Three Pieces of Concrete

A crystal dish in the china cabinet displays three pieces of concrete. According to an article in USA Weekend on this twenty-fifth anniversary of its destruction, these three pieces of the Berlin Wall are practically worthless. However, I beg to disagree. The article continues, “Wherever there is a piece of the Berlin Wall, there’s a story about how it got there.” I contend that nothing with a story is worthless.

One fall Saturday in 1989, Desiree Rondina called, asking if my husband and I were home so she could come by for a few minutes. I thought it a bit odd that she had included my husband in the inquiry, but I assured her that we were home and the time was convenient.

A bright young German woman, she'd married an American soldier. She lost no time after arriving in the United States in getting a job as an ESL aide down my second grade hall and beginning classes at night and on weekends at the nearby university extension. I assumed her call meant that she had another paper for one of her classes and needed me to edit. Her insights and writing content never called for my help. I assisted in word order which differs in English from her native German. Soon, she would not require even that assistance.

I opened the door when she rang the bell to see her standing with a wide smile on her face and a shoe box in her hands. I knew immediately what was inside and why she had asked if my husband was home.

Desiree had heard me tell that the building of the Berlin Wall had increased the number of men needed in the military. As a consequence, young men past the customary draft age of twenty-one, including my husband, were called into service. In his case, the Army put a square peg in a square hole, and he stayed for an almost twenty-five year career. She’d taken note that the wall had changed our lives. She also knew our last assignment had been in Germany where we’d made a trip to West Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall, and even over into East Berlin.

My husband joined us around the kitchen counter to examine her treasure. Her father lived near the wall and had collected the box of pieces for her to share with people for whom they had meaning. She’d taken some to the local museum. She told us to select three so each of our children would have one to inherit.

The magazine article said the Berlin Wall stood for oppression, the pieces for freedom. Worthless? I think not.