We dropped the kids off for their first day of German school, their first class French — French taught in German — and I walked to the cemetery by the Realschule, where we’ve started our third week of German classes, the cemetery because it’s fall and seems a fitting place to sit and brood, and though it was warm in the sun I sought a dark bench to see what inspiration I could find among the headstones and the dead.
We were nervous for the girls starting German school, all of it in German, loosely agreed upon plans mostly by email with the English teacher brokered by our friend Heike and her son Sascha, the school close enough the kids can walk there, all of it free, our choice of subjects including Geography, Latin, Grammar, Math, Biology, Religion, Fine Arts, Sport, Choir, and so on.
I went back to my notes from the weekend with our French friends: the boy Mathis may be 5 or 6, playing with the letter opener, making slicing gestures across his throat with it — the Spanish ham sliced extra thin, peeling pieces of it off with our fingers in the morning, all of it shredded and fucked the way toilet paper gets when it’s unraveled wrong — the French have a resilience that’s hard to pinpoint, they don’t give a shit or worry about stuff we tend to, they don’t seem to gain weight like us either, and manage to keep smoking well into their 40s.
All the cheeses and tiny pickles and breads, the Raclette, a tabletop grill popularised by the Swiss, cooking strips of pork fat on it and then onions and parboiled potatoes, on and on, reminds me of the time my cholesterol got over 300 and I had to pare everything back to gluten-free with raw almonds, celery, fish.
We have to use the tip of a wooden spoon now to turn the dishwasher on because the power button fell inside the console, and it’s like some game at the fair, fishing for the button, something we should probably have checked, it doesn’t seem safe.
I get emails from LinkedIn with press releases about newly filled executive positions at retail chains in the States, and people still use the phrase proven track record which makes me gag, it has a perverse sound to it worse than pornography, and less convincing: what exactly is a track record?
Laurent wears his sweater around his shoulders tied in the front just so, like only the French can.
We get a text message from the Italians up the street saying they’re going on a mozzarella run to Italy and how many kilos do we want? Mom stabs the cell phone display with her pointer finger, bats back the autocorrections, reads it aloud before sending it.
We now have only 20 some days we’re allowed to stay in Germany before we need to leave the Schengen, the Schengen getting more attention with the European migrant crisis, explaining to those outside Europe what it really means, and whereas before we thought of going to Croatia we’re glad we’re going the opposite direction now, grateful the UK opted out of the agreement: it means we can stay there for 90 days in Britain and Ireland, as we’re not allowed to re-enter the 22 Schengen states (Germany, France, Italy, Spain, etc.) until we’ve been out a full 90 days, the end of January.
Although mom said we could use her Mazda to drive to the UK we decided to rent a car instead, a rental for about 102 days that’s roughly €35/day plus the border-crossing and extra driver fees, break-down insurance…and Eberhard offered to help us buy a car, which seemed preposterous, but now that we’ve done some research it’s clearly the best idea: you can get reliably used cars here in Germany for a lot less than in the States.
And when we collect the kids from their choir class (they sang Cold Play songs, in English), Lily says she wants to stay at this school forever, all the German kids crowd around them like they’re rock stars and trade email addresses, ask if Lily’s got a handy — and she’s sharing her blog with classmates in the States and mentioned a blogger who’s following her now who’s also following me — she could read my comments to him on his blog, but doesn’t think he’s really reading her posts because all the comments to him say “Thanks for the Likes,” (she’s only 10 and seeing through it already, who reads, who doesn’t) — and now Dawn and I will have a break from home schooling as we finish our plans to the UK, and I find new haunts in the dark corners of town where I can forget what day it is and imagine what it was like in this graveyard 50, 100 years ago, despite all that was going on in the world and all the warring, how it probably looked a lot like it does now on a day like this, the sky and the clouds, the trees about the same as they’re losing their first leaves, poets moping about below, wondering where they came from, where they’re going — all those people, all those lives, where are they now?