I've included this extract because its gives us some idea of Clara's personality and what she was like as a mother. This and the previous extract are the only ones I want to include this time. In subsequent posts today I'll be talking more about the whole project.
14 March 1900, Berlin: trams
“We’ve been learning about Berlin today at school,” said Leo. “Our teacher said there are lots of interesting buildings in Berlin.”
“She did, did she?” said Clara. “And do you think she’s right?”
Leo shrugged his shoulders. “Berlin is Berlin,” he said.
“Oh it is, is it?” Clara could not believe that her son was so blinkered. This big vibrant city still fascinated her. Mecklenburg was big by some standards but Berlin. Berlin was Berlin. Leo was right there. But Berlin was a miracle and he couldn’t see that?
Clara looked at the clock. It was not quite four. It would be light for a little while yet. Imelda was busy in the kitchen. Käthe was still asleep. She could ask the maid to keep an eye on the child. They could be back in time for supper.
“Go to the lavatory and don’t forget to wash your hands,” she said to her son. “I’m just going to have a word with Imelda. Get your coat on. We’re going out. ”
“Go on. Do as I say,” said Clara.
“Frau Lehrs, I’m very busy today,” said Imelda. “I don’t know that I’ll have time.”
“Look, we won’t be long. Fräulein Lehrs is still asleep. Rudi’s out with Nanny. Just look on her now and then. And if she wakes up, she’ll probably come and find you anyway.”
“Yes, ma’am. It’s just that…”
“Yes. I know. She can be difficult. Look, we’ll give you a bonus this week. And you can have an extra hour off on Sunday. Will that do?”
“Yes, ma’am. Very well, ma’am.”
It was clear that the young woman would do anything for a little more cash. Well, good. Käthe would be fine. She liked Imelda. And so what if supper was a bit late. Ernst wouldn’t mind. Not if his son was being educated properly.
“Why are we going out?” asked Leo.
“We’re going on an adventure,” said Clara. “And how would you like to go on one of the new electric trams? We’re going to ride the tram. We are from another planet and we’ve just arrived on Earth. And we’re going to see this beautiful city called Berlin.”
Leo clapped his hands. He had never been on a tram before. He walked to school. They walked to most places in fact but if they ever needed to go further afield Ernst would hire a carriage. Clara felt as excited as their little boy looked. She pulled her cloak over her shoulders and they were off.
It was just a short walk to the Kurfürstendamm and there was already a tram at the nearest stop.
“Here we go then,” said Clara, holding Leo’s hand as they both climbed on.
“We want to go to the terminus,” said Clara as the conductor came for the fare. “Return, please.”
The young man nodded and gave Clara two tickets. A middle-aged man gave her his seat and Clara sat down, pulling Leo on to her lap.
The first thing she noticed was the smell. Unwashed bodies, she suspected.
“Mutti, what’s that funny sm…?” Leo began to say.
“Look,” said Clara, distracting him. She pointed to a tram going the other way. “Isn’t it amazing that these carriages go on their own with no horse to pull them? And do you know what makes them work?”
“Lectricy,” said Leo.
“And what is that, young man?” asked Clara.
She wasn’t sure either. They’d just have to ask Ernst that evening.
“Oh and look,” said Clara. She pointed up at the building they were passing. “Aren’t they tall? And look at how the glass shines in the windows. Oh, and all those elegant ladies and gentlemen walking along the streets. Look we’re going faster than the carriages pulled by horses.”
“How old is he?” said a young woman who had just sat down next to them.
“Six. He’s just six.”
“Well he does seem interested in everything, bless him. I wish my young’uns would appreciate half as much in the world. You’ve got a good’un there missus. What’s your name, young man?”
Leo shied away from the woman.
“Leo. His name’s Leo,” said Clara.
“Well, Master Leo,” said the woman. “I hope you enjoy the rest of your tram ride. I’ll have to love you and leave you. This is my stop coming up. Good evening to you.”
“Say goodbye to the lady,” whispered Clara, kissing Leo’s head.
Leo half smiled and waved shyly at the woman. She winked back.
Gradually more and more people left the tram. Finally they were the only passengers. The tram made a last stop.
“We have to get off here,” said Clara.
“Why?” said Leo.
“It’s the terminus.”
“Where the rails end. Look. Watch what happens.”
The driver got out of the tram and moved to the other end. The conductor made his way along tilting the backs of the seats so that they faced the other way.
“Oh,” said Leo. “He’s changed them round.”
“Yes. So that people can see where they’re going. We’ll get back on in a minute and go all the way back home.”
Ten minutes later the tram was taking them back towards their home. There weren’t so many people on now and Leo had a seat all to himself. He pressed his nose up against the window. It was beginning to get dark and the windows in the buildings that lined the wide street were lit up but the shutters had not yet been put into place. They could see right into the apartments and offices.
“Can’t you see what a beautiful city we live in?” said Clara.
“Good,” said Clara. “You can tell your teacher all about that tomorrow.”
Ernst had already arrived home when they got back.
“Vati, we’ve been on a tram,” said Leo. “All along the Ku’damm.”
“A tram?” said Ernst. “All along the Ku’damm. My goodness we do have some style these days.” He raised his eyebrows and looked at Clara. But there was a twinkle in his eyes.
Clara shrugged. “He needed to get to know the city. It was the quickest way.”
“I should think so too. A truly splendid idea. You should make a habit of it.”
“Why can’t I go on a tram?” Käthe was scowling at them.
Clara laughed and bent down to kiss her little daughter on the head. “You shall, my love. Once you are six as well and you don’t need your afternoon nap.”
“It’s not fair. Leo gets all the fun.”
“Oh Käthe, you must be patient,” said Ernst. He bent down and picked her up. “You’ll grow up soon enough.”
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