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A Memory Resurfaces by Rosemary Kiss

On Saturday, April 23, 2005, our second-youngest granddaughter, Samantha, celebrated her First Holy Communion. My daughter-in-law asked me if I wanted a memento of this special day and let me choose from a variety of studio photos before the ceremony. Here was this sweet, gentle little girl I took care of so many days in her infancy, getting ready for this big step in her sacramental life.

When I looked at this picture, a flood of memories washed over me. My own First Holy Communion had been sixty years ago, on April 28, 1945, to be precise.

People ask me how I could possibly remember the exact day from so many years ago.

This is the reason: We were well aware that World War II was finally, inevitably, coming to a crunching halt. Our fervent prayers were being answered. Before television and without reliable news reports, the rumors were flying that the occupational forces would reach Bavaria within a matter of days. But tradition demanded that First Communion was always held on “White Sunday”, the first Sunday after Easter. We were well prepared by our local pastor, Rev. Johann Trasberger, had made our First Confession, and were now eagerly waiting for that very special day.

Our parish church, Assumption, was only a few steps away. For the occasion, the sacristan had cleaned it immaculately and decorated the High Altar with a few plants. It was too early for flowers from the gardens, as was customary. As it was pre-Vatican II, we still were bound by the Eucharistic fast (no food or water after midnight!), and worried even when brushing teeth, that we might inadvertently swallow some drops of water.

Mother had everything prepared the evening before: The new white dress, made out of material Mother had bought at the beginning of the war and saved in a suitcase in the air raid shelter just for this occasion. The dress was fashioned by a local seamstress.

The wreath for my head was a contribution of Frau Fuerst who owned the hat maker's shop across the street. The candle came from our landlord's candle maker's shop next door.

Being wartime, it was only going to be a small family celebration: My father, who was still an American citizen, had been drafted into the German Army in November 1944. Hitler in his last attempt to win the war had given a secret decree to conscript all foreign citizens. Any refusal was met by instant death.


A few days prior to my special day, he had received orders to hitchhike to Austria with a knapsack on his back to replenish the food supplies (dried soup powder) of the more or less starving army. We had no idea when he would return. There was no more public transportation: Trains and buses had stopped running or were drafted for the war effort.

Only my mother and my two brothers were going to be home. Our relatives were not able to visit, due to lack of cars or gasoline. I was missing my beloved father very much that day. The official photo done in a photographer's studio shows a serious little eight year-old girl, her hair in braids tied with white bows, a silk flower wreath on her head, holding her large communion candle with a red Christ symbol and a huge bow. Dressed in a very modest white dress, a little sprig of myrtle pinned to her shoulder, holding her missal and a silver rosary. She is wearing white cotton stockings and lo and behold black oxfords! They must have been my brother's. There were absolutely no shoes available anywhere at that point in time. I was lucky to have these ugly black ones.

I do remember that the day was very exciting in a wonderful way and wish sometimes, one could go through life with this simple, innocent faith we had that day.

That is what I prayed for during Samantha's First Communion Mass, when I saw her just as happy and excited as I was then. Being able to have all my dear grandchildren, ranging from age 18 down to 3 years old, at the Mass, was truly a gift that day.

Soon they will spread their wings, but I hope we, their grandparents and their parents have given them their roots.

There was a wonderful party for Samantha in her own home, doubly great for her, because the next day would be her 8th birthday!

There was also a little celebration for her grandmother's special day many years ago in that war torn country. Her kind neighbor, Frau Steibl, had miraculously produced a cake for the occasion. In my memory, it was a wonderful cake, even though it was made from mashed potatoes!!!!

April 24, 2005

Originally Posted by: Josephine on Monday, May 16, 2005 - 02:07 PM (3275 Reads)


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