Visiting My Oma in Germany- From Suburban California to NRW

visiting my omaMy Oma, Elfriede, was a strong woman. She was a widow for the last 20 years of her life, and lived alone with her dog, Ben. But, she never seemed lonely. She had her routines, her friends, and a set way of doing things.

I loved going to visit her in Germany. Once I turned 11, my parents would send me alone on a plane, so I had her all to myself. My bed in her house was the most comfortable place I have ever slept. Soft mattress, thick feather bed piled high on top of me to keep out the chill. I had a small room, but it was perfect. In the middle of the night, if I couldn’t sleep because of jet lag, I’d creep down the hall to her room. Her snoring was legendary, and could be heard from 3 blocks away! She’d wake when I whispered her name, and take me to the kitchen and make me cocoa, then she’d sit with me and talk until I was tired enough to go back to bed.

Then she’d wake me at 6 AM with the vacuum cleaner!

Oma let me bake my first real cake, not from a box mix, but a real cake. I remember, it was a Rhubarb Cake. The recipe is lost in time, but the memory remains. I was so proud, because she let me do it myself, and then she served it to her Doppelkopf (card game) group. She even told everyone I made it.

Oma spent a lot of time working in her huge vegetable garden. She’d can and freeze everything, and much of it would be given away, because she couldn’t possibly eat it all alone! There was no question of doing less though. Into her 80′s she’d rake leaves, and keep that big lawn clear (there is even a legendary story about her climbing the the trees to get the leaves BEFORE they would fall).  And she’d talk to things around her- the radio, the stove, Ben. She’d tell those flies to leave her kitchen, and then giggle with this crazy laugh after she bashed them with the fly swatter.

As I got older, we spent more time talking… about the past, about relationships, about family. She had strong opinions, and an ingrained sense of what is right. But, if something bad happened, when the dust settled, she didn’t dwell on the negative.  When we were done she’d just say, “that’s all we have to say about that.” And it was done.

When my kids were small, I got to see her one last time. Oma was still cooking up a storm, still had her strong opinions, still had her dog, but she was starting to lose her memory, and we all knew it was a matter of time before she couldn’t live alone anymore. My cousins and my Aunts and Uncles would check in on her, but after a while it became unsafe, and she had to move into a home.

oma and opa

She passed away three years later, quietly in her sleep. My parents happened to be visiting Germany, and got to see her just the day before. Maybe she was waiting to say good bye.

A few years ago, I was back in Germany, and got to go in to her house. It was hers, and it wasn’t. My cousin lives there now. Much is the same- the furniture, the dangerous curving staircase into the cellar, the cold bathroom! But she’s not there. And I miss her so.

Oma’s Kitchen Counter

8 Grandchildren and 2 Great Grandchildren All Spent Time Sitting Here


My Oma had 8 Grandchildren, and knew 2 of her Great-Grandchildren before she passed away. We all sat on her Kitchen Counter, in front of the big window, and kept her company.

I have such an unbelievably strong memory of this place. If I close my eyes, I’m there- watching her cook, snibble beans, can cherries, or bake a cake. I can smell the cooking, hear her radio, hear her talking back to the radio (hahahaha)… and I loved every moment.

And I miss her so….


23 thoughts on “Visiting My Oma in Germany- From Suburban California to NRW

  1. This a page out of my own life book. The happiest years of my life were spent with my Oma n Opa

    1. Thank you… would you be willing to share some stories? We’d love to hear them.

    2. My Oma and Opa, both German-born, but lived here in Canada for all my childhood. I am an only child, and was their only grandchild. I spent nearly every weekend with them, and loved every second. To Oma, I was Puppimaus, or just Maus… She was never without her knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, or sitting at her sewing machine. She was a dressmaker “back home”, and took such pride in her impeccable work. I learned so much from her. She rarely cooked, but she was a wonderful cook when she did.
      Opa was my playmate, always ready to tell me a funny story, or go dress up in Oma’s apron, shower cap, slippers, and wielding the toilet brush. We would laugh till we cried, he was so much fun. He was always reading the newspaper or keeping up with the world events on TV news. I remember countless games of Mensch Argere Dich Nicht with them, Müle und Dame, and later, backgammon and Yahtzee with Oma.
      She and I went out for dinner together often as I grew up and lived on my own. My beloved Opa smoked a pipe, and it was cancer that ended his life at age 72 when I was 15. Oma lived a very long life, so capable until the last 10 years of her life, when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. I lost my wonderful Oma long before she actually died 7 yrs. ago, at age 90. I am grateful she got to briefly know my now-husband and saw both of our children. I think back at so many wonderful memories shared with them, and I cry as easily as I smile. I loved them immensely, and I will hold them in my heart forever.

      1. How wonderful that you could spend such good times with your Oma and Opa. Those are the best memories.
        Thanks you so much for sharing your story.

  2. What a beautiful tribute to your Oma. I too have very fond memories of my Oma, Elisabeth, and can relate to some of your description especially the feeling of being safe, comfortable and loved in her house like nowhere else! Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Thank you… I’m glad you liked it. I’d love to hear some of your stories about your Oma Elisabeth too!

  3. My Mom and Dad still make rhubarb cake though I never cared much for it. My tastes lean more toward cakes with whipped cream and Quark 🙂

    1. All you have to say is CAKE… and I’m good. (Although I’m not crazy about Marzipan or Mohn/Poppy seeds). I have a wonderful blueberry Quark cake… thanks for reminding me.. I will bake it when Blueberry season rolls around again!)

    2. MMMMmmmmm…. I would never say no to a cake made with whipped cream and quark…
      Actually, when I look at my dress size, I guess I should say that I seldom say no to any cake! 🙂

    3. I have to comment on your name. It is the first time I have seen Gabriele spelled like mine. It must be the German spelling.

  4. The reflections of your Oma are wonderful, took me back to my last vist with my Oma Herta. She was s tough woman who survived the war with 5 children, then separated from all but one by living in the East zone. Your stories also made me determined to share those memories with my nieces and nephews, who never had the peivelge to meet her. Thank you for the inspiration!

    1. If you want to write some of your stories, I would love to post them. Other people have similar backgrounds, and I know they would enjoy reading about your Oma. Email me at [email protected] if you’d be interested in sharing. I know I’d like to hear about her. Both of my Omas had some tough times during the War.. and maybe it’s time people heard that side of the story.
      Thank you!

  5. The timing is ironic, as I was just talking about my Oma today! I lived in Germany until I was 10 yrs. old. I was the only grandchild and knew how much my Oma loved me. As she lived about three doors down from us, I spent a lot of time with her. — I could really say that she was my favorite person ever! When I had to move to the U.S. at age 10, it broke her heart and mine too. Since I am an Oma myself, I would hope that my two granddaughters have some good memories to look back on. The older I get, the more I appreciate all the loving things my Oma Elizabeth did with me and for me! I cherish those memories of her!!

    1. Oh.. it must have been so hard to leave her. It was hard in the days before Skype and email to keep contact. My kids don’t think about distance, but to me growing up, they were HUGE!
      I know your grands must love you too!

  6. Love your memories of your Oma. My Oma and Opa had a “Schrebergarten” in West Berlin as I was growing up. They spent their summers there. I have the best memories of that magical place.

    1. I wish we had Schrebergarten here where I am…. I miss having a garden. Love those little plots.

  7. Wow, that sounds so much like my Oma and my mother. I won’t go into it, but German women are as tough as nails. But then some. I miss my Oma so much and to go to her house would never be the same.

  8. What sweet memories. I am now an Oma to my 2 grandchildren and hope I can create some wonderful memories for them.

    1. I’m sure you can. Time with them seems to be the most important thing

  9. My mom passed away about 5 years ago. My daughter had just started her last semester in college back then and was devastated as she was not able to travel back to Germany with me. She was Oma’s „Mäuschen“ . My mom seldom called her by her American name as she had a hard time pronouncing it correctly. This summer my daughter will join us for a vacation in Germany and it will be the first time she will get to visit her Oma’s graveside. I am glad I will be with her as It will be very emotional for her.

    1. ((hugs)) It hit me so hard when I went to Germany years after my Oma passed away. I’m so sorry for your loss.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!