I had barely hung up the phone with Maria when the phone rang again. I picked up the phone, “Von Trapp here.” I answered in my usual formal tone. “Mr. Von Trapp, this is Henry Grunwald, U.S. Ambassador to Austria. I’ve been asked to call you on behalf of the Austrian government. I know that you and your family moved to the United States many years ago. Since you left Austria and later sold your home to the “Missionaries of the Precious Blood,” we thought that would be the end of your involvement with Austria, but the missionary society moved into a nearby building, selling the home to a Viennese family, the Torbergs. They did not have any children and decided to leave the property to you and your family in their will.
It was true, what was in Rolf’s letter was confirmed. Just then, Maria walked in with a puzzled look on her face. I held up my hand to let her know that I was on an urgent call. She put her bags down and waited for me to finish the call. “Mr. Von Trapp, the Austrian government wants to know if you will be moving back to Austria. ” I was shocked at the question. Move back to Austria? We had been in the United States for over 50 years. We were settled. Would Maria even consider it? “Mr. Grunwald, I will have to discuss this with my wife and family. This is very sudden. I need to let this sink in.” I replied. “Ok, I will let the Austrian government know that I have spoken with you and that you will get back to them. Have a good day sir.” He hung up, and I just sat there holding the phone. “What is it, Georg? You look as if you have seen a ghost.” Maria said.
“You are not going to believe what has happened today.” I handed her Rolf’s letter to let her read it. She opened it and started reading. With only reading the first few lines she seemed to lose strength in her legs and quickly took a seat on the couch to continue reading. “Can you believe this Maria? A letter from Rolf and the explanation that we have been asking questions about for half a century.” As she finished reading the letter, I could see that her eyes were moist from tears that had welled up over the words she had just read. “Georg, is this true? Could this be even possible?” I looked at her with a blank stare. “To top this, I just got off the phone with a Mr. Grunwald, U.S. Ambassador to Austria confirming what you just read. He said that the Austrian government wants to know if we plan on moving back to Austria!” Instead of being shocked, Maria hugged me with tears streaming down her cheeks. “Georg, I hope this is not a cruel joke. This is what I have been hoping and dreaming for since we fled Austria and let the home go to the Mission. I know that you were so upset with what happened during the war that I never even brought it up all these years. Our home is where I met you and the children. I feel as if the mountains have been calling me home for fifty years.” “Yes, I was upset to put it lightly, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t ever think about Austria. We have a business here in Vermont. We have grandchildren, roots here in America. How can we pack up and leave?” I replied. “Oh Georg, can’t we at least go to Austria, settle the will and go visit our home? I would love to take the children back. It’s been so long since they were there. I want to call them and tell them what has just happened.” Maria said excitedly. “NO! I shouted. This is not a nice little family vacation. This opens up deep wounds for all of us. How can I even look at Rolf after what I believed about him all these years? The pain is too great.” as I walked out of the room into my study. Move back to Austria. Was he out of his mind? The memories of a half-century ago flooded my mind as I remember sneaking out of my home that evening long ago. I thought that we would never see our home again.
As I sat there with my thoughts, I gazed upon Liesl’s picture on my desk. Just then I remembered her question to me that evening, “Will we be coming back here?” My answer to her cut me deeply, “Someday Liesl, I do hope someday.” Now that someday had returned, and I had a tough decision to make. Looking at her picture, missing her so much, I spoke to her as if she was in the room. “Liesl, I don’t know if I can do this.” as tears began to well up in my eyes.