Wish you were here.
WWII ends in 1945. That year with the help of a genealogist librarian, nine-year-old ELIZABETH HEIM looks into her famous, dead grandfather’s life. GUSTAV F. HEIM, born in Germany in 1879, immigrates to the United States in 1903 at the invitation of his stepbrother in St. Louis. He becomes a solo trumpeter in noted symphonies. His music career until 1928 and his death in 1933 are headlines in The New York Times and Boston Herald. On his deathbed, he declares, No one is to look into my past. That history dies with me. This intrigues Elizabeth to find out what is behind these commanding words. There are secrets to uncover.
An overnight stay at grandmother’s farmhouse ends badly. She finds a round object folded in a piece of paper in her jewelry box. Grandmother, EDNA HEIM, grabs it from her. Older sister JEANINE warns her, she’s in for more trouble with grandma.
The fourth grade school bully calls her grandfather a bootlegger and a Jew. He mocks Elizabeth; you’re nothing but a Jew girl. Library newspaper articles only confirm grandfather is a famous musician and a bootlegger. Elizabeth wants to read grandfather’s personal notes in the German books hidden in the attic. Her father and grandmother refuse to teach her German. It’s a dead end. Not a way to find out if grandfather is Jewish, or why she is a Jew girl. A toy nurse’s kit gift attracts her attention and interest to be a nurse. In the meantime, she treats injured birds in her woodshed clinic. When she falls out of a car and helps the doctor bandage her wounds, he comments, you’d be a good nurse someday. Elizabeth sets her mind to it.
Bad times get worse with grandmother. At thirteen, Elizabeth asks her why she doesn’t like her? This provokes a beating and grandmother tries to run over her when she jumps out of the car. There is no contact until Elizabeth turns eighteen and visits her. Grandmother asks her what she thinks about her swollen legs, now that she’s studying to be a nurse. While Elizabeth examines her legs, grandmother mumbles an off hand apology, when people get old they do things they never should have done. She surprises Elizabeth and hands her Gustav’s gold pocket watch, out of sight in her jewelry box since his death. A folded note with the watch says… Tell no one about this. During each symphony, I dedicate my solo performance to you. The young woman’s photo and the note upset grandmother. She suspects this is the other woman. Edna divorces grandfather two years before he dies in 1933. Until then, the best part of their lives together from 1923 is ownership of Sunset Inn, a lakefront resort. Edna runs the Inn alone until 1950.
In 1961 Elizabeth works as a nurse at her hometown hospital. She and steady beau, German Jewish doctor, ERIC HERRMANN, travel to Germany in search of grandfather’s birth record. They find nothing in Schleusingen. In nearby Erfurt, a rabbi retrieves an 1879 Bris Naming Ceremony album with the photograph of a nameless, young woman holding a baby. Gustav Jacob, his secular and Jewish names are under the photo. The woman’s face is the face in the pocket watch; a Yiddish inscription under it… You should live. And be well and have more. I’m sorry, your beloved mother.
Over dinner at the Schleusingen summer Lake House hotel, Eric proposes to Elizabeth. The next month in the U.S., they take aging Edna down to tranquil Sunset Inn to talk about their trip. When Eric reads her the pocket watch inscription, she gasps. Much to her relief the other woman is Gustav’s Jewish mother! Within a few months grandmother’s health worsens, and Elizabeth resolves to write her a last letter. In the letter she tells her, the family must know the story of their lives, bound together by successes, hardships, and secrets. Maybe a book! Of course, Elizabeth can write the story.
Wish you were here!
NEW CHAPTER ONE – Coming soon