When I was a young girl, my father became Ambassador to Luxembourg. We went there in November 1953 at the end of my 11th year. The American Embassy was a beautiful building, nicely appointed. My sister, brother, and I all had our own rooms. We shared a bathroom, but my brother had a sink in his room, so we did not see him much in our bathroom. We had two dogs, one was mine, and the other belonged to my sister. They were company for us. But we had very few friends. Gradually my brother made friends with a much older boy who lived just across a little park from the Embassy. But for my sister and I, there was no one nearby. We did make a friend. Germaine Lefevre was about two years older than me and four years older than Dede. But she was a girl who we could befriend. She was young (ish) and she came to visit us now and then or else we went to visit her in her apartment. Her father owned The Alpha Hotel, and that is where they lived.

The Embassy Residence in Luxembourg


My father also set me up at a riding stable in Luxembourg, where I began to learn dressage. That was fun and useful, and I went every day. But mostly, I missed my friends. I longed to be back in Washington DC at our beautiful house ‘Underoak’. How I wished to be there. It was a constant ache. Of course, my hormones were going crazy, and my moods were up and down and sideways. It must have been so painful to live with me. And my parents did not know what to do with me. We were living a dream of a life, and I hated it. How marvelous my life would be once we finished this tour in Luxembourg and moved home again. And eventually we did move home to Washington DC. But during those three years I was miserable.

The Eastern leg of the house called Underoak.
Side view of American Embassy in Luxembourg

I missed my house, my bedroom with the windows on two sides of the room. Even my private bath was longed for, though it was tiny and crowded up under the eaves. I missed my much smaller bedroom because it was MINE and it also had a balcony overlooking the driveway. From my balcony, I could see much of the top of the tree for which Underoak was named. It was a magnificent Oak tree which stood in the dog leg of the central part of the house. That tree supplied needed shade in Washington’s hot summers. It was beautiful to see. There was no tree like that in Luxembourg. Also, in Washington DC, we had a Television set. There was just one, and it was in our parents’ bedroom. But in Europe, we had no television and even the radio was mostly in French or German. Radio Free Europe was the only English speaking station. I had a small record player which worked on batteries. I could use that to play 45s and listen to American music.

While living abroad, I learned what it was to NOT be an American. Children in Europe did not grow up with the freedom I was accustomed to. They did not feel that they were free to choose where they would be in life. They believed their “place” was set and that they should be grateful for it and not question their station in life. This attitude horrified me.

So my daydreams all centered around being back home. Back in my old house. I wanted it so much. I longed for it with a deep longing, which seems ironic now.


Because my wish was granted but just a bit more than half a century later. Now I live here once more. Now I look out of my balcony down the same driveway. But not everything is the same. For one thing, the tree no longer stands in its glory high above the roofline in my view. Several years ago we had to cut down that tree to it bare limbless trunk. We left the trunk standing so that my mother view from the sofa in what we call the “garden room” would remain the same.

Another thing that has changed is that my mother is 101 years old. My father has been dead for 33 years. And I have had a full life, including five grown children and several careers. But here I am. Sometimes I have felt trapped here. Sometimes I have resented having to move here to live with my mother.

View from my Balcony

However, it occurred to me recently that this is what I wished for. I asked for this all those many years ago. All of my energy went to wishing to be right here in this marvelous house. I remembered the varied rooflines and longed for the freedom to roam around the extensive property. It was like a call to fate to accommodate my acute longing for time here.

‘Underoak’ with tree trunk denuded of limbs

And here I am. Once I realized that I basically wished this on myself, it made me feel grateful instead of resentful. Now I cherish every day. One day this vigil will end, and I will have to move somewhere else. And when that happens, I will not be able to come back because the house will belong to new owners. They will probably tear it down. So every moment here is precious with warm feeling and appreciation. I hope I can stay for a long time.

Copyright©. 2019 Bonnie B. Matheson

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