When I Was Young

In the midst of what is already a period of introspection and nostalgia, I heard this song again today after some years of not listening to Eric Burdon and the Animals.

I suppose I could associate that song with many experiences spanning four decades, but today it reminded me very strongly of something that occurred in the early 1970s.

I was maybe eight years old. I had gone ice skating with friends, possibly to Germering See (Lake Germering) near the family home in Unterpfaffenhofen, Munich.

It was a time in which I was reading a lot of American science fiction, including Robert Heinlein’s Red Planet, which featured two boys using ice skates to get themselves out of trouble. I suppose I was daydreaming about being the main character, Jim Marlowe.

On that day I may have strayed onto thin ice, and I fell through it. I was completely submerged for long enough to remember the sound changing from the clarity of aural perception in air to the dullness of underwater noises, including especially my own heartbeat, but also the clacking noise of metal skates on ice.

I remember seeing through a layer of ice at a heavily distorted view of what was above me. Mainly light and bubbles of air in the ice.

This cannot have lasted very long. The next thing I recall were shadowy figures above me, and breaking ice all around, as the adults who were present lifted me out, getting wet themselves in the process. I remember the sound returning to normal.

I had no conception at the time that my story might have ended right there. I just felt like I had committed some grave misdeed, and that I was heinously guilty to cause such stern faces; I suppose these men and women were just deeply concerned. I should have been grateful rather than feeling guilty.

Someone took me by car to a nearby house, where I was bundled in a blanket and put in front of a fireplace. When I Was Young was playing in the background.

I’m glad that I can actually use the title as a phrase. It means I survived that adventure, and some others.

To give some context, here are some Google maps pictures, decades after the event, but with the major landmarks still where they were in the early 1970s.

Our house in the Birkenweg, Unterpfaffenhofen, in relation to the city.
The lake, upper left corner, in relation to our house.

The forest behind our house that was my playground is smaller, but still there. As is the cemetery (to the left) that was the target for a morbid curiosity between games of cowboys and Indians.


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