"Get him talking," was the whispered advice in our German class. Everybody knew Herr Bruderer would forget to give the promised test if we asked a question about his beloved Switzerland, and let him ramble. When he put his feet on his desk, leaned back with his arms behind his bald head and started reminiscing we all relaxed. Grammar and word order issues were set aside in favor of culture and history. We played right into his hands—it was on those days we learned the most.
I caught his enthusiasm and passion for different lands and I wanted to experience it for myself, although I wasn't sure what it was. I recognized it when I got there.
It's a feel, an aura: cobblestone paths, unsalted butter, the fragrance of cheese in tiny shops. Buildings built before Columbus, restaurants owned by one family for hundreds of years,
folklored fabrics on carved wooden chairs, flounced light fixtures, embellished gables, dripping umbrellas in painted stands, fur-trimmed baby buggies: this is European art in its natural setting.
Sitting in Herr Bruderer's class at Olympus High, I fell in love with Europe as he talked. A student teacher showed slides from a semester abroad in Salzburg, Austria. I asked her for details, wanting to go, too. "Set a goal," Herr Bruderer said. "Start saving." I did.
If you'd asked me last night if Herr Bruderer was still alive, I wouldn't have known. This morning I saw his obituary and I can't stop thinking about the impact he had me. Everything in my life is because of him.
(To be continued . . . )