I once saw my new high school German teacher, Marta Schilling (not her real name), in her underwear. I didn’t know she was my German teacher just then, but I found out in a most uncomfortable way a few days later.
The sighting occurred in late August on Long Island, where I grew up, as I hurried early in the morning through my neighborhood’s quiet, tree-lined streets to my high school for the first practice of the 1963 football season.
A barking dog turned my attention to a ranch-style house midway down the lane I’d just turned onto. There, standing like a gleaming alabaster statue in the bay of an oversize front window, was a striking, curvy, young blond woman clad only in her bright white feminine dainties.
What a captivating vision for a 15-year-old boy! I stopped thinking about football practice. I plain stopped thinking. I stood frozen, eyes wide open, and gawked.
Too soon she saw me and, realizing her state, scurried out of sight. I hoped she’d reappear, but no such luck. Dazed, yet delighted, I soldiered on to practice, grateful for the serendipitous stimulation.
September brought the first day of school. Good vibrations told me this was going to be a great year. But positives turned negative when I took a seat in my German class.
In strode the teacher, and was she ever a looker: an authentic Teutonic stunner whose cobalt blue eyes, sunny golden hair and sculptured athletic figure mesmerized. She didn’t look like any teacher I’d ever seen before, and yet she seemed so familiar.
“Guten Tag, Ich bin Frau Schilling. I’m going to give you German first names I’ll use to address you from now on.”
“Carol, you will be Gretchen. Steven, you will be Ludwig.”
I was next.
Frau Schilling stared at me for what seemed like an awfully long time, narrowing her focus much the way Superman does when he snaps on his X-ray vision to uncover a hidden mystery. But she hesitated like she was puzzling something out, like she was figuring out if she already knew me.
Who was this German Lorelei? Why did I think I knew her?
Then it hit me like a Max Schmeling right cross: She was the woman I saw in her underwear. She looked different in clothes, but it was her.
I panicked. My heart pounded and my face flushed.
What if she recognizes me? What if she starts screaming I was a peeping Tom? What if she turns me in to the principal or reports me to the police? What if my parents find out? What if? What if?
“Eddie,” she finally announced in an omniscient voice. “Now I remember.”
Oh, no! She knows!
“You remind me of a Hans I knew back in Germany; you will be Hans.” She smiled and moved on.
Out slithered a long, silent, thankful sigh. I was safe. Frau Schilling didn’t know then, and as timed proved, she would never know that I spied her half naked that revealing day.
Frau Shilling moved on to another teaching position one county over the next year. I never saw her again, but some memories never fade.
The author lives in Ephrata.
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