Sunday, January 22, 2017
My favorite things 4
My paternal grandmother played the harmonica, but she called it a "mouth organ." As a kid I was terribly impressed that you could get tunes out of a tiny box (somehow I wasn't quite in awe of getting tunes out of the large box piano). I'm sure she never had a music lesson in her life and I don't know where she learned to play the harmonica. I don't think she had a very large repertoire; the only tune I recall her playing was "Home, Sweet Home."
Although everybody in my grandmother's generation (all born in the US) was bilingual, they spoke German in the home and in the church. But they largely abandoned it during World War I. It was my father's first language, but he switched to English at age five when we entered the war and never was very fluent despite a lot of time spent in Germany in later life, as a soldier, teacher and tourist.
By the time I came along, German was used for bedtime songs, for talking about things that children shouldn't hear, and for the occasional curse. When I got to college and took German I once asked my grandmother why she hadn't taught me German in infancy; it would have been so simple. She said it never dawned on her that an American child should speak anything but English.