At the German school, the kids get dismissed for five minutes between every class to go outside and get some fresh air or have a smoke, some of the younger ones play on the climbing bars and hang upside down with their hair in the dirt. Because it’s the Gymnasium, the track designed for continued education and roughly comparable to American middle school, kids range in age from 11 to 16 and our two are the youngest, Charlotte (8) an all-out aberration, possibly the most talked about but now, two weeks in, they’re just part of the fold with the rest.
We were elated to get them out of the house and into a school with other kids because we overlooked how much they needed the structure of a classroom and other children, but knew we’d have to continue augmenting with Math and English because it’s unclear how much they’re comprehending, with everything taught in German, and there’s a good chance it’s all a ruse really, but incredibly good for them still.
We debated letting them walk home from the school alone because it’s just about five minutes from my mom’s house with no streets to cross, and we’ve done the walk a hundred times by now, but it’s hard for us to let go — so we agreed instead we’ll meet them halfway by the tunnel, and today when I retrieved them I climbed up a lookout nearby to watch them from above and see what they’d do when they came to the meeting point without me there — but Charlotte spotted me right away and came running to say hi.
All of us just need our space, and we overlooked the importance of that too: though we’re close to my mom it’s hard on her, hard on the dog too, who taps into our moods and biorhythms, reads the temperature of the room and all that’s unspoken, makes eye gestures, fidgets, can’t settle, gets up for a Yoga pose and yawns, caught between the desire to relax and the instinct to get up and investigate sounds and scents, all the coming and going and rearranging of the pepper grinder on the table and the napkins, keeping track of our drinking glasses, the retainer case, what we’ll do for our next meal — it seems impossible to just settle in and quiet down. We argue over the correct way to refer to coming days: is it next Thursday or this Thursday: what are the rules, how do they apply, and who’s right?
And it’s like a big project or possibly a new house or getting married — after the initial enthusiasm wanes, the reality of all the work reveals itself, how difficult the vision will be to attain, the necessary compromises — and that’s why you have to constantly remind yourself of the benefits and why you’re doing the project, you have to repeat it like a chant, for anything you repeat long enough, any kind of pledge or prayer, becomes true once you say it enough.
So on our walk this morning through the fields we talked about it, everything we haven’t gotten done that we wanted to, in terms of helping my mom sort things out around the house — and talked about how we hope the experience will help us live differently when we get back to the States, how unusual it is we get to do this and most people, given the chance, would have to wait until they’ve retired and they’re thinking about the end of their lives, whereas we have the chance to course correct mid-life now, based on what we learn from our time here, and what’s most important.
I reread blog posts I published from October through December last year, now a full year since my work life started to unravel, having made the choice to move to Germany the prior summer, but not able to stick it out as long as I’d hoped at work through the following spring, instead forced to consider if I wanted to risk being asked to leave my job or leave of my own volition, and knowing it was the latter for how much I loved my time there and wanted my memories of it to remain positive.
I reread comments made by many people who still follow my blog and realised how much they meant to me, as I was feeling more isolated, and trying to realise more of myself online, as many do in that ‘figuring it all out vein’ — what once was a journaling exercise to get inside ourselves we can now do publicly, which makes it something different altogether, opening our diaries to strangers around the world.
Now, we’re packing for a three-month road trip through the UK, leaving two weeks from today and thinking about taking a portable cooking set with olive oil, spices, a fry pan — international data plans, power converters — and reminding ourselves to relax and enjoy our last two weeks in Germany, to take some pictures of the vines growing up the side of mom’s house while the leaves are still red.
And fall comes so fast, summer feels like an abrupt goodbye at the airport before a long flight.
Post title HT to Led Zeppelin, ‘Stairway to Heaven.’