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  1. #1
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    (YLC-Final 2) My Aunt Hilda

    Hildegard Bauer was born in Germany on the 23rd September 1937. If I ever knew the name of her exact birthplace it is lost to my memory. Her childhood was not a joyous affair. Her father was a military man who found himself following Adolf Hitler's quest for world domination. That quest would mercifully end in 1945 with Mr. Bauer's role in his FŁhrerís madness finishing in 1943 at the wrong end of a Russian bullet. Hildegard adored her father and for the rest of her days proudly displayed his photo on her living room wall in full military uniform. His death forced Hildegard into a desperate situation. She was barely six years old but overnight became the oldest child in the house from whom much was expected now that the Bauer family knew daddy was never coming home. I never explored these days in detail with Hildegard. She would share some childhood tales like when local boys pushed her off a bridge causing her to be sucked into the hands of the gloopy dank riverbed. I would never have known her except for a passing neighbour acting quickly to rescue the drowning child. Often however the pain of those days would cause her to move to more palatable adventures. What I could gather is that the relationship with her mother became strained, the pressure on Hildegard's shoulders became intolerable and when the Russians arrived in her village in 1945, they added further scars to the collective memory of the Bauer family.

    As Hildegard grew so did her determination to remove herself from the thickening bars of her familial prison and she took work far away from the demands that had fallen upon her. She still sent letters and money home, but Hildegard was determined not to go back. She entered her twenties and despite not speaking a word of English a relationship began to blossom between Hildegard and a young British soldier by the name of Jack Moorgate. Jack remembered years later that Hildegard worked around his base cleaning, cooking and doing whatever else she could to earn money as the now divided Germany struggled to reassert itself. She caught his eye, the relationship flourished, and they were duly married. Hildegardís family did not approve and did not attend.

    Jack's time in Germany would soon end and Hildegard would follow her husband back to his home in the city of Belfast. Jack would take a job as a postman and Hildegard would spend her days at home teaching herself English by listening to the radio and in later years watching endless hours of television. Hildegard as a name was quickly shortened by her new neighbours to Hilda and so by the time I met her in the 1980's she had become established as the German accented, English speaking, Hilda Moorgate.

    As I grew up Hilda was always around. My father worked with Jack in the post office and at weekends either Hilda or my mother would host games of Yahtzee which Hilda called "Kniffel". The grownups would play, eat and drink whilst my brother and I would do our own thing usually in front of the television. As the years rolled on, Jack and Hilda became our adopted aunt and uncle. She would use her knitting machine to make us new school jumpers every September and every Christmas we would spend Christmas morning in her home feasting on the massive buffet she would lay out before us. Hilda was the queen of cold meats and by the time we sat down to eat my mother's turkey on Christmas afternoon we were already filled with various cuts of Hilda's beef or pork or ham all served with sauerkraut.

    Hilda's great desire was to have a family of her own but after several failed and extremely difficult pregnancies she and Jack decided that their dream, by necessity, would go unfulfilled. Instead they became each other's world and lived simply and quietly in their perfectly formed "two-up, two-down" home. Jack as the ex-military man adored war movies and in the days of VHS tapes his collection literally lined the walls of his home. He was our version of Blockbuster with the slight difference that he would come to your house to retrieve his tapes if he considered them overdue. Hilda on the other hand loved to travel and over the years I suspect she saw more of the world than most. When holidays were over and her feet were on British soil, she engaged in the slightly less adventurous pastime of bargain hunting. Hilda loved car-boot sales. She toured the country and dived into mountains of second-hand goods bringing home her fair share of treasure. Her home was unlike any other. It was an eclectic mix of shiny, obscure, mismatched objects from her many hours of doing deals on roadsides and church carparks. It wasn't very Ikea, but it was very Hilda.

    I didn't care much for bargain hunting, travelling or war movies but my connection with Hilda was solidified by our mutual passion for wrestling. I don't recall a time that wrestling wasnít in my life and whilst most people barely tolerated my endless chat about the Horseman or the Wild Samoans, Hilda was genuinely interested. I remember thinking that I was doing her a big favour by introducing her to this wonderful new phenomenon called wrestling, only to discover that she had got there years before. She was one of the first people I met who didn't just casually watch wrestling, instead she consumed it. Hilda taped any wrestling shows she could find, and she underlined her viewing with her monthly purchase of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. I remember when she arrived at my house with what seemed like one hundred yearsí worth of PWI magazines. I had never bought the magazine myself but suddenly I felt my fandom grow and become more developed.

    As the 90s ended I had become a real WWF fanboy. Satellite television now allowed me to watch Raw on a Friday night and by avoiding spoilers on the rapidly exploding internet I would watch Raw "live" at the end of the week. Just a few streets away Hilda would do the same thing substituting McMahon for Bischoff and WCW. I would record Raw for Hilda and she would record Nitro for me. She followed Goldberg's streak as best she could and was genuinely enraged by Scott Hall and his infamous cattle prod. She was incredibly fond of Billy Kidman and there was a special place in her heart for her countryman Alex Wright, but for Hilda, no one could touch the dirtiest player in the game. I've written here before about my love for Ric Flair, but I suspect it pales into insignificance compared to Hilda's love of the Nature Boy. She supported him regardless of how he was positioned and a few years later when he became Vince McMahon's business partner, she popped like a woman half her age.

    As I reflect on those days what still warms my heart is that Hilda absolutely believed in wrestling. Did she ever know the truth about the sport? Probably. She was too smart and too involved to avoid the elephant in the room. Did she ever admit it? Never. Not once. At no point did she rob the sport of its mystery.

    In those days a visit to our city by the WWF was an incredibly rare event and so when we discovered that the Smackdown tour was coming our way plans were put in place to ensure that we didn't miss it. My friend Pete and I arrived outside the ticket office around midnight and slept outside until we could purchase three tickets at 8:43am. Hilda was thrilled and when the tour arrived, we took our place in our aisle seats to watch our first ever experience of live WWF. I proudly wore my Stone Cold t-shirt that Hilda bought me during her holiday to America's west coast. I don't recall any of that night's matches and I've struggled even to remember the date, but I can still see Hilda hugging Booker T as he walked the aisle with Pete and I reminding him "Five-time Book! Five time!".

    We promised that we would do it again if WWF returned but for whatever reason that promise was never kept. We did go to a World Wrestling Allstars show when they rolled through town. Hilda's favourite that night was the Road Dogg and I remember her telling me that Nathan Jones wasn't from London as announced but he was Australian. I had never heard of Nathan Jones but popped anyway for the somewhat "local" hero.

    If the internet is correct, that show was around 2002 and to my shame it is one of my final memories with Hilda. I was now in my 20s, finishing University, heading toward marriage and children and no longer living just a few streets away from my adopted auntie. Soon my relationship with Hilda would be exclusively on Christmas morning which was a tradition that also ended in 2007.

    It was around 2005 that Jack was diagnosed with Alzheimerís disease and just a few years later he would require 24-hour care in a local nursing home. Hilda remained relatively fit and stayed at her marital home until her health began to deteriorate particularly after Jack's death in 2014.

    I hugged her at Jack's funeral and laughed as she corrected the preacher's mistakes during his tribute to Jack, but that's all folks, Jack's funeral was the last time I saw her. I knew her health wasn't great, and I knew that she was now living in a nursing home. Heck, I even drove past it on endless occasions and always promised myself that one day I would call to see Hilda, but for whatever reason, I never did. Time, life, family, business. Multitudes of reasons to explain why I didn't walk through her door. I regret that and suspect I always will.

    In life we rarely notice when relationships change, and friendships start to diminish. People who are a major part of life one minute soon become people who we bump into now and again and eventually they're gone.

    Hilda died two years ago and while I never called to see her in life, I found myself amongst just a handful of mourners as we marked her death. I noted that the preacher didn't mention her love of wrestling. I noted that my father couldn't attend due to ill health. I noted the passing of time and the inevitable changes to families and friendship groups. I thought that I would volunteer to help carry her coffin but when the time came there weren't enough men and so Hilda was put in the hearse and we walked slowly behind instead. Just a few moments later the crowd dispersed, the traffic sped up and life moved on.

    This should be the moment that I close with some wise platitudes about life, friendship, time, hugging your love ones etc but Iíll not pat you on the head and Iíll spare you my patronising tones. Instead I offer this column in thankful memory of a dear woman who loved wrestling more than anyone I've ever known. Her life wasnít an easy one. She knew hurt and disappointment. She was a wife but not a mother. She loved old junk more than new stuff. She cheered the Horsemen but despised the NWO. She was Jackís love and finally his nurse. She was my aunt but not really.

    Her name was Hildegard and Iím honoured to say she was my friend.

  2. #2
    Author of 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die Samuel 'Plan's Avatar
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    I felt like the "That's all folks" aside stuck out awkwardly from the rest, but it's a tiny, intensely pedantic criticism because this was a gorgeous piece of writing, Scott. You played to your strengths here, and it paid off massively. Like our own legendary Steve, you are at your best when writing about your deeply personal connections to professional wrestling and that's a fantastic talent to have. This was heart-warming and emotionally stirring, beautifully simple and beautifully powerful in equal degree. I adored it, thank you very much for sharing.

  3. #3
    Senior Member LWO4Life's Avatar
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    A nice touching tribute to your Aunt Hildegard. I rarely comment on others writing that I'm in a contest against, it's just my thing. But I did want to say that this was a very touching tribute.

  4. #4
    The Brain
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    This was a really engaging read, Scott. I did find myself wondering at one point when the wrestling would come in, but patience paid off and you tied it in nicely. But even if you hadn't, this really was a great read, I felt some connection to Hilda myself. I wonder what she would have thought of the great, easily accessible wrestling popping up not just in the UK but in Germany as well these days? Dealing with the reality of the passing of time is always difficult, but thank you for sharing this, I really connected with it.

  5. #5
    Part Timer Maverick's Avatar
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    I think Mizfanís comments are essentially what I wouldíve written too...the exposition was extremely long, and as I said to LWO, Iíve never been overly fond of the CF trope of ďpersonal writingĒ, but this was extremely well written, moving in places, and you tied it all into the theme. Whatever happens, Iím a fan of your work through this tournament and will certainly read anything else you write on this site for as long as youíre here.

  6. #6
    You know who I am, but you don't know why I'm here
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    Excellent work and my apologies for delaying my feedback. It certainly flirted with that "wait, is this about wrestling at all?" dynamic, but you managed it well.

    You have the skills to be a main page mainstay, but as I have yet to see you respond to anything anyone has written to you to date, I would encourage you to get used to engaging your readership.
    Author of The WrestleMania Era book series, author of The Doctor's Orders columns on LOP since 2010, LOP Columns Hall of Famer, former host of The Doc Says podcast on LOP Radio (2013-2018), former LOP Raw and WWE PPV Reviewer (2006-2007), and former LOP Smackdown Reviewer (2004-2006)

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