Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Don't Tell Karla!

It'll be news to my wife, Laura, but Karla was my first crush. She was a white German teenager and I was a black American preschooler, but I was determined to marry her when I grew up. Shortly after we moved to Germany, she became our babysitter. Within a few years she had essentially moved in with us. Knowing that most of our memories would fade, Dad later wrote about those days for his kids. Note that Dad intentionally misspells Karla’s name to match his, Carl:

"Carla Leipold had been coming to Camp King for a year or so before we arrived. She must have been about 14 then. She visited a black family who left shortly after we arrived. They were a really rowdy bunch and were partly responsible for the negative image of blacks which prevailed at Camp King.

Carla was dating David Morgan a black MP. I still must smile when I think of this little blonde-haired blue, eyed German girl with black American [language and accent] coming from her lips. When the other family left, Carla latched onto us. David was allowed to visit here at our house, but only under close supervision.

Eventually, Carla was spending every day after school and all weekend with us. She was our daughter, housekeeper, and live-in baby-sitter. She went to her real parents’ house to sleep unless we were going to be out late and we obtained permission for her to spend the night. She wanted blanket permission to stay overnight every night, but her parents would not consent, and we didn’t pursue the issue. Carla finished 8th or 9th grade while she was living with us…

By most people’s standards the relationship between the Leipolds and Petersons was a weird one. The daughter of Susie and Karl was also the daughter of Rena and Carl. And Susie and Karl considered us to be their schwartz (black) daughter, son, and grandchildren. Many times while Carla was at our house, one or more of you would be at their house…"

Dad had a lot more to say to us about Karla, but not all of it was intended for public consumption, so I’ll take over here with my memories. The Leipolds lived just outside the Army base gate about a five-minute walk. We kids loved going off-base to visit Karla’s parents, who were like grandparents to us. I remember them taking us to the candy store, where we would buy a ring wrapped around gummy candy. Later in high school when I bought Haribo Gummi Bears from the German Club, it took me immediately back to Germany.

Karla is still in my life today as are her kids and grandkids. She and her family were at my graduate school graduation,
they were at my wedding,
they were in Hawaii for my nephew’s wedding,
and they were at my daughter’s wedding.
Mom and Karla talk on the phone, Denver to Louisville, nearly every day.If you see Karla; her daughters, Nancy, Susie, or Donna; and her grandchildren hanging out in Louisville, Denver, Nashville, or Waipahu, with my mom, my siblings, my wife, my children, or my grandchildren, you could easily be confused by the brother, sister, daughter, aunt, uncle, mother, grandmother, grandfather language. It gets really complicated when you add in Karla’s German mother who still calls my mother her daughter.

But wait, there’s more. Our family history with Karla is a little more complicated...

And…nobody tell Karla about that crush thing!

No comments: