Daylight was surrendering to dusk in the bustling town of Pavia, Italy, as the exhausted Albert dropped his bags on the doorstep of his parents’ garden apartment. While it seemed as if things were about to take a turn for the better, Albert still couldn’t quite shake off the stress of recent events in his life. Concern weighed heavily on him, and he hesitated before knocking on the door. On the train ride from Munich that had consumed most of the day, Albert had worried that he had disappointed his family by leaving the Gymnasium. Now, standing in front of the door, he wrung his hands, stared down at his feet, breathed in a last bit of courage and knocked.
Pauline, in a plain cotton gown, opened the door and, seeing who it was, delightedly blurted out, “Albert! Oh my God!” With a wan smile, the lost boy greeted his mother.
“Please, Mama, I must come home,” Albert said, sinking into the comfort of her arms. He accepted her warm embrace and, when he inhaled her familiar fresh soap scent, he burst into tears.
Concerned with the unexpected emotion, Pauline quickly drew him into the parlor. “Albert! Of course, you will stay here. Come, sit. Tell me what has happened.”
For what seemed like a long time, Albert poured out his heart.
Pauline listened without interrupting as Albert unburdened himself. When he reached the end of his tale, she smiled, and Albert could see the compassion and understanding in her eyes. It was that, as much as the catharsis of telling his story, which cleansed Albert’s soul.
Nodding wisely, Pauline simply said, “That is the past, my beautiful son. Let us now look to the future.”
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