Freaky Frieda and Her Wiener Dog, Heidi!
This is a (true) story I’ve told my kids a hundred times. They never tire from it and always want to hear it again and again….
My dad had a red Volkswagen bus when we were kids. The kind with a sliding door on one side. Every summer for many years we would pack up the bus on a Friday night and make the 14-hour trek from New York to South Carolina for our family vacation. (Think Little Miss Sunshine without the dead body and you have us pegged.) My Dad is from Germany and had older friends, also from Germany, in Carolina who we visited. Frankly, we were less than thrilled to be going to see them but happy I suppose, to be going anywhere.
Powell and Frieda. Powell didn’t say a lot. He pretty much ignored us, unless of course he needed help shelling shrimp. Then he’d waive us over in the backyard and simply point to a bucket of hundreds of shrimps he and my Dad had caught the night before. There we’d sit, shelling and de-veining shrimp for hours on end. A kid’s vacation dream. Frieda on the other hand was quite vociferous. Although she rarely spoke to us and when she did, it was in German, assuming we knew what she was saying. Her face was stern and wore a permanent frown. Her hair was black and shortly cropped. She had very pale skin which she highlighted with a deep red lipstick; a bit scary as I recall. She was rather stout and fond of wearing the same outfit every day; neatly ironed shorts with a button-up, sleeveless, white or yellow cotton blouse. This left the extra skin under her arms free to flap loosely in the wind whenever she got excited and raised her arms (which was often). We stayed at their house twice. After that, we rented. It was during our second visit that things came to a head and it was clear that Powell and Frieda’s tolerance for children was well, below sea level at best.
We rolled in on a hot Saturday afternoon in mid-July to what appeared to be a birthday party reception. There were decorations, hats and even party blowers nicely arranged on the kitchen table in their small, immaculate home. When we asked whose birthday it was, Frieda flapped her arms in the air and replied excitedly, Heidi‘s! The thing about this, is that my older sister’s name is Heidi and her birthday is July 15th but just what had changed we wondered from the previous year when they pretty much ignored us? Children have a keen sense about adults who don’t like them and quite frankly we were suspect. Rightfully, so.
What was different we soon found out, was Heidi. Not our Heidi but their Heidi. Heidi it turned out was their new baby; a four-legged dachshund doxie baby but their baby or at least Frieda’s baby, none the less. Heidi was a wiener dog. And it was her birthday they were celebrating. We were okay with that, after all, a party is a party and quite frankly, the wiener dog provided a little hope for us. Maybe this vacation wouldn’t be so bad after all. WRONG! Unfortunately, not only was there no cake and no ice-cream at this party, there was absolutely no blowing of the blowers either and the next few days set the stage for a resentment build up of epic proportions against Heidi.
Heidi, Heidi, Heidi! Every other word out of Frieda’s mouth was about Heidi. “Look at Heidi. Where is Heidi? I wonder if Heidi is hungry?” Don’t play with, chase or scare Heidi. Don’t walk Heidi. Do not touch Heidi and for God sakes, don’t leave the door ajar or Heidi will run out of the house! As for Heidi, the spoiled little wiener dog, I swear she would start yelping like crazy if one of us even walked passed her, sending Frieda into a screaming, arm flapping, frenzy about how we were tormenting her poor, little Heidi. This domino-ed into my Dad yelling at us for upsetting Frieda, leaving us longing for the year before when Powell and Frieda just ignored us. By mid-week, we hated Heidi and Frieda even more. We were miserable and the only bright spot came when my parents announced we would be going to Myrtle Beach. Finally, some reprieve!
As cool as my dad’s VW bus was, it didn’t come with air conditioning and much to our dismay, Heidi the wiener dog was coming with us to Myrtle Beach. My dad and Powell sat up front. Mom and Frieda (with Heidi on her lap), in the middle seat, the human Heidi, myself and our younger brother, Peter were cramped together in the very back. Upon our departure, Frieda announced it was Heidi’s napping time and we were meant to be “quiet” while the dog slept for the hour’s ride. It was okay however, for Frieda to huff and puff and complain loudly about the heat for the first 30-minutes of our trip though and we watched the back of her head bob up and down wildly, while she waved her short stumpy fingers frantically in front of her face like a fan, sending sweat from her brow flying throughout the bus .
“Oh, mein Gott ist das so heiß!”
(Oh, my God it is so hot!) she repeated over and over again in German.
I’d say it was midway to Myrtle Beach when Frieda reached her boiling point– literally. Without warning she stopped waving and began to unbutton her yellow, sleeveless blouse. At first we weren’t sure what she was doing but once we saw her pass the garment up to Powell to hold, it was clear, the portly German woman in her late 50s who was sitting in front of us had just removed her blouse, completely! Seeing the thick white straps of her brazier alone, was enough to send us into an uncontrollable “snicker” as my mom would call it but when the now freaky Frieda turned around to see what all the ruckus was about, the reality of what she had done was just too much to hold in. And now, there was all kinds of moist, milky-white skin flapping in the air in front of us as we came face to face with the largest bosoms squeezed into the biggest, white-est, lacy-est, cross your heart bra, any six, eight and ten-year kids had ever seen! Needless to say, the frontal view sent us gasping for air as we tried to contain the “snickering” which quickly turned into pure unadulterated laughter. Even mom who at first put the “sshhh” finger up to her lips behind Frieda’s back was now turning a crimson red, desperately trying not to bust a gut with her own laughter. Frieda didn’t see the humor or anything wrong with removing her blouse in the car on a hot summer’s day.
We’d just about calmed ourselves down when Dad pulled into one of Myrtle Beach’s parking lots. With miles of beach before us, Dad snaked in and out of endless rows of cars to find a space. Maybe it was the heat of the moment or the heat itself, the need for air after all that belly hurting laughter or perhaps it was just a kid being a kid but for reasons we’ve never cared to discuss, the moment Dad pulled into a space and brought the car to a stop, my little brother jumped out of his seat and opened the side door. What happened next is indelibly etched in my mind’s eye and I’m somehow able to replay the event in slow motion, moment by moment, which is truly a gift and leaves me forever grateful for it.
At the sound of the door sliding open, Heidi the wiener dog, bolted from freaky Frieda’s lap making the leap of her life for freedom and vanishing into the sea of cars, in the blink of an eye. Frieda, in absolute hysteria was next to take flight, leaving her blouse behind and frantically screaming “Heidi, come back! Heidi!” while chasing the yelping dog through row after row of cars. This buxom babe was bouncing all over the place in the parking lot, in her big, white, lacy, cross your heart bra for all to see! For just a moment, the three of us stood there by the open car door with wide eyes and dropped jaws, stunned by what we saw. Next went Powell, yelling in his thick German accent… “Vait! Frieda, stop! Come back! Vait! Vere are you going?” And finally, my Dad jumped out of his seat and ran after Powell who was running after Frieda, who was running after Heidi. Mom, (bless her) stayed back, unable to control herself as we all were by then, unable to control the howl of laughter that roared from the deepest, purest part of our happy souls.