This was David’s Kindergarten photo in Monzelfeld when he was three years old, and now it was over a year later – and we were moving to Oxfordshire, England.
David (middle) plays with his two young friends in front of our house, as my wife and I start to organize the house in order to get ready for the movers.
David (right) with his two friends in our driveway with their tractors prior to our moving; and even though David was brought up bilingual in both English and German – being with my wife’s family, going to the German Kindergarten and playing with his German friends provided a total immersion in the German language for him.
Although we were able to adapt as a family wherever we lived – it wasn’t always easy; and David (here left) at times struggled to fit in and adapt to new towns, languages, accents, spellings and grammar – and to new kids…which was probably the hardest task of all for him.
As David (left) grew up we figured that a child really didn’t know that he was doing more than twice the work while learning two languages and living in different countries, and we thought it was a wonderful opportunity for him to experience – which it really was.
David (left) and his friends pose together in our yard in Monzelfeld; and this move to England uprooted David for the first time in a way that it would really matter to him – and would be the first of many moves ahead alternating between going to school in Germany and England…each with a different language, spelling, sentence structure and grammar.
In the end, David (here left) would do well in the different schools and languages – even switching languages at the half-way point while crossing either over or under the English Channel for the country we were traveling to – but there were a lot of difficulties as well along the way adapting and fitting in.
Here David sits on one of our chairs as the furniture is staged for the movers; we used to do as much prior to the movers showing up as we possibly could – to help ensure a good move – and it always worked out well for us and for our furniture.
David’s friend surveys the pre-moving logistics – that we were very used to by now – and would get even better at with future moves to Ramstein AB, Germany; Spangdahlem AB, Germany and RAF Mildenhall, UK – all still yet to come.
The stress of all of these moves would impose a lot of pressure on David (right), that was very difficult for such a young man to have to deal with – but we always worked very hard to provide the very best possible environment for him wherever we lived.
David (right) and his mom were planning on spending the next 3 or 4 months at her parent’s house in Bruch while I was away for F-111G upgrade training (RTU) at Cannon AFB, NM – before returning to fly the F-111E at RAF Upper Heyford, England, north of Oxford.
Here David says goodbye to his aunt and uncle before our moving day; and just as my wife didn’t understand why we had to move again so soon…she wouldn’t understand the next bit of news that would turn her and David’s world upside down.
The extended family came over to our house in Monzelfeld to welcome me home from the Gulf War, to celebrate my birthday and to say goodbye all at the same time – as this would be the last family get together we would have in Monzelfeld prior to moving.
David looks over some technical drawings in one of his books with his uncle and great-uncle at the kitchen table in Monzelfeld, and from the beginning it was clear that David had a good aptitude for technical things.
My wife’s aunt, both grandmothers and her great-aunt share conversation and a photo album at our dining table in Monzelfeld, with my wife’s handmade crochet curtains hanging in the windows of the sliding glass doors.
Deep in conversation in our sunken family room set off in a corner of the house, my wife’s great-uncle and her father are immersed in deep conversation.
David casts me a glance while taking his picture with his uncle, grandparents and great-aunt at our kitchen table while finishing his dinner.
David’s great-aunt reads to him on the steps leading up to our living room, as David holds his head in his hands – deep in concentration.
The family discusses the issues of the day while gathered around our kitchen table having coffee and dessert after dinner – and enjoying the opportunity to be together once again; under my wife’s handmade lampshade along with the hanging Easter eggs she decorated with David.
For the older generations of my wife’s family, and for a lot of other people through the years as well; our little family was more than a curiosity with our constant moving around the world – no one really knew what would be next for us…and neither did we.
David and his uncle are deep in what must have been a highly technical conversation, as he was always coming up with fantastic inventions on his own – not knowing that some of them already existed.
The ladies talk at the upper dining room table while the guys converse below; and although I was always impressed with David’s well thought out inventions, I was literally floored the day he discussed his concept of steering a bullet in the air…something that only now is being attempted.
Everyone knew that this would be our last family get together in Monzelfeld, and they were sad that we were leaving Germany again after such a short stay – and wishing us well in our new home…wherever it would end up being.
This picture of our kitchen table was probably taken the night before Easter Sunday, after my wife had decorated it and prepared the table for breakfast on Easter morning.
This is a picture of the top of our tiled wood stove in Monzelfeld that was right beside the kitchen table – and it was the best feature of the house because in winter it kept everything – and everyone – toasty warm.
David spent the morning hunting for Easter eggs and whatever else the Easter Bunny had left for him in the yard from the night before.
David shows off a colored egg that he discovered in the garden by the back patio, and we were all happy that the weather had cooperated beautifully on this Easter Sunday morning.
Excited after discovering a Lego puzzle with a giant yellow bow on it in the back yard, David returns to show off his prize – and can’t wait to start building it.
David holds a bunny shaped Easter basket to collect what he found in the garden on his Easter egg hunt, and the Easter bunny seems to have also left a gift bag behind for him.
Once it was time to get ready to go to church, David wasn’t happy about having to leave the house – he’d rather have stayed and put his new Lego puzzle together and eaten some Easter candy instead of posing for a picture with me.
It was now after had I returned from being deployed in the Gulf War, and with my return David had to get used to having me back again; and in the process, he was growing up and becoming a young man – and we were now getting ready to move the family again – and I would soon be leaving for 3 to 4 months to Cannon AFB, NM to learn to fly the F-111G.
I’ve always called this transition from early childhood into becoming a young man the process of “growing antlers” – and a young man starts very early on to think about setting his own path, course and direction in life – and another international move coming up wasn’t helping the situation of growing up very much for David.
David had his fourth birthday while I was deployed in the Gulf, and as always my wife decorated the house the night before.
She quietly tied balloons to David’s bed posts while he was asleep and worked her way out to the kitchen table area beside the dining room.
From the minute David woke up on the morning of his birthday, he knew that it was a very special day indeed!
After decorating the house for David’s birthday, my wife took these pictures for me so that I could see and experience David’s birthday while deployed far away in the desert.
David, or “Mr. Sleepyhead” here, discovered all the decorations when he woke up of course, and followed the “yellowbrick road” to the kitchen table – where he first tried out a party favor.
My wife and David loved to play games and put puzzles together, and with his party hat on he shows off a new game to add to the collection.
David had a collection of Matchbox cars and he could name the make and model of most every car in a parking lot in those days, and here he has some new cars to add to his collection.
Both my wife and David were big fans of watching videos together, and David was given “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Little Mermaid” to add to his growing video collection.
David received a View-Master 3-D cartoon strip viewer which gave him immense pleasure to watch the slides on the many cartoon view disks that came with it.
Now four years old, David stands in his room on a large vinyl city street map to play with all of his model cars on – with a “313th TFS Lucky Puppies” sticker or “Zap” in orange on one of his toy buckets.
David models new clothes that he received for his birthday so that I could see the picture while deployed in the desert.
Here’s another picture of David that was taken to send to me while deployed, because of course we had no idea how long I would be away.
David also got to celebrate his birthday in Bruch at his grandparent’s house, and here his aunt and uncle attempt to grab his snack as part of a game while he’s distracted by the camera.
Here David has a “bonus” of a second party hat to wear during coffee and cake, while enjoying fresh baked snacks that are like little donuts.
The birthday boy faced no shortage of delightful snacks on his birthday, with an entire platter full of snacks available right in front of him.
My wife’s birthday is only days apart from David’s in February, and here was another birthday that I missed and another opportunity for a nice coffee and cake for everyone to enjoy in Monzelfeld.
Sitting on the low bench with the tiled wood stove directly behind him, David remains toasty warm in the middle of February.
David had been going to German Kindergarten for a full year now at this point – and his German language skills and ability passed mine up a long time ago at this point!
It was now January 1991, and I was in the middle of Operation Desert Shield followed by Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf – and my wife was holding down our household and taking pictures of David to send to me in the desert.
My wife and I had few opportunities to communicate while I was deployed to the desert and the only satellite phones available for us to use had long lines, poor connections, limited times available for our use – and then only after the cease-fire was initiated.
So as a result my wife and I wrote “hard copy” letters to each other every day – we didn’t have email back then – which took about two weeks for delivery back and forth, so we rarely had any up to date information from each other.
David had this play tent set up in the family room which he liked to play inside – and treated it as his own secret fort which was off limits to everyone else.
A playmate and David enjoy a snack of crackers and drinks while sharing what must have been a secret joke between the two of them.
Another day of play, snacks and private sneaky jokes between David and his friend – which was especially good to keep David occupied while I was deployed.
When Christmas arrived I was ready to deploy to the Gulf, still not knowing if we were actually going or not – and when asked if I was a volunteer I said yes – and was included in the list of those to deploy with the 10th TFS as the Wing Electronic Combat Officer or “ECO.”
We changed the Christmas tree’s position this year from the other end of the living room in front of the sliding glass doors to the back yard, to the dining room in front of the sliding glass doors to the side patio – pulling the dining room table out into the living room to make room for the tree.
I’ve always liked these close-ups of Christmas tree decorations, giving the appearance of stars in the heavens shining brightly against the night sky’s inky blackness – only in this case the background is “Christmas tree green.”
Here you can see the two crochet lace curtains that my wife made for our home in Sacramento, CA; and centered them here on the dining room’s sliding glass doors in Monzelfeld.
Another close-up of the Christmas tree’s decorations, purchased for the most part for the tree that Jeff and I had in our apartment in Bruch prior to my wife and I getting married.
Another view of the two crochet lace curtains that my wife made, clearly showing the design’s pattern against the darkness outside – the curtain to the far right was store bought.
David and his grandfather or “Opa” explore the gifts that have been placed under the tree – and for a child Christmas is always pure joy and delight.
A close-up of David and his Opa, who as a teacher and school principal took a real interest in David, especially helping him master German as a second language.
David and Opa gaze across the room at the lights of the Christmas tree from the living room couch, discussing the lights and decorations while enjoying some quality time together.
As David sits on the couch with Opa just two months shy of his fourth birthday, it will be only a matter of days before I deploy to the Gulf for Operation Desert Shield.
It is now December 1990, and Christmas is just a few days away as David sits on his tractor outside our front door; and meanwhile at Hahn AB we still don’t know if we are going to participate in Operation Desert Shield in the Gulf.
David and I prepare to have a snowball fight in our front yard during a very snowy December in Monzelfeld – here I rest a snowball on top of David’s head for fun – and in later years we would both make “rabbit ears” behind each other’s head for fun when pictures were taken.
It’s time to get serious as David and I prepare to build what we hope to be an excellent snowman out of the heavy, fresh fallen “sticky” snow – the kind that makes for excellent snowballs – and snowmen.
A neighbor’s cat checks out David’s progress while building the base of the snowman, which we elevated by placing it in a raised stone planter – because we didn’t have enough snow to make a giant snowman otherwise.
David stands beside the finished snowman – or is it a “snowwoman” in a case of pure artistic license and intrepretation – either way it’s the best “snowperson” that we’ve ever created; standing in front of our kitchen window with the classic Advent light pyramid that adds cheer and warmth to a cold December night.
With the extra snow that David packed around the base of our masterpiece for added support, I suppose this could better be called a “snowwoman” instead – with what I remember to be a slice of carrot for the mouth, carrot ends for eyes and a broom for something to hold onto.
David and I stand beside our masterpiece, having finished late into the evening as big snowflakes gently float by – with the fresh snowfall adding a smoothing touch to the “snowwoman” standing beside us.
Our “snowperson” stands watch in the front yard – always maintaining a smiling and happy disposition while watching the snow float down in large flakes – on a perfectly still and calm winter evening with David standing at the gate into the front yard.
The camera’s flash leaves the reflection of a Christmas star shining in the window like the one the Wise Men followed to Bethlehem; with the lights from our Advent light pyramid, the poinsettia and the holiday stencils in the window that my wife made – all creating a nice festive mood for anyone passing by the house.
You can see one of two handmade crochet lace panels that my wife created for our dining room windows in Sacramento; they both have been rehung here on our dining room’s sliding glass doors in Monzelfeld – and the Christmas tree and two flood lights above it are visible in the dining room as well.
Another more distant view of the Christmas tree behind the sliding glass doors of the dining room, with snow drifts begining to build up on the bushes below the tree nearby.
If this photo is expanded you can see the lights of the Christmas tree in the distant dining room windows, as I experimented with a few nightime photographs on a perfectly still winter’s night.
The flash seems to create snowballs in the air out of giant snowflakes, creating an unusual nighttime view of the front of our house – our master bedroom windows are upstairs above the kitchen.
In another view, the flash seems to have created hanging globes of light in the air out of the snowflakes, an unusual visual perspective of snowflakes – as if they were Christmas lights hanging from the branches of the tree.
The next day in this view across the street from us, the snow has begun to melt away – but the winter would turn out to be cold and snowy – and my wife would have to shovel about 200′ of sidewalk by herself while I was deployed to the Gulf.
The snow slowly melts off of the top of our car as it stands in the driveway, while the pavers below it display an interesting pattern of snow melt – like the light and dark squares of a chessboard.
The back corner of our property as viewed from the empty lot beside it, showing a winter wonderland of snow covered trees that creates a wilderness feeling inside the village of Monzelfeld iteslf.
My wife’s handmade kitchen lampshades provide light while I clean up after a holiday meal for relatives that were over visiting; while the healed knuckle of my left index finger remains swollen months after my injury – and would take a long time to even approach normal size again…but at least the finger works!
David listens to recordings of my original songs for the very first time while seated on the kitchen countertop; at this point I decided to make simple recordings of my songs for copyright application purposes.
I had a small four track recorder and did my best to record my songs so they could be submitted for copyright; nothing that would meet the standards for anyone else to listen to, but David is captivated by the fact that it is my voice on the tape.
The novelty of hearing my songs in his earphones was interesting to David that night, and all children need to be exposed to as many new and positive experiences as they can be in order to expand their world of knowledge and information.
David rides his “Mercedes-Benz” tractor alongside our car parked in the driveway of our home in Monzelfeld, as winter gives way to spring – which slowly unfolds around us.
David stands beside his tractor as the new leaves of spring arrive in our forest behind him, and with it the promise of summer in Germany.
The houses along the street behind us reflect in the living room’s sliding glass doors behind David, as he stands in front of the long narrow flower bed with its colorful tulips growing all in a row behind him.
A more distant view of the back of our house in Monzelfeld from across the back yard, as the flower garden awakens with tulips all lined up to welcome the return of spring to Germany.
Tulips are reflected in the windows of the sliding glass doors into the living room, while the fresh green leaves of spring open in the forest in the distance.
David stands outside of the wood shed beside the garage, showing off a beautiful lavender climbing vine with two white tulips below it.
David, now three years old, and I stand in front of our house in Monzelfeld, and my left index finger shows the healing tendon repair of my foolish antics in Zaragoza only weeks before.
David looks uncertain in this picture, standing in the same position in our home as we would together only eight months later – as I headed off to the Gulf for Operation Desert Shield/Storm.
My wife’s great-aunt sits in our rocking chair during a visit to our home, inspiring us all with her youthful vigor and poise that defied her years – setting an example for us all to hopefully follow someday.
David’s great-great-aunt spends some quality “bonding time” with him, and giggles from her tickling and attention.
David’s great-aunt, who emigrated years ago from Germany to Bellevue, WA; sits with David on the couch in what turned out to be a very sweet picture of the two of them.
David’s grandmother poses with him outside our home in Monzelfeld, in front of beautiful flowering bushes that look to be Azaleas, growing directly outside the sliding glass doors of the dining room.
It was now Easter in Monzelfeld, and my wife always decorated the dining room table by hanging Easter eggs from fresh cut branches arranged in a vase.
A neighbor in the village had goose eggs available for decorating, and my wife and David decorated these three goose eggs and displayed them hanging from her handmade lampshade over our kitchen table.
The camera’s flash has washed out the coffee and cake settings on the table in this picture, which are clearly visible in the next one – as David sits on the low bench beside the wood stove ready to have a piece of Easter lamb cake and chocolates.
David seems to say “hurry up” as the Easter lamb cake my wife baked and an Easter basket filled with chocolates are displayed on the table under the handmade lampshade decorated with colored goose eggs.
The day started earlier with an Easter egg hunt around the house, and here David has discovered four chocolate Easter eggs – conveniently in an egg warming basket – pretty smart that Easter bunny!
David shows off his treasured prize of chocolate Easter eggs before continuing the hunt around the house – the Easter bunny is a nice tradition for children, because it makes them feel special and offers just another opportunity to make Easter morning special as well.
The Easter bunny had a habit of hiding a few small gifts for David around the house along with the Easter eggs; and some may say that encouraging the Easter bunny tradition distracts from the meaning of Easter – but I think for a small child, showing them that they are loved is very central to the meaning and promise of Easter.
One of the Easter bunny’s presents for David was a puzzle of a gas station scene – and David had become quite an expert on identifying cars by make and model by then, easily calling them out by name while walking through a parking lot.
David seems uncertain of waiting to open this present, as I took the photo of another puzzle – and this one was of an old fashioned lumber mill in a Bavarian Alpine setting.
David had only recently turned three years old, the minimum age at the time to attend Kindergarten which he was now attending just up the street in Monzelfeld – speaking German of course; and here he discovers an Easter basket in the family room filled with some of his favorite chocolates in it.
This picture of David in the rocking chair shows how far he had come in just the past few months – it seemed like I’d wake up one day and he would be asking me for the car keys – and that day came and went some seven long years ago!
At Zaragoza AB, Spain, I had been writing songs in my spare time on the base chapel’s piano, and after cutting my tendon I continued composing with one hand – always remembering that I had lost the use of my left hand for a while due to my own selfish pride.
Now I was back in Monzelfeld with my wife and son, and trying my best to do everything one handed for the next month or so – including writing songs and pondering my injury in the Zaragoza AB, O’Club; here David stands on the sidewalk in the spring sunshine in front of our house.
The 10th TFS had an official function and party at the Zaragoza AB O’Club, which included spontaneous skits to be performed according to rank by the squadron’s pilots – a humorous way to blow off some steam while TDY; in this picture David squints into the sunshine in front of our house.
I was in the captain’s group for our skit, and as we were an unimaginative bunch – it was determined that we would build a human pyramid with all the pilots in our group stacked up on all fours; in this picture David stands in the living room window with the spring tulips lining the flower bed behind our house in Monzelfeld.
So with a couple of beers in me, and 3 or 4 layers of pilots wobbling back and forth on hands and knees trying not to collapse the pyramid to the floor – I climbed up to the top row to complete it; this photo shows the new spring growth as it emerges in the forest around our house.
Once on top of this wobbling and soon to collapse human pyramid of pilots in their flight suits, my pride dictated that I should balance on my knees alone on top of the pyramid and throw my hands up above me in victory – having completed the pyramid like the star on the top of a Christmas tree.
As I began to throw my hands high over my head in a precarious kneeling position atop the pyramid, I lost complete situational awareness (SA) of what was around me – and didn’t recall that there was a large, heavy wrought iron chandelier hanging from the ceiling directly above my head.
The tendon of my left index finger struck the sharp edge of the wrought iron chandelier with full force directly above my knuckle – cutting the tendon through to the bone – and sending me to the emergency room downtown Zaragoza…where they had to call in the Chief Surgeon to complete the tendon repair, after the first doctor couldn’t find the upper half of the tendon that had retracted back into my hand.
Meanwhile back in Monzelfeld, the forest was putting out new fresh spring growth, after I had pruned all of the deadwood out of it during the previous fall and winter; the forest was my pride and joy, as gardening always reminded me of how God tends to and sustains His creation – including us – by pruning our own deadwood away as well.
You could now stand in the narrow forest surrounding the property, and look down the three rows of young trees that now had plenty of open space to let the sunlight and fresh air in – something we all need in life – a breath of fresh air and sunshine on our face…and trees are no different.
David stands in front of the living room’s sliding glass doors, where just outside the glass the tulips are all heralding the beginning of spring – which always reminds us of the opportunity for new and fresh starts in our own lives – because a little spring cleaning is very good for the soul.
From an early age we’ve always said that David belongs in the theater, and here is a look into that side of his life which was very animated and theatrical…a trait that is to be admired in children for its honesty, spontaneity and lack of conformity.
My wife’s father and David’s “Opa” enjoys the comforting heat of the tiled wood stove and a cup of coffee at the kitchen table in Monzelfeld; he was a calming presence in the often hectic events of our family.
My wife’s grandmother, and David’s great-grandmother, sits on the couch and crochets a tablecloth – a hobby shared by all of the women in my wife’s family – and a common practice in Germany at that time.
David excitedly shows off the castle he had just built out of plastic Duplo blocks – the creativity of young children remains outside the box of cultural expectations and conformity, until the expectations of society frown upon anything outside the narrow boundaries of approved and expected behavior – especially for boys.
David plays with another unique castle creation of his made out of Duplo blocks, along with a couple of Matchbox cars from his collection on the living room’s tile floor in our home in Monzelfeld.
David demonstrates just how tall his Duplo skyscraper is – which was designed to be the tallest free standing tower possible with the limited number of plastic building blocks available to him.
All parents realize that their children will grow up and be on their own one day, so the precious few moments that you still have with them while they are little are very precious indeed – and need to be cherished while they can – which also applies to all of our other relationships as well.