Thursday, April 29, 2010

Faded memories and the ones I don’t even have

Ever know about things that happened in your family, but don’t have any recollection of them, even though you KNOW you were there? I have a lot of those about times with my von Trapp cousins when I was a kid. I’m sure my older siblings remember much more, and I’m pretty sure any memories I have myself stem from stories they told. Perhaps I can persuade them to contribute some of their memories here? Remember, I had that gap from age 11 to about 22 where my contact with my von Trapp aunts, uncles, and cousins was sporadic, limited mostly to weddings. Even when my parents were married, we spent more time with our Lajoie cousins (my mother’s family). I have lots of memories and stories about them, but that's a different story altogether.

My father’s sister Eleanor (Aunt Lorli), who had married Hugh Campbell lived nearby in East Greenwich RI, where Hugh was the headmaster of Rocky Hill Preperatory Academy. Lorli and Hugh had seven daughters; Elizabeth, Peggy, Jeannie, Polly, Erika, Hope and Martina. Still, even though they were close by, I only remember a few visits. There was some sort of school carnival we went to with them once. Steph won a goldfish by tossing a ping pong ball into the fish bowl. (THESE are the types of things I remember.) Mostly, I remember using their ski house in Waitsfield VT when they weren’t using it, and going to family barbecues in the summer, swimming in their pond (or NOT swimming in their pond in my case, I was a pond wussie back then.) Martina and I were closest in age, and in my memory, we were always together – but she was cooler.

Uncle Werner and Aunt Erika lived nearby Stowe in Waitsfield, VT and had six children – Barbara, Bernie, Martin, Elisabeth, Toby, and Stefan. They lived on a working dairy farm, and my sister, Stephanie, has lots of stories about playing in their barn. Me – not one.

Tante Agathe (or Melein, as we called her) is the second oldest to my father. She never married, and ran a kindergarden with her friend MaryLou for years in Baltimore. My only memory of Tante Hedwig is the time she took me to pick wildflowers in the meadow. I still think of her when I see a Paintbrush flower. She died in 1972 of an asthma attack. Martina died way before I was born, as did my grandfather. Tante Mitzi (Maria) was the fun one. She was always laughing and telling stories and jokes or playing her accordion. She spent most of her adult life as a lay missionary in New Guinea. She brought back really cool Indonesian hand crafts. It was always exciting when Tante Mitzi came to visit because she lived in such an exotic place. I didn’t meet Tante Johanna until I was an adult; she lived most of my youth in Austria with her husband Ernst Winter and their six children. Tante Rosemarie is also not part of my childhood memories, but I helped her out at Sing-Alongs with my Senior groups as an adult. Uncle Johannes I remember well – he scared the crap out of me pretty much my whole life. His wife Lynn was cool, young and pretty – always smiling. Their children, Kristina and Sam, were the only cousins younger than me. Now Sam runs the place. Time sure flies.

Of course, I have adult memories of most of my cousins, aunts and uncles – especially after living and working in Vermont for 10 years. But aren’t adults completely different people than their child counterparts? I’m glad I got to know them better during that time, but I’ll always feel like I missed out on something by being the youngest and having that gap. (Wow, this is kind of sad – sorry about that. Posting it anyway!)


  1. Reading this blog brought back many memories from oh so long ago!!! Most are ones you wouldn't remember because your sweet self had not made an appearnce in our lives yet :( I will try to put something together but it will take a little was soooooooo long ago....stay tuned!

    1. Do you have a blog? I recently learned your family's story and fell in love with it :-) I'm intending to support any Von Trapp left with a publique profile. Werner's grandson's performances are my favourite, but maybe I'm missing other talents? You tell me, please! Love love and more love from Buenos Aires

  2. You must have been a caboose child! :-) The wiki article messed up. On Rupert's page, it lists you as the oldest, lol.

  3. Rebekah - Really? I'll have to take a look! Thanks for pointing that out.

  4. I enjoyed reading this story. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Hi Francoise..I deduced that you were Rupert's daughter as I was your grandmother's first nurse companion under the domain of said it.."scary" Uncle Johannes. I was there during the celebration of the opening when Mary Martin came and Delores Hope and, too, Mitzi, Father Wasner and the others..It is a treasured memory for me and maybe someday we can talk..? I enjoyed your parents and others and certainly, your grandmother! I can be found on FB as Laurie Shepherd Brown or my business..All Connected: Integrative Life Coaching & Health Consulting..It would be a treat to connect with you. i am sorry that you lost your Aunt Mitzi..she was a treasure as I recall:) Blessings, Laurie