Iowa Writes

ANNELIESE TISDALE
Phillipe


During the summer of 1939 my brother Ludwig was an exchange student in France. He was to spend six weeks in St. Etienne with his host family, Monsieur and Madame Cartier and their children, Philippe and Lisette. After six weeks in France, Philippe would return with Ludwig to be part of our family.
The Cartiers invited my parents and me to visit them and to travel with them through France during Ludwig's stay. On my parents' behalf, Ludwig extended a similar invitation to the Cartiers. On a bright sunny July day, Ludwig left for France.

When Ludwig's first letter arrived, we could tell that he fit in well with his new family and friends. Finally came the day when my parents and I were on the train to St. Etienne, where we were warmly welcomed by the Cartier family. With Ludwig and Philippe translating, our two families enjoyed getting to know each other. Even though I couldn't understand a word of French, I accompanied Madame and Lisette whenever they went shopping. We used facial expressions and gestures to get our ideas across. Sometimes it was like a game of charades to watch all of us trying to "converse." I liked the outgoing and vivacious dark-haired woman with the winning smile and loved to hear her talk. Listening to her every word, I vowed to learn French in school as soon as I could.

Lisette was in nurse's training. She was her mother's daughter, happy and outgoing.
Monsieur Cartier was a rather quiet and reserved gentleman who would once in a while smile and nod to me from behind his newspaper. And then there was Philippe with his slow, irresistible smile and laughing eyes.

During the summer of 1939 my brother Ludwig was an exchange student in France. He was to spend six weeks in St. Etienne with his host family, Monsieur and Madame Cartier and their children, Philippe and Lisette. After six weeks in France, Philippe would return with Ludwig to be part of our family.
The Cartiers invited my parents and me to visit them and to travel with them through France during Ludwig's stay. On my parents' behalf, Ludwig extended a similar invitation to the Cartiers. On a bright sunny July day, Ludwig left for France.

When Ludwig's first letter arrived, we could tell that he fit in well with his new family and friends. Finally came the day when my parents and I were on the train to St. Etienne, where we were warmly welcomed by the Cartier family. With Ludwig and Philippe translating, our two families enjoyed getting to know each other. Even though I couldn't understand a word of French, I accompanied Madame and Lisette whenever they went shopping. We used facial expressions and gestures to get our ideas across. Sometimes it was like a game of charades to watch all of us trying to "converse." I liked the outgoing and vivacious dark-haired woman with the winning smile and loved to hear her talk. Listening to her every word, I vowed to learn French in school as soon as I could.

Lisette was in nurse's training. She was her mother's daughter, happy and outgoing.
Monsieur Cartier was a rather quiet and reserved gentleman who would once in a while smile and nod to me from behind his newspaper. And then there was Philippe with his slow, irresistible smile and laughing eyes.

The first city our two families visited was Paris, the "City of Lights." While walking along the Seine river and checking out the offerings of the various bookstalls, Philippe bought an envelope of stamps for me. Ludwig had told him that I was a stamp collector. I am sure it was meant to be a nice gesture for the sister of his exchange brother, but to me it was so much more. I had developed a secret crush on Philippe, who was tall, had dark curly hair, and was, after all, a real Frenchman. I was going to have so much to tell my friends in school about my trip and especially about Philippe.

Near Paris, we visited the luxurious castle of Versailles with its splendid Hall of Mirrors. A half-buried, rusty helmet near Verdun-sur-Meuse was a silent witness to one of the longest and bloodiest battles to take place during WWI. In Givenchy, Papa reflected back to January 28, 1916, when he was lying severely wounded on this battlefield: "I didn't know your mother then, but it was on her twentieth birthday that I was wounded here." The high point of our visit was the beautiful Loire Valley with its castles and cave homes.

Our week with the Cartier family had gone by much too fast. I had become very attached to Madame and hated to leave. Mama consoled me, reminding me that they would visit us in Munich.  I was so excited when Ludwig and Philippe arrived, and tried to tag along with them whenever possible.

It was the last week of August. Philippe had been with us for four weeks, when the mailman arrived on his bright yellow bicycle with a telegram for Philippe. As he proceeded to read it, his expression became somber.

"I'm to return to France immediately. It says there is imminent danger of war."

Momentarily there was silence while everyone tried to comprehend this alarming news. Papa was first to regain his composure.

"Ludwig and I will accompany Philippe to make sure that he gets safely across before the border closes." Philippe promised he would come back after this war was over.

Ludwig and Papa traveled with Philippe as far as the German border, waved a last good-bye, and the train headed into France. Several years after the war, we had a reunion with Philippe's family. Philippe was not with them. He had died in a concentration camp. He had expressed his ideas too openly. We remembered and mourned Philippe. For that short summer, he had been our brother.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

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ANNELIESE TISDALE

Anneliese Tisdale has written a memoir of her life before and during WWII in Munich, Germany. She received a BA and MA from the University of Iowa. A retired foreign language teacher, Anneliese and her husband make their home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

This page was first displayed
on March 08, 2010

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