Heike’s son Sascha speaks perfect English, with a delicate English accent (he’s 11) and explains how it works here in Germany: it’s decided in the fifth class which school you’ll attend based on your test results, with Gymnasium acting as the ‘highest school’ (not to be confused with high school), followed by the Realschule and the Hauptschule, for everyone else.
I’m working with Lily on analysing poetry, to build her reading comprehension. In her text book, we read a poem about the wind and introduce the concept of personification, and break down the word to understand its meaning.
But she doesn’t like the refrain, it’s boring, and I agree. So today, I introduce her to Bob Dylan, starting with a YouTube video for ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues,’ pointing out the bearded guy in the background is one of our most famous American poets, Allen Ginsberg.
I then have her read the lyrics to ‘Mr. Tambourine Man,’ a song my dad turned me on to when I was maybe Lily’s age, the record so well played, the edges of it made a ring through the jacket, a halo around Dylan’s profile.
I asked her to find examples of Dylan using personification in the lyrics and after a couple attempts, she found one of the best (“the haunted, frightened trees”) — and I ended by trying to help her understand that you can make rhyme fun, it doesn’t have to be laborious. I’m not sure she got it, though.
A couple times in the 90s I met Cesar Diaz, a friend of my stepdad John’s, who played guitar with Dylan but hated him, wanted someone to write an angry book revealing the real Dylan, wanted to talk to me about it, as John set me up as a would-be writer, did what he could to introduce me to his musical friends and guide me down possible paths.
I was a huge Dylan fan, though. I couldn’t imagine finding success degrading one of my heroes, no matter how much Cesar wanted me to understand what he was really like, how that time in Spain, Cesar bought a troubadour costume from a local shop, got on stage wearing it, only to have Dylan order him to get off — and the next night, there was Dylan wearing the same troubadour costume, centre stage.
John disliked Dylan in a fashion I imagine musicians harbour strong likes and dislikes for fellow musicians, favouring the lesser-known, arguably better technical players — the fact too, John’s musician friends started disliking him once he found some fame and success, as if it’s a constant competition, because in some ways it always is.
We aren’t in a groove yet with the homeschooling. We worry that back home, in the highly competitive halo surrounding Seattle, with Microsoft kids and all the high-tech, Amazon, Starbucks families — that our kids will fall behind this year we’ve taken them out of the system and thought we could proxy for the teachers who work much harder than we have thus far, that somehow, the one-on-one time and the more handheld approach will fill in the gaps. We worry that we worry too much, or not enough.
Heike’s son Sascha met me at the house so we could walk to the Gymnasium and he could show me where we’re meeting an English teacher Monday, the teacher Heike wrote to in German explaining our situation, that we have to leave the Schengen after 90 days and we’re coming back 90 days later…and asked if she would be open to our kids participating at the school in some classes, to integrate with German kids.
Sascha asks me what I do for work, and I say I’m not working — but used to be a project manager and worked for Starbucks, for about 20 years, thinking this might be impressive, but it’s not.
I explain I’m also a writer, and wanting to do more of that, so he asks “What you write then, books?” — and I say no, actually poems and blog posts — and he smiles and says, Everyone’s got to have a hobby, right?
Dawn says this morning work-related dreams aren’t always about work. Last night, I was trying to get into the secured doors in my old office building but my badge wouldn’t work. And I think as I’m teaching Lily about analysing poetry and Charlotte how to spell, I may never have this chance again. Let me forget about today, until tomorrow.