“It really makes you a woman and makes you responsible.”
Edited by Nick Ladeau.
Transcript for To Germany and Back
I graduated from Froebel High School, and my intention was not to go anyplace. I wanted to go to school. And I wanted to be a teacher. And my husband then because we were, after we got married, he left to Germany. He called one day and said, “You’re coming here. I need you here with me.” And I looked at my mom and I said, “I don’t want to go.” And she said, “He’s your husband now. You have to do what he says.” And that was it.
He knew how to get places by then so I wasn’t worried but, and he took me to a little apartment, it was two rooms. One was the living room/kitchen. And the other room was the bedroom. It was great. It was so clean. I remember the landlady. Every morning, she would take her quilts, and hang them over the window. She lived in the higher up apartment. There were two apartments where I was at, one here and one across the hall, and then we had to share the bathroom, and we had to share the shower. But it was clean. And she was maybe every four or five months, she would knock on the door, and she would bring in clean curtains for us. It was a wonderful experience. And she was a wonderful person. I cried and she cried when I left.
It was an experience that I think every young girl should have because it really makes you a woman and makes you responsible. You know, I didn’t have family out there. My ex-husband he was out in the field. More than half of the time I was alone. I had to find my own way. You know, I had to take a bus and a train to get to work. You know, I had to either walk to the commissary or call a taxi. And we didn’t have money for taxis. So usually, after I had my daughter, I’d put her in a stroller and we’d walk all the way to the commissary. It was rough, but it was wonderful at the same time.
At the end of his tour, well, before his tour ended, I tried to head back over here, but there was a problem. No one would give me a passport for Elizabeth. We went to the American Consulate. We went to the German consulate. We went to the Mexican consulate because he was Mexican. But he was not a citizen. He was a Mexican citizen serving in the American army. They wouldn’t give me a passport for her. What am I supposed to do? I said, “She’s 13 months old. What am I supposed to do? I can’t swim to the America.”
So we got a military lawyer. And he came with us and he talked to the Germans, and the Germans gave us what’s called a non-stated passport, in other words, Elizabeth belonged to no country. So good. We got on the flight—me and her—we got to O’Hare Airport, and when we were gonna go to customs, the guy says, when he saw our papers, he says, “I could let you through, but I can’t let her through.” I said, “And what am I supposed to do with her?” He said, “I don’t know ma’am.” So they got someone from the back to come and take me to an office with the baby and sit there, and I told them my father’s out there waiting. So they got on their loudspeaker, whatever you call it, and my father came in, and they said, “We can’t let her through. You know, we’ve never seen this before, ‘non-stated.’” No. And I said, “Well, what am I supposed to do? Go back to Germany?” So they put her on a year probation. Can you imagine that? Thirteen-months-old, on a year probation? And then they instructed me to instruct my husband to become a United States citizen. And that’s what he did. He never wanted to do that. Because he didn’t want to give up his Mexican citizenship. But he had to.
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