“Little by little, one travels far.”
[ J. R. R. Tolkien ]
“It seems to me that our three basic needs,
for food and security and love,
are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others.
So it happens that when I write of hunger,
I am really writing about love and the hunger for it,
and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it…
and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied…
and it is all one.”
“I’ve learned a lot this year..
I learned that things don’t always turn our the way you planned,
or the way you think they should.
And I’ve learned that there are things that go wrong
that don’t always get fixed or get put back together the way they were before.
I’ve learned that some broken things stay broken,
and I’ve learned that you can get through bad times and keep looking for better ones,
as long as you have people who love you.”
One day you’re in diapers; the next day you’re gone.
But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul.”
[ The Wonder Years ]
My father is far from perfect: More an uncle than a father at best, more a stranger than a family member at worst.
I wanted to write so many posts about him (and maybe I still will), but I’ve come to realize something important lately:
All the harsh words and all the too tight teddy-bear-hugs;
all the missed P.T.A.-conferences, hockey meets, my 18th and my 19th birthday;
him still giving me € 50,- “travel expenses” every time I go to see him;
all the leaving me at home at nights when I was young and bringing back random women to “cuddle” (as he put it);
all the disappointment I’ve seen in his eyes when he talks about the potential I had;
all the letting me wait for hours in his office because he forgot;
all the excuses and all the times there should have been excuse but there weren’t;
all of his lack of interest in anything I did during my teenage years;
all the awkward moments when he tried so hard to fill a mothers shoes (bra shopping being one of them);
all the times he let me down and all the times he picked me up;
all the fights and all the laughter;
all the living and struggling that went on between us and will go on until the day we leave this earth;
all of that and so much more is him trying.
Thank you, Daddy: Happy Fathers Day.
[ “That’s Me Trying” – William Shatner ]
“Like everyone else I am what I am: an individual, unique and different, with a lineal history of ancestral promptings and urgings; a history of dreams, desires, and of special experiences, all of which I am the sum total.”
I haven’t talked a lot about my mother lately. In all honesty I have been to busy rejoicing in my new-found freedom.
Today I remembered something I didn’t even know I had forgotten.
I remembered the first time I distinctly realized that I was the girl who was different. I was the girl without a mommy.
The German School system is different from the American School system, so when I tell you I was in pre-school, I mean I was in my last year of kindergarten about to enter first grade and I was only one long summer vacation shy of being seven years old.
(No, I wasn’t held back a year. I’m an October baby and the deadline is in August, so … you do the math. You’re probably better at it than I am. Come to think about it, maybe I was held back a year?!)
Tradition wants that the last day of pre school is celebrated by taking on the little boys and girls on a glorious outing or in my case on a field trip to the local zoo.
The kindergarten teachers sent out information packages to the parents specifying what the children should bring a long on the trip and when to drop them off and where to pick them up.
I know it specified us bringing lunch in a backpack. The reason why I remember this so clearly is because my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Pich (pronounced “Peach” – sweet, huh?!), reminded us to bring our backpacks that our mommies would give us to kinder garden the next day.
The next morning, I didn’t have a backpack. It must have slipped my father’s mind. Somehow I knew it was vital for me to bring a piece of carry-on-luggage. I didn’t have a kiddy backpack, but I had something so much better. I had a pink sparkly care-bear lunchbox in which I stored all my favorite toys. So that morning, backpackless, I grabbed my pink lunch box filled with my most prized possessions (including but not limited to a toy car that changed colours when you rubbed it long enough with your sweaty palms) and walked myself to kindergarten.
I always walked myself to kindergarten. It was just across the park and it was the 80s so my father wasn’t too neglectful that way. A lot of kids walked themselves to kindergarten back then. Well at least preschoolers did.
When I got there not only was I the only kid who arrived without special parental attention, but I was also the only kid without a backpack.
For a moment most mothers just looked at me. Then my Mrs. Pich took be aside and asked if she could see what I brought for the special outing. When she saw that my lunchbox was filled with toys and other inedible items (including but not limited to a dried up marker), she asked me if I could do her a favor. She told me she had stupidly brought her lunch for today and for tomorrow. She wanted to know, if I would leave some of my toys behind and help her carry all the lunch she brought. Also she quickly tied a jump rope to my lunchbox so I didn’t have to hold on it around all day, but could instead carry it like an overgrown purse.
I don’t remember much more from that day. We saw animals, I think. Afterall it was a zoo. But I don’t really need to.
I have photos.
In all of them you see 12 happy children, smiling, laughing and having a great time.
All of them have little kiddy backpacks on their backs. Except for one. The brown-eyed girl with two dark thick braids carrying a glittery pink care-bear lunchbox tied awkwardly to her with a jump rope.
I remember sitting on the jungle gym for the group shot holding my lunchbox.
I distinctly remember feeling different.
But I also remember feeling special: I might not have had a mommy drop me off that morning, but I was the only kid that got to share Mrs. Piches lunch with her.
[ “Soul Killing” – The Ting Tings ]
“[She leaned in close to her frail face:
>Learn this now and learn it well.
Like a compass facing north,
a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman.
You remember that, Mariam.<”
“How true Daddy’s words were when he said:
>All children must look after their own upbringing.<
Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths,
but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
is the presence of a happy family
all wrapped up with one another”
I wasn’t planning on writing a christmas post this morning. I was planning on being extra-good (the kind of good that you believe gets you extra loot under the christmas tree) meaning studying.
I really, really was.
But then two things happened:
All of the above had me thinking of Christmas’-past and there is one Christmas that especially comes to mind.
You see, my father and I had this special christmas tradition of cleaning to house to an immaculate shine on the 23rd, then grabbing all the Christmas gifts for our family in the US, flinging them into the trunk of the car along with an overnight bag and making our way to my grandparents in Baden-Wuerttemberg (the state just north of Bavaria) with a quick stop along the way to mail the US-headed Christmas gifts.
On a side-note: I actually do believe that my cousins got a kick about opening christmas presents in march – april, well at least I hope they did because that’s how long it usually took them to get there: Right in time for easter!
Obviously all of this last-minute-christmas-activity usually resulted in one or the other quarrel between my dear ol’ dad and me – usually about something vital like if the living room floor had been properly vacuumed or needed a doe-over.
Usually, it was not a big though, because the minute we hit the free-way everything was forgotten listening to rock christmas songs on the radio and dreaming of my grandmother’s divine baked christmas goods (All praise be to the healing effect of the german “Autobahn” on Christmas!)
Except for this one year… .
Admittedly, the details are blurry. I am not even sure what year it was. My guess is I was 16 (but I might have been 17) and I had reached the eclipse of my good-girls-gone-bad-phase and we argued about something.
In all honesty, I can’t even remember what we argued about, but at that time it seemed like more than the usual pre road trip bitchiness, so when my father told me to get in the car, I refused.
I remember looking at him and telling him, that I was “sooo over” this “Christmas – phoniness of having to be all forgiveness and smiles just because it was the 23rd of december, what is a date anyways?!”
My father tried to persuade me to swallow my pride, quit being a self-indulgent brat and get into the car, but in the end it got later and later while I was self-righteously sulking away in my bed-room and finally he just left.
The first couple of hours were a feeling of utmost triumph and exhilaration: I had won an important battle! I had stood my ground! Finally, he would have to accept me as an equal adult and not just a little girl he could boss around!
I celebrated this with loads of christmas candy and even more christmas TV. It was christmas and heaven on earth to me.
Slowly it got darker outside and when I looked out of the window I could see the faint glow of light christmas trees in other people’s houses. We, obviously, hadn’t put up a christmas tree, because we weren’t planning on being at home for christmas.
The excitement started to ware off.
I decided to bundle up and go to christmas Mass at our church, thinking that following religious christmas rituals would give me a sense of warmth and belonging and all in all just the spirit of christmas.
The church didn’t help. Actually it made things worse. It wasn’t the sermon or the people there, everything was lovely and peaceful and the people were joyous. Standing there in the middle of the church I suddenly realized that I was the only one there that was all alone on Christmas Eve’.
As the words sunk in (each one pronounced like its own sentence by that little voice inside my head), I was ready to cry. I didn’t feel “all grown up” anymore. I felt small and scared and lonely. I wanted nothing more than to be with my father and my grandparents, curled up in blankets, sipping a hot cup of cocoa and munching on some special christmas cookies.
So I fled the church back home.
There I waited for something to happen. My father to miraculously come back. My grandparents to call and to order me on the next train down to them.
Nothing happened. No one called. No one ever called our house on christmas because we were never there.
So in the end, adding stupid decision onto to stupid decision, I raided my dad’s bar.
I think I downed half a bottle of Bailey’s coffee cream, before the world started to spin before my eyes and the gooey – sweetness of the liquor made me horribly sick.
I don’t remember much after that.
I do remember waking up on christmas morning on the cold bathroom floor with a splitting head ache and an awful taste in my mouth.
I distinctly remember lying there thinking that I would trade all the presents in the world just to be with my family.
Later that day my father and my grandparents called to wish me a merry christmas and see how I was doing.
I didn’t mention any of the above, I never did.
I feigned high spirits and maybe even a bit of annoyance regarding their disturbance of my peace and serenity. I’m not sure why, but my guess is (and that’s a pretty safe guess) it was pure juvenile pride that kept me from coming clean.
However, when my father returned the next day, I didn’t really care for the gifts he was bringing home.
All I cared about was a long, long hug: And I got it!