwas just a reminder that someone cared.
    We all need to remember that small jesters mean so much to someone who is hurting and have nothing.
    Thanks for the reminder.

    • When my son was in Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom), we sent GS cookies as well as the horribly-overpriced individual boxes of breakfast cereal. My son said these were the best care packages because, for just a little while, they could remember their less-stressful childhoods and relax for a few minutes.

  14. Your blog today reminded me of visiting my mother’s cousin in France in the mid 1960’s. She told me she could barter for the services of a doctor, dentist, or other medical needs using the items that came in her ‘Care Package’ from the USA. My dad had a grocery store and I remember putting items in the boxes for ‘people who can’t find these’. Coffee brought the most rewards.
    We still care for others, but violence and anger seem to dominate the news.

  15. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful stories and memories, and, of course, you’re always Wonderfully readable books.

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