East Germany, Vail & the Fourth

Today we were having our 4th of July breakfast at our favorite place in Vail, the Little Diner.  I’ve never been much of a breakfast person until finding this place when we were here two years ago for vacation.  So there we were, eating away, and Sam started rambling on and on to one of the chefs about his latest LEGO creation, some sort of Alien thing with a homemade escape pod (TMI, I know.)

Trying to get Sam to talk TO the man and not AT him, I prodded him to ask the man if he ever played with LEGOs when he was a little boy.  The man responded, “No, I grew up in Germany, but I didn’t play with LEGOs.”  We laughed, thinking he had lived so close to the LEGO headquarters in Denmark but never played with them.  How naive are we…

The man said, “We didn’t have LEGOs where I lived.”  What? No LEGOs In Germany?  He continued, “I grew up behind the Wall.”  I think I gasped out loud!  Yes, he really was referring to THAT wall, the Berlin Wall.  Wow!  What in the world do you say to that one?

Daddy Mac and I have never been quite so speechless and just stared, aghast.  Sam was confused by the whole conversation and started firing off all sorts of random questions.  “What wall?  A wall with no LEGOs?  You didn’t have LEGOs?  What did you play with?”

The man explained, “I just had some wooden blocks that my father made for me.”  Now it was Sam’s turn to be speechless.  He had no idea what to say.  A childhood with no toys?  No LEGOs?  No Target?  Say it isn’t so.

Our leisurely breakfast turned out quite an interesting history lesson for this six-year-old, learning about the Cold War via LEGOs — and the lack thereof.  We told him about the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall, communism, and how repressed the people were.  Phew!  That’s a lot to explain over French toast, even if it is the best French toast in the world.

The man told us he grew up in Dresden, a city that was bombed and pretty much obliterated at the end of World War II.  We sat there in stunned silence.  Really, what do you say to that?  He reassured us that it has all been rebuilt by now and actually is a nice place to live.  

Then he went on to tell us that his father had been part of the Secret Police, the Stasi. His father must have been pretty high up since he said his family lived right next door to the station.   Holy cow!  He said he used to watch people being taken away to jail or worse for unknown crimes against East Germany.  Yes, all that and he had no LEGOs to boot.

The man continued, “I still remember getting my first Matchbox.  We had a ‘Euro Store’ with Western goods controlled by the government.  We were only allowed to buy two things a month, and everything was really expensive.  My mother took me there once because I got a good report card.  I looked at all the Matchboxes for half an hour before I finally picked one out.”  Unreal.  I kept thinking of the 25 or so Matchboxes that Sam has at home and doesn’t even notice their existence.  Whew!  There’s a reality check.

We finished up there and headed out to watch the 4th of July Parade, each of us appreciating our freedom — and LEGOs — much more than we had before we heard his story.

God bless America!



Leave a Reply

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