A Chance Duet
by Alan Grant - (1/10/2013)
That two individuals, so diverse in age, background and life involvement, should have briefly engaged one another – was an unlikely caprice.. He was fifty-eight and she was in her mid-twenties. It was not a romantic encounter. He was educated. She had only finished a gymnasium, and wanted to be a florist. 1934 was so unsettled in Germany. Hitler had come to power only the year before. She and her sister were able to get out and their way to Spain. There they opened a restaurant in the port of Cadiz. It was short-lived because they wanted to come to the United States. In order to get the necessary papers, they went back to Germany the following year, secured the needed documents and left for England. After a year’s hiatus, her convoluted journey ended in America. Speaking principally German, with a few words of English, Edith managed to get a job as a servant maid in the home of a wealthy man who lived uptown in Manhattan. By subway, she commuted from Sunnyside on Long Island to her duties in New York. His path to America was much more direct. In 1921, he briefly sailed into New York on the Rotterdam, and then returned home. He had lived in Berlin since 1915. With advent of the Nazi’s he knew his future would be extremely precarious. He emigrated and settled into a college town in New Jersey.
One day in 1938, her employer advised that he had sent a car to bring a guest in his home for the following week. She was told to look after him, because he tended to be distracted and casual about his appearance and she was to make sure that he was presentable before he went out to honor his engagements. His vest had to be properly buttoned, and his hair, not astray, but fully combed. There were free intervals each day and he would sit at the grand piano in the salon, and start to play and sing folk songs in German. Excitedly, she joined in. The two of them nostalgically harmonizing from their Vaterland. Their favorite was ‘Du Du Liegst mir am Herzen’. It was a romantic ballad that had come down from early in the nineteenth century. It began with,.. ‘You are in my heart always, and you fill my thoughts too…’ The multiple verses were rhythmic, and they both were captured - savoring the repeated words and melody. The sound of their voices echoed warmly thru this elegant mansion. The week went by too quickly, and as he said goodbye to his host. He thanked Edith for her diligent care, and especially for their shared pleasure in making music together. They never saw each other again. In 1945, as the war with Japan was finally ending, And because by then, she had become fluent in speaking and reading English. She treasured reading, the daily New York Times that was reporting over and over, the dropping of the Atom Bomb. This amazing development could not have taken place without the scientific genius of Albert Einstein. His picture kept reappearing daily. What a revelation! Seven years earlier, the gentleman guest in her servant care – was only known to her - as Herr Doktor. Shortly thereafter, she left the housekeeping employment, married and went on to spend the next forty-five years as a florist in New York – and died at age ninety-two. This is a true story, as generously recounted to me by her daughter, Frances Glavan. (a retired schoolteacher). ================================================ 2