Posted by Juli Thursday, August 13, 2009
I'm no stein specialist and I couldn't tell you what makes a stein collectible. But even I could tell this one was different...nothing like the requisite pewter-topped steins that tend to depict everything from Bavarian scenes to
fighter jets. I'm pretty sure that those steins are a NATO-required purchase for all military personnel stationed in Germany; even my non-drinking parents had a couple of them on the mantle.
Despite my lifelong aversion to tacky German steinage, I found myself inexplicably drawn to this one. I'd never seen one like it. It was old and had an eyecatching pattern that I loved, with a German phrase I couldn't understand.
But mostly it reminded me of my earliest encounter with beer, way back when I was ten years old.
We were living in Cold War Germany...a strange, strange time and place, indeed. Especially strange for a girl (like me) who had lived the last seven years in Miami, gone to private school at a Baptist church...and never seen a beer before. I could have sucked all that "strange" down with a straw.
The small village we lived in held a fest shortly after we moved there. In the spirit of "adventure abroad" our family of four made an evening of it. Mom and Dad were very into what the kids today call "cultural immersion"...regardless of how badly we stuck out.
The fest felt to me like all the townsfolk had gathered every bit of their "strange" and put it on parade just for us. Beer-fueled oompah music was jovial but a little jarring, as if the damp air was the only thing making it slightly discordant. The chilled, wet cobblestone smell we had finally grown used to was now laced with the sweet scent of lager and the wonderful tang of wursts.
There were no carnival rides, but there were booths featuring tests of skill. My attention was immediately drawn to one booth and one booth only.
The crossbow-shooting booth.
Despite being an American, I'd never shot anything in the entire decade I'd walked the earth. Yet for some reason, I was enthralled. The man working the booth didn't speak any English. He got a crate for me to stand on and made a big production of demonstrating and gesturing, until I understood I needed to line the tiny notch up with the target.
Our antics had drawn a crowd that was now waiting to see what I was going to bring. Finally, there was no reason to wait...I lined up my shot and took it.
A cheer went up. By the time I realized that I'd hit the bullseye, there was an overflowing stein of beer sliding my way down the counter, leaving a tail of foam. It stopped right in my hand, sloshing over just a little bit. I felt like Snoopy, perfectly palming a rootbeer the barkeep slid his way. I'd won my very first beer. It was definitely a moment.
And...the moment passed. Mom and Dad exchanged my beer for some less intoxicating chocolate. Sure, it was the right thing to do, but it sort of made the whole "heady moment of victory" thing fizzle out for me.
I never picked up a crossbow again, and for some reason I never made another bullseye in anything...not even beer pong. From time to time I've wished that we'd swapped the beer for the stein itself; Dad always said that the best souvenirs are the ones money can't buy.
So, I'm glad this stein found me so that I can find a new home for it. The German phrase makes it the perfect addition to my Comfuzzled collection. Roughly translated: