The journey through time

from Kristina Schmidt

Ingolstadt's enchanted Christmas story number 22

It was December 22, 2023 It was dark outside and it was snowing. I generally liked Christmas. I always looked forward to it as a child. But today I was stressed. Nothing was going according to plan this year. And there were still two days until Christmas Eve. The supermarket had run out of wafers for the gingerbread, my husband had forgotten to order the Christmas roast from the butcher and, to make matters worse, our dog had had diarrhea for a few days.

I wanted to bake butter cookies in the evening, but we had obviously lost the cookie cutters during the last move. It didn't help, I had to go out again and get some cookie cutters. There were endless traffic jams on the roads because everyone was doing their last-minute shopping. But I made it to a large department store a quarter of an hour before closing time. Now the last hurdle was to get to the fourth floor to the household goods in 15 minutes. There were a few people milling around in front of the elevator.

Fortunately, I discovered a small moss-green elevator on the side. I wonder if it's still running? Hmm, I thought I'd give it a try and got in. I pressed the number four. A slightly queasy feeling came over me as the doors squeaked shut. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. I heard a few sounds of angelic Christmas music in the elevator before there was a muffled bang. When I woke up again, I was slightly dazed.

I got out and looked around. Was this the department store I'd been in earlier? Everything looked different somehow. You'd think time had stood still here. Well, strange. But where else would I be? I walked to the window and looked down. Out there was Ingolstadt's Paradeplatz and the New Palace. I was in Ingolstadt. What luck. This Christmas rush seemed to be taking its toll on me this year.

I still had a few things to do. My to-do list on my smartphone was long. Baking cookies, decorating the Christmas tree, wrapping presents. I decided to stop dawdling around and finally do the errands. I was just about to call my husband, but unfortunately I couldn't find my smartphone. Not that too!!! I reached into my left jacket pocket and realized that my car keys were no longer with me either. Was I going completely mad now?

I walked through the department store. Everything was decorated for Christmas. It was noticeable that the department store was adorned with lots of tinsel and fairy lights. Well, I thought to myself with a grin, if that doesn't get the climate change campaigners on the scene soon. The people in the department store looked a bit strange. It was probably some kind of vintage X-Mas pop-up store. And they had done a really good job, I had to give them that. They all had puffy jackets and wore shoulder pads. What was worrying was that no one had a smartphone in their hand. Did you have to hand it in at the entrance? Was that why I didn't have a smartphone on me? I clutched at this thought like a straw, as I was really lost without a smartphone. It was also particularly strange that there were so many tube televisions showing commercials in this department store. Cool, there was a Polly Pocket commercial. What a cool vintage X-Mas pop-up store. Great, maybe I'll find something for my best friend here. I needed a present anyway. As I continued to rummage around in the department store, I suddenly fell from all clouds when I saw myself in the mirror. Yes, for heaven's sake, what did I look like?

The mirror showed a small, slim girl with a plait fastened with a velvet bow. I was wearing purple corduroy trousers and had a pink children's rucksack on my back. What the hell was going on here? This could only be a dream.

Before I could pinch my arm, two arms grabbed me from behind. "Where have you been sweetie? We've been looking everywhere for you." And before I knew it, I was sitting on my father's shoulders. Where had my parents suddenly come from?

They asked me to feed the cat because they were in Salzburg for a few days. And what did they look like anyway? My father had a full head of black hair and my mother had a perm. Was that time travel? Where were my husband, my daughter and the dog? Did they perhaps not even exist yet?

My mother handed my father a puffy purple jacket, a sunny yellow hat and mittens. It was so weird. I couldn't go out on the street in this outfit. "Sweetie, we still have a few Christmas errands to run and then we're going to the Christmas market with Grandma and Grandpa," said my mother. Grandma and grandpa??? I was completely perplexed. Had I just been caught in a time warp? I could hardly remember Grandma and Grandpa. They had been dead for years. And now they were suddenly standing next to me in full bloom.

That was crazy. I seriously wondered what my best friend had mixed into her new Thermomix eggnog recipe yesterday. Was I perhaps drunk? An adult who is suddenly a child again. What a thing. So that was the end of driving home on my own today.

And so, dressed in the trendy color purple, I strolled through the snowy streets of Ingolstadt with the whole family. It was pretty cold and icy. People were thickly wrapped up and carrying shopping bags around. It was a real hustle and bustle in the city center.

The smell of roasted almonds wafted around the houses and of course I got a packet. They tasted really good. We then took a break at the snack bar. I haven't actually eaten meat for a few years now, but asking for a meat-free alternative as a seven-year-old in 1989 would probably be a lengthy affair.

My mother still needed candles for the Christmas tree. But she wasn't seriously going to get real candles for the Christmas tree? - Apparently she did. "Mom, why are we buying real candles? - Don't we want to use a string of LED lights..." I blurted out. "There are some galactically good offers on Amazon right now." "LED fairy lights from Amazon? Who is Amazon? That sounds like some kind of nonsense from TV again. No, darling, we'll go for the beeswax candles. They always smell so good," she replied. And what can I say, she was right. The candles smelled wonderful.

Christmas music was playing from the loudspeakers. But where were we going? We were going in a completely different direction! It gradually dawned on me. Of course, in 1989 the Christmas market was not in front of the theater, but on Ingolstadt's Rathausplatz.

The Christmas town hall square looked beautiful and festively decorated. In front of the town hall stood a meter-high fir tree, surrounded by a number of cute little stalls. The savings bank was still a brick-brown building and there were a few more trees than today. I didn't remember it like this at all.

"Would you like to go on a merry-go-round?" my grandma asked me. What a question. Of course, of course. My father bought me a ride chip. I got on the merry-go-round and sat on a white wooden mold. For a moment I thought, I hope it doesn't collapse, but I forgot that I was about 40 kilos lighter than usual in the run-up to Christmas. Last Christmas was blaring from the speakers and I wondered for a moment how long this song had been around.

While I was doing my rounds on the carousel, a girl waved at me. I ignored her at first. Someone must have mistaken me for someone else. After all, I wasn't the only child on the merry-go-round. But she didn't stop waving. She seemed to know me. But I couldn't work out who she was. Was she perhaps an enchanted person too? Was I perhaps not alone?

When the ride was over, the girl came running up to me and my parents. "Hi, haven't you seen me?" - "No," I said sheepishly. "Well, never mind, maybe you need glasses. Have you handed in your wish list yet?" ...wish list? - "Come quickly, let's do it," she encouraged me. "St. Nicholas will be here soon."

She held her wish list close to my nose and I finally had the opportunity to read her name. ANNIKA was written there in bold, slightly crooked block letters. So that was Annika, my primary school friend at the time. Amazing, I hadn't seen her for ages. Could I confide in her that I was actually from the year 2023? Maybe she was trapped in a child's body like me. Maybe it was one of those elevators that didn't take you to the housewares department, but to another age. I was totally confused.

"What's wrong with you today? Have you already written that you want the new Polly Pocket for Christmas? You've been nagging me about it for days. Fix it, otherwise St. Nicholas will be over the hill." "Good, then give me the note," I said a little snippily and wrote POLLY POCKET in bold letters. "Wow, your handwriting is really neat. I don't understand why you only ever get a C at school." Yes, I remembered that handwriting wasn't exactly my favorite subject. Fortunately, that was no longer an issue as an adult.

A paunchy older gentleman with a full beard, Santa Claus from Ingolstadt, came by and collected the wish lists. He smiled at us both and asked if we had been good. Of course, we both nodded eagerly. As a reward, we were each given a little chocolate Santa. Annika started to unwrap it. I, on the other hand, put it in my pocket.

Annika looked at me strangely. "So tell me, don't you like chocolate today?" - "Yes, I do," I replied, "but I'll save it for later." "Ah yes," she said incredulously. "Otherwise you'll destroy chocolate in no time. Are you sick today?" "No," I said. "Well, I thought so, because we want to go ice skating this afternoon." Oh perfect, now I should go ice skating. I probably hadn't been on the ice for twenty years.

My grandparents, Annika and I strolled to the parking lot at the theater. "Get in, ladies, we're going to Jahnstraße," said my grandpa. "Just like every Tuesday when you have training," Annika added. That's right, there was something. I used to go ice skating on Jahnstraße. And of course, the Saturnarena didn't exist in 1989. So of course Jahnstraße was the first place to go ice skating. Oh my God, how wonderful. Doing my laps in the old ice rink.

Annika and I were strapped into a child seat in the back seat of the car by my grandma. I hadn't been in a child seat for a long time. Rather, I was the person strapping other people into it. Admittedly, I felt a little cramped. But it was only for my own safety. How were my grandparents supposed to know that I was already an adult and allowed to drive myself? After all, you couldn't tell by looking at me.

Bayern 3 was on the radio in the car, and after a few Christmas songs, the news came on. "Dear listeners, it's Saturday, December 23, 1989, it's 3:00 p.m.". Wow, now I've heard it with my own ears. Will I ever get back? Back to the year 2023, to my family, my diarrhea-ridden dog, my friends?

The green Audi 80 turned into the indoor swimming pool parking lot on Jahnstraße. It all looked familiar and yet different. The Danube flowed leisurely through Ingolstadt's winter wonderland. The Glacis Bridge did not yet exist. It was only inaugurated almost ten years later. And my future school, the Christoph-Scheiner-Gymnasium, was right over there.

It started to snow in the afternoon. The atmosphere in the ice rink was great. You could tell it was the day before Christmas. While Annika and I did our laps, my grandparents made themselves comfortable on the spectator benches with a hot punch. And to my own amazement, I skated like an ice princess.

I floated over the ice and everything went by itself. At some point, my grandpa got the hang of it and skated a few laps with us. I wanted to pinch myself with my thick mittens because the whole afternoon was so magical. The loudspeakers played Last Christmas for the third time that day and I started to attempt a pirouette. I took a good swing and spun around. It worked like a charm. I spun around my own axis super fast. I could still hear my granddad clapping and Annika shouting "Super", after which I got all dizzy.

Suddenly everything was snow-white before my eyes. My head felt completely fuzzy. My body seemed to float away. I couldn't understand what was happening. As if through a cloud, I saw my grandparents drinking punch on the spectator benches. I saw Annika and the other children continuing to practise their pirouettes. And I saw myself. In a blur, I could make out the outline of a little girl down in the middle. That was me. I turned incredibly quickly. I could see myself from above and moved further and further away. At some point, my eyes closed and I must have lost consciousness. When I woke up again, my head hurt. I looked left and right and found myself in a moss-green elevator. The fire department and the store owner were standing next to me. The elevator had got stuck.

Puzzled, I looked at my smartwatch on my wrist. It was December 2023. Yay, I was back. I reached into my jacket pockets. My smartphone and car keys were back. But wait, there was something else. There was a little chocolate Santa Claus in my jacket pocket. He smiled at me teasingly. Wow, that was the chocolate Santa Claus that I got with Annika from St. Nicholas when we handed in our wish list. I looked down at myself. My purple clothes were gone. Instead, I was wearing jeans, a white sweater and a green winter jacket. It was crazy. I was back in the year 2023.

My husband and daughter were already waiting for me at the exit of the department store. "Mom, where have you been? We've missed you. Your smartphone was off. Dad says you spent the night in an elevator. Did you meet Santa Claus, Mom?" my daughter asked with big shining eyes. I didn't even know what had happened yet. "Yes, I think I did," I said. "And it was magical." My husband looked at me, smiling in disbelief. But it was true. Who else, if not the Christ Child and Santa Claus, could have conjured up such a magical pre-Christmas day for me?