They’re alike as three peas in a pod at the head of the class, red of hair, glowing with enthusiasm, and focused upon the overhead projection on the screen before them.
Dr. John Arensmeyer tics off the dining table objects one by one, eliciting the guttural names from his students. The three Doanes are no slackers, for they’ve done they homework, praised equally with the rest of the class. Enrolling last fall, they didn’t guess this would be so rewarding.
Catherine Doane is the youngest at 15. When the time came to select a foreign language at John Burrows High School in Burbank where she is enrolled, she had only Spanish and French options when she wanted the German of her family’s heritage. Hence, she came to Arensmeyer’s class at GCC for credit. Her mother, Maureen, or “Mo,” a secretary, figured that as long as she was providing the transportation, she might as well stick around for the ride.
Thus mother and daughter enrolled together for Monday and Wednesday nights more special than perhaps they have ever been. Often Mo’s mother, Mary, would tutor them; it was a matter of time before she had to join.
This spring all three attend class. All three spend evenings studying at the table, and sometimes Mo’s husband, Ron, and sister, a former employee of the Goethe Institute, sit in for a true fest of family heritage.
Mary’s father was born in Bergenhusen, Germany, in 1900. Born in Calexico, California, 19 years later, she as a girl asked him to teach her his mother tongue, but he refused. It was when he announced a family visit to Germany that she secretly enrolled in a German course at LACC. Her sneakiness paid off when she blew him away with her skill and easy acculturation once in Germany and again, years later, when she married a man from Ruhmansfelden.
“By taking this class now,” she says, chuckling, “I’m hoping to raise my grade up one from 50 years ago.”
Cathy is also glad she’s here. “I feel more at home with the language, as opposed to Spanish or French.” She hopes to matriculate in two years at UC Riverside or Mt. St. Mary’s College to study psychology.
When asked to describe 14-year adjunct instructor Arensmeyer as a teacher, Mo has one word: “Fun.” Mary chimes in, and they say “Way to fast, but fun. He makes is really exciting.”
All their rigorous practice will come to good use at the hochzeit, the high times of Mary’s cousin’s golden wedding anniversary when the Doane family travels to Germany in October.