My mother, Joan, hangs out with a bunch of German ladies. She has hung out with these women since I was a little girl. I played with their kids. I went to their kids' weddings and they came to my wedding.
In their younger days, my mom and "The German Girls" would go out drinking. As they have aged, their activities have slowed down to lunches monthly and a big German dinner each September for Oktoberfest.
The one thing that has remained constant throughout the years: Garden Gnomes, or as they are called in German, Gartenzwerge. Trixie has them. Gertie has them. Helga has them. Ursula has them. Britta has them. Every one of them, except for my mother, has gnomes in their garden.
I am not talking about that stupid travel gnome that we see in commercials, I mean real, German gnomes. Gnomes by Heissner and Griebel, which have changed very little in appearance since the late 1800's.
I learned a lot about gnomes when I was trying to find pictures that looked like the ones I had seen in the German Girls' gardens.
Gnomes are mythical creatures that live in the depths of the earth and guard treasure! They are a species that has senses sharper than humans. Their job is to assist all living things. Gnomes symbolize integrity, honesty and hard work. They are supposed to bring good luck to any garden they inhabit.
There are three basic kinds of Gnomes:
The Worker Gnome (Bitter)- equipped with working tools, mostly from the field of mining and horticulture such as pick ax, spade or watering can.
The Leisure Gnome (Gen X)- often found in a relaxed posture and frequently he is equipped with things to help him enjoy his well-deserved relaxation such as a pipe or fishing rod
The Culture Gnome (Elitist)- The youngest representative of the garden gnome family shows his interest in culture and education with objects such as a book or musical instrument.
Lately, the German girls have been doing some strange things with their gnomes. When Ursula's husband died, she had her gardener dig a hole in the backyard and she buried all of the male gnomes. She said the boy gnomes reminded her of her husband. Makes sense to me. Trixie and her husband sold their home and now travel the country in their RV. Trixie takes her gnomes with her and set them up outside the RV when they make camp. That makes sense to me too.
The most interesting gnome incident happened a few years ago. Ingrid's mother was coming from Germany to see her. Ingrid had just been given a clean bill of health from her doctor after fighting breast cancer and her mother was coming to help her celebrate. Ingrid was still a bit weak from the cancer treatments, so my mom and I went over to help her get her house ready for the visit. Ingrid's boyfriend, Bob (a dead ringer for James Earl Jones), had done all of the big jobs; cleaning of the gutters, trimming of the trees, etc., so mom and I would help with weeding and planting, nothing too big.
While helping her with the yard work, I noticed that she was removing all the gnomes from their various posts throughout her yard. I asked her what she was doing, because I had never seen her garden gnome-less. She said she wanted to clean them up for her mother's visit.
It was getting late, so we decided to call it a day. We said we would return the next day to put the finishing touches on the yard. When we returned the next day, the gnomes had all been put back into their places. They were all shiny, clean and newly painted. There was just one noticeable difference; Ingrid had painted all of the male gnomes faces black. I stifled a laugh as my mother asked Ingrid what she had done. Ingrid's response was simple, "I vas thinkink dat since Bob is black und I am vite, so should our Gartenzwerge."