The children were growing up. Barbara was the youngest, an eight year old, and more and more able to keep pace with the others. Philip was the first to suggest it. "Let's go out on deck and see what other children are on board." There were many others and in the coming 6 days on the way to England they often played with them. The girls were all eyes to see around the ship. It was Betty Ann who thought of it, "Let's go find our deck chairs and sit in them." In the next week all of us we often sat together and played games or read or snoozed. When we looked up we saw the large red smoke stacks of the ship.
We had a few days in London to attend the World Fair and then we took an overnight ferry across to the Hook of Holland. Philip was off the ferry ahead of the rest of us and called back, "Here's our train." The train would take us up along the Rhine River. We climbed onto it and Betty Ann said, "I get the window seat this turn," and we soon were on our way.
The children stretched their necks to see if they could see any Dutch windmills but none came in sight. The train gained speed. Betty Ann asked, "I wonder what our cousins will be like?" I thought for a moment and said, "Well Jane must be about your age and Ann about Philip's age. They will be lots of fun." Philip asked, "Aren't there any boys?" "No," I told him, "but we will all have a good time together."
Ruth had been looking out the train window. She was the first to see a grand looking castle high up on the hill. "That's a funny looking house," Barbara said. Betty explained, "Those are towers on the castle and it is a wonderful place. It must have been the home of a prince or a princess" "I wonder what prince lived there?" Barbara was a little starry eyed as she began talking about princes and princesses. "Just imagine what it must have been like to live in a place like that," she said.
By then we were really going fast. Right along the track were rows and rows of grape vines - whole hills covered with vines. Philip looked in amazement, "What do they do with all those grapes?" he asked. "This is wine country." I explained. They gather the grapes and squeeze out the juice to make wine."
After some time the train slowed down and I said we were coming into Kohn. "See that big church," Ruth said, "just see how the walls and windows are all broken. It was one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe before it was bombed. Why did they have to bomb it?" "Ugh," Barbara grunted, "See all those other junky buildings." "They were bombed too," Philip explained. "Yes, war is terrible." Ruth said. "All those lovely places destroyed!"
We did not stop there long. Barbara wanted to know why the people in the train were not speaking English. "This is Germany," I said, "People here speak German." Barbara complained, "I can't tell what they are talking about." "No," I answered, " and that reminds me of a story."
"There were some American women going by boat, like that big one you see out there on the Rhine." All the children pressed against the window to see it. "Most of the people on the boat were talking in German, because they were Germans and German was the language of their country. Then one of the Americans leaned over to her companion and said, 'I wish those foreigners would talk in a language I could understand.'" "Why didn't they?" Barbara asked. "Because the women who were talking were German and they were not in a foreign land. They were in their own country where everyone spoke German. They were not foreigners," I explained. "The Americans were the foreigners." I was about to let it go at that, when I added, "When you get to India most of the people will speak an Indian language. They may seem like foreigners at first but when you learn their language you'll feel like one of them."
Before long we pulled into the station at Mannheim and there was Morris, my brother, to meet us. We hurried off the train. "Welcome to Germany," he said, as he shook my hand and reached over and kissed Ruth. Then he led us to an army car parked nearby. He put his arm on Philip's shoulder and asked, "How has your trip been, Philip?" Then before Philip had a chance to answer he continued, "Now we will go to Heidelberg." Morris was the head chaplain in that part of Germany. Chaplains are like other preachers, only they preach to the soldiers and their families.
We soon left the river behind us. There was much to see all along the way. After about an hour we got to Heidelberg and Morris drove up to a house and said, "Here is where I live." The car had hardly stopped before Jane and Ann came running out to the car and Grayce, Morris's wife, followed them. Right away the children started talking as if they had been life-long friends. They walked off toward the house while the rest of us took out the things from the car and followed them.
Morris said, "Heidelberg is a very famous University town. It was not bombed during the war like other German cities." In the next few days he proudly showed us the city. At one place where we stopped there was a great big barrel. "Whew, that's big," Betty Ann said. Morris added, "They say it is the biggest one in the whole world." The children looked up to the top of it. They could hardly believe what they saw. Jane said, "See that little stairway up the side of the barrel? Let's go to the top."
Philip got to the stairway first and took the steps two at a time. He was really out of breath when he got to the top. From up there they looked down where we were and waved. Then they skipped all around the top of the barrel before they came down. It was surely a big one.
We had a good time in Heidelberg and then we took the train to Switzerland. Before I left America I had a letter from the Methodist women of Switzerland inviting us to stay in a guest house, Victoria, high in the Alps. How powerful those engines were to pull the heavy train up, up, up toward the top of the mountains. There were many tunnels and often we looked down, down, down into the valley. It would have been awful if we were to tumble over the edge of the mountain. At last we came to the station near the guest house. We got into a bus for the ride around the top of the mountain. It hadn't any more than started when the driver honked the horn. "Dad, why don't you get a horn like that?" Philip asked. The horn played a merry little tune. The driver kept honking the horn because he didn't want to meet any other car on that narrow road. We began to see what a beautiful country Switzerland is.
It wasn't long before we arrived at Victoria. No doubt the ladies at the door said, "Welcome." It was in German so we just grinned and tried to be pleasant. There is something about kindness that does not need a language, so we got along just fine all during the week. For five days we roamed the mountainside. One day Philip said, "Why don't we go way down the mountain, to that little town?" The rest of us thought it was a good idea, but when we came to the little town, Meiringen, I said, "I wish I had put on my walking shoes," We looked around a bit and then left the town and walked along a roaring river. Some big dogs ran toward us on the path and I was afraid they were going to jump on the children but a man called to them and they turned back. I think it scared Barbara a little. When we came to a long tunnel she said, "I don't want to go into that dark hole in the hill." But she did. Right after that Betty Ann said, "I think this is far enough. Let's open that gate and take a short cut back to Victoria." And we started the climb back through the fields. Ruth was surprised to see houses built on the side of the mountain and added, "See how steep the roofs are." "That is so the snow will slide off the roof in the winter, and not crush the house" I explained. Betty Ann seemed to enjoy every minute. "I have never seen so many beautiful wild flowers," she said, as we climbed up to Victoria."
But every good thing has to come to an end. All too soon we packed our things and returned to London where we took a boat for India. "What did you like best?" Philip asked. "It was all wonderful," Betty Ann answered. "I liked it best to have fun with Jane and Ann," Barbara piped up. Neither Ruth nor I could decide what we liked best but we all thanked God for such a lovely time. As missionaries we are so often separated from our children that it was just wonderful to have this time with them. So I added, "I think perhaps I liked it best just to be with Betty Ann, Philip, Barbara and Ruth for those few wonderful days." [by James E. McEldowney, Spring 1997]
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