STRAWBERRYRASPBERRYDUKEFAMILY – EH! 09/02/13

INTRODUCTION: I love to relate the tales of my parents’ and grandparents’ interaction with the rich and famous during their sojourn in Austria. These family exploits and adventures were related to me over and over again throughout my childhood and early adulthood. Quite often, there was a great deal of reminiscing during conversations amongst themselves and their friends.

The family reminiscences had one shortcoming. The name, rank, serial number of these contacts were never spoken. After all, everyone knew who was being spoken of. So, informal names, according to family tradition – were used based on nicknames, old ranks, behaviors, parental connections, etc.

So, when Der Verrükter (The Lunatic) came up, I knew they were referring to family friend Sigmund Freud. His family had informal names: Die arme Frau Doktor Freud (That poor married to HIM Mrs. Freud). Daughter Anna had no formal nickname. Everyone just held their open hands upright on their cheeks whilst rolling their eyes heavenward.

As time goes by, I find myself increasingly caught up in gaps of the stories of my family’s history. Peculiar matters such as names, relationships – or even royal titles – are little minutiae of my parents’ and grandparents’ relationships which have slipped away into the corners of my brain tissue.

The internet saves me from embarrassment.

When an incident of the present time reminds me of a family reminiscence, I have learned – the hard way – to research the facts.

September 01, 2013 happened to be a wonderful day in church for me: It was my turn to read the scriptures. Luke 14:1, 7-14 holds a parable which expands upon egotistical, self-centered attendees with overblown egos at a banquet, and their total lack of humbleness and humility. A warning is given to us by Jesus: live in humility, humble yourself before those you serve, and don’t be expect to be repaid. Pastor Joe’s sermon detailed these words of Jesus and expanded the meaning of their truths within our own life styles and responsibilities.

As the words flowed through me, I was wafted back in memory as I recalled the egotism of my father and his first cousin Hans back in the 1920’s.

These two men cultivated and fostered a lack of humility, lack of humbleness, an overblown opinion of themselves – all their lives. Yes, I loved them a great deal. And yes, the tales of their adventures and incidents were really funny to listen to. However, eventually I trod the road taught to me by my grandmothers and grandfather, who spelled out my responsibilities to heaven, to this nation, and to the unfortunate.

The retelling of the following event was always preceded by gales of laughter, whenever Dad and Hans gleefully related us about “Strawberry. Raspberry. White Tie. White Tails. Oh my! Was the Emperor furious with us!” They would chant. Decades after the event, they still recalled every detail.

Dad: Leon Peter Bruck, 1899-1979. Cousin Hans Lurien, lived in Paris post WWII. I last met him in California in the mid-60’s when we both were visiting his sister Margarete. Therein lies another – but related tale.

Well, I thought to myself, but Emperor Franz Josef, who and his wife were friendly with my dad’s parents – was assassinated in 1914. That’s when the WWI started.

After the war, the Austrian Empire was dismantled, and it became a half-serious Republic until Hitler invaded in 1938.
And … and … who would have thought in The Weavings of the Tapestry of Life – as well as in the Six Degrees of Separation Theory – there would be a direct connection between myself and the Pretender to the Austrian Throne Otto von Habsburg?

The retelling of the following event was always preceded by gales of laughter, as Dad and Hans told us about “Strawberry. Raspberry. White Tie. White Tails. Oh my! Was the Emperor furious with us!” They would chant. Decades after the event, they still recalled every detail.

STATISTICS: Dad: Leon Peter Bruck, 1899-1979. Cousin Hans Lurien, lived in Paris post WWII. I Last met him in California in mid-60’s when we both visited his sister Margarete.
Well, I thought to myself, but Emperor Franz Josef, who was friendly with my dad’s parents – as was his wife – was assassinated in 1914. That’s when the WWI started.

After the war, the Austrian Empire was dismantled, and it became a half-serious Republic until Hitler invaded in 1938.
But the emperor had been assassinated, and Austria became a Republic. Who in heaven’s name was the “Emperor” my relatives and grandmother were referring to after WWI?

The answer, my friends was not blowing in the wind. Once again, the truth was on the Internet.

The House of Habsburg rose to power in Europe at the end of the 13th Century, and at its height ruled much of the continent. Otto von Habsburg saw the crumbling of the empire that his family had ruled for centuries and emerged from its ashes as a champion of a united and democratic Europe. The oldest son of Austria-Hungary’s last emperor fought Nazism and Soviet communism during his long decades of exile from his homeland, and was lionized by leaders across the continent as a great European.

Otto von Habsburg used his influence in a vain struggle to keep the Nazis from annexing Austria before World War II, lived in Washington DC during the war, then campaigned for the opening of the Iron Curtain in the decades after the war. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, he used his seat in European Parliament to lobby for expanding the European Union to include former Eastern bloc nations.

Born in 1912 in Austria, Otto von Habsburg witnessed the family’s decline after the empire was dismantled and Austria became a republic following World War I. He became head of the family at his father’s death 1922, and the nine-year-old Otto officially took over as the head of the House of Habsburg. He and his family continued to claim the throne until the 1960s, when he and his family relinquished his title as The Pretender and Emperor.

THE FRUIT OF THE MATTER. In the 1920’s my Dad and Hans were frequent visitors at banquets in the palace. After her husband’s death, the two men went because my Oma Mausi insisted they be her escorts.

They hated the formalities, tuxedo – white tie – tails events because of the arrogance and lack of humility of most of the guests. They, and my grandmother always sat a few seats down from the Emperor. The young men’s humor and laughter became very much appreciated, and while the Pharisees at the table looked on in horror, he and has wife and several close friends laughed heartily at the cousins’ antics.

During the last event they attended, the Master Chef brought in the piece de resistance for the desert. It was a five foot in diameter, twenty four inch high Torte covered with raspberry icing and many decorations.
Otto thanked the chef profusely and ordered similar cakes to be delivered to the twenty or so banquet tables.
No one in the huge room smiled, or cheered. A few people clapped lightly and politely.

Hans and Dad looked at each other across the table and asked if it was strawberry or raspberry flavored.
They smiled wickedly.
Oma Mausi looked stricken, and hurriedly excused herself.
Dad looked at Emperor Otto and innocently asked, “Is your majesty SURE it is indeed raspberry.”
“Oh yes,” came the answer.
Dad reached over, and delicately took a small swipe of the icing. He tasted it. “Yes, your majesty, it is indeed raspberry.”
Hans did the same motion, tasted it, and said, “Strawberry!”
Dad once again repeated his action and statement.
Hans did the same.
This was repeated about six times.
Conversation ceased around the table.
Then Dad took a two finger swipe and repeated his “Raspberry!”
Hans retaliated in kind: “Strawberry!”

The two trouble makers stood up. They each swiped a handful of icing. They loudly repeated their point of view.
Women began to sniff their smelling salts.
The Emperor was stunned.

The two mean started throwing chunks of icing, decorations, and cake at each other. They were covered with debris. After a half dozen icing tosses, they were both pink.

Then each grabbed a huge handful, bowed to the Emperor, and left whilst rubbing the material in each others heads and laughing hysterically.

The cake was ruined. Everyone from the Emperor to about a dozen attendees were covered with pink goop.

The butlers called the armed guards with pikes, who escorted the Dad and Hans from the table and onto the courtyard.
Oma returned and was escorted to her seat.

The Emperor and his wife got up to hug her and give their blessings.

He and his wife held her in their arms and she was told they would always be friends, but her son and his cousin were to be banned forever from the entire Palace grounds.
FOREVER.

Oma Mausi didn’t talk to the two men for almost six months. And they never dared to reminisce when visiting her in New York City, where she lived.

Boys should not upset emperors or mamas.

While doing my research today, I saw the photographs of Otto von Hapsburg and, in a flash, I remembered his face! Otto von Habsburg remained good friends with my Oma Mausi, and would visit her in New York City from time to time during the Second World War. He served as an advisor to Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the war, and lived in Washington DC.

The four of us all would have coffee together at her apartment in New York City when I was a child. She was not permitted to serve him either raspberry nor strawberry jellies.

He never talked to my father again.

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