Morning has broken

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first word
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word

I was 23 when I was baptized (for the first time). Shortly afterwards, I moved to Indiana. I carefully researched churches and found a United Church of Christ congregation that looked progressive, warm, and alive. David and I were both in graduate school in Indiana, so we spent most of our time with other people in their early-to-mid twenties. But at church…we caught young children by the shoulder as they sprinted around during coffee hour, reminding them to slow down lest they knock over an elderly person. We passed the peace of Christ to teenagers in T-shirts, and teared up when new babies were baptized. We read The New Jim Crow for the adult Sunday school class, and listened to our fellow congregants’ memories of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. My circle became multi-generational in a way it had never been before — one of the best gifts of joining a faith community.

David and I joined the choir, attending rehearsals every Thursday evening and Sunday morning before worship. We wore polyester yellow robes with different colored stoles appropriate to the liturgical season. Often we felt a little resentful while driving to the church on Thursday evening; always we were glad to have gone. David sat next to a man named Al. He was a retired biology professor, an outdoorsperson, and a passionate environmentalist. And mostly, to us, he was a friend who asked after us and chatted with us and sang with us twice a week. When Al was diagnosed with leukemia, the choir moved out of the choir loft so that Al and his wife could sit there, allowing him to attend church despite his lack of immune system. By spring, Al was too weak to leave his home. The choir gathered early on Easter and walked, in our Sunday best, to stand outside Al’s house and sing to him, including his favorite hymn, Morning Has Broken. His wife explained that he was too weak to come sit on the porch, but that she had opened the windows — he was listening.

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness, where His feet pass

We sang again at his funeral just several months later, and listened to his daughters speak about their wonderful childhood going on family camping trips, hikes, and bike rides, singing Morning Has Broken and other hymns while they did so. His colleagues shared about his passion for teaching biology to undergraduates. Two years later, the church finally had raised enough money to install solar panels, a long-term project about which Al and his wife were particularly passionate (the family asked for donations towards this project in lieu of flowers). The energy costs of the building are tremendous — not only does the church operate services and meetings, but it also hosts a homeless shelter one night a week during the winter, a Head Start pre-k program five days a week, Alcoholics Anonymous groups on weeknights, and various other programs, concerts for music students…and now it does so using the power of the sun.

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day

Years later, just after we moved away from Indiana, David and I ended up almost by random chance spending a couple of nights in the small English village of Alfriston. We went for a fifteen mile long loop hike to the Seven Sisters cliffs and back. We didn’t have a day bag so David wore a duffel bag like a backpack to carry our sack lunches and water bottle. We didn’t have hiking boots — just sneakers (in my case) or Dockers (in David’s). It was one of the best days of our lives, and a day when we learned what we love to do (go for long, long walks, especially in the English countryside). Now, with our own child, we are beginning a tradition of Saturday walks — not very long walks yet, but she is only five months old, after all. We will sing hymns and recite poems with her as we walk, as Al and his wife did with their daughters.

Yesterday, David and I went to a state park here in New York to hike with the baby. We drove through a village where one of our church friends from Indiana grew up — I texted him to let him know, and we made plans to catch up on the phone sometime, and he told me how much he loves the hike we were setting out to do. I looked up the hymn Morning Has Broken, curious about its origins, and I learned that the text was written in 1931 by Eleanor Farjeon, inspired by…the village of Alfriston. And somehow, in all these different places we have been, it all ties together.

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing, fresh from the Word


four months old & strawberry rhubarb pie

 

Our daughter is four months old! It is both amazing to me how young she still is (it’s been a lifetime — literally! — since she was born) and how four months have already passed us by. When I was pregnant, we had planned to be on the west coast at this time, introducing her to her family and friends. Of course, we haven’t gone anywhere at all due to the pandemic and she has met almost none of her family. So, we are celebrating at home just us three with a wee tea party. Why celebrate four months? Well, mostly because we don’t go anywhere or do anything so we have to create excitement where we may. But also because four is my favorite number.

I am not a pie baker. The only pie I regularly make is pumpkin-cheesecake pie which involves a store-bought crust (I prefer the Oreo one, but I have made a graham cracker cheesecake crust as well) and, well, cheesecake filling. I have once made an apple pie from scratch (after which I swore I’d never do it again because wow, that is a pain in the butt and I don’t even like apple pie all that well). I am not even much of a pie eater; I am not very fond of fruit pies. But then, I think the weekend of my husband’s cousin’s wedding, but it may have been the weekend of my sister-in-law’s wedding…my mother-in-law gave me a slice of homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie. And wow, that is a pie of which I am fond, to say the least! We have since baked it together, and because our local farm store has rhubarb and strawberries in season, and because I miss my husband’s family something awful, baking a strawberry-rhubarb pie just seemed the thing to do.

My mother-in-law uses Fannie Farmer’s strawberry-rhubarb pie filling recipe, with an extra tablespoon of flour. Along with that, I used Erin McDowell’s All-Buttah Pie Dough recipe from her book The Fearless Baker. Rather than make a lattice I chose four cookie cutters in shapes I like*, and made a little number four out of scraps of dough.

I am not an experienced pie baker, as noted above : the crust underneath definitely had a soggy bottom of which Mary Berry would not approve, and the filling was too juicy — but honestly it tasted great and I’m still pretty proud of myself. David and I had tea and pie and we gave the baby a special new toy (not to mention, I happened to receive a recent book order including the riveting board book Paddington Bear All Day, so, you know…a pretty good haul for a four-month birthday). And it felt good to celebrate something joyous, and to eat a food we have enjoyed many times with David’s family.

hand and toy

Finally, four things I love about my girl :

One : Her delicious, buttery smell. (Almost like a pie crust smell, actually.)
Two : Picking her up when she is still mostly asleep to nurse her — her warmth and weight, how she latches on and nurses without opening her eyes, how her little hand (confined to her zipadee-zip) reaches up towards my face.
Three : Her face when I sing Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins to her — like it’s a secret delight only she and I get to enjoy together.
Four : The tuft of hair on the top of her head, which showed up in an ultrasound photo and has managed to hold on (wispily) even while much of her hair has fallen out.

*I texted the photo of the completed pie to my best friend, who immediately replied, “I love the whale!!!” I then discovered that the cookie cutter that to me is a snail can also look like a whale. I’m not even sure anymore whether the cookie cutter is a whale or a snail shape. What do you see?

 

the longest stretch

 

“Hey sweetie, I think she’s ready to nurse. It’s…it’s five AM.”


 

The thought didn’t occur to me when I sat up and switched on the lamp, nor while I was unbuttoning my nightgown, nor when I held my 11-week-old daughter in my arms and brought her to my breast. I didn’t think it while she was nursing in the dark bedroom (having switched off the lamp again; she finds the bright light so mesmerizing she cranes her neck so she can gaze at it and forgets entirely to nurse), nor when I handed her back to my husband so he could lay her down again.

But at six AM, while I sat in the living room with a hot cup of tea (the whole of which I drank, uninterrupted, while it was hot — another milestone), a scented candle burning (“Nonnatus House” scent), and my journal open on my lap — then, finally, I thought : this seven hour stretch is the longest stretch in her entire life that she and I have not touched.

Of course there have been many “longest stretches.” I’m not sure why it was the seven-hour stretch that sparked this thought. The first stretch was only several seconds : right after I pushed her out, when the midwife held her and brought her up to my chest. (But I suppose we were still touching — because her umbilical cord was still attached, and it went down from her belly and back inside of me — we were still touching even then.) So I suppose the first moment was when my husband cut the cord. (Except, wait, in that moment, she was laying on my chest, so even as that one connection was broken, another remained.) I suppose it really began, to be precise, when a nurse lifted her from my chest to weigh her, when she was one hour old. Those couple of minutes began the lifelong stretching of time that will slowly separate me from my daughter.


 

I remember when I reached the moment that marked the longest I had gone without seeing my father. He died when I was 20 years old, a sophomore in college, so we had been parted, at the very longest, for ten weeks, the length of a quarter-term. That eleventh week after he died, it was a new slap in the face in a series of many — I had crossed over some threshold. There had been many to cross and were (are) many still to come : there was the first midnight, marking the ending of the last day we had shared, and the beginning of the first day of my life that he was not alive for. There was the ending of the month of February, marking the end of the last month when he had ever lived. And later came New Year’s Eve, ending the last year of my life I would ever share with him. I have recently entered my thirties : the first decade of my life he wasn’t here for (he just barely touched my twenties).

Someday, God willing, I will reach the tipping point where I will have lived more of my life without him than with him. And I hope to surpass his age, someday having lived a longer life than he did. By that time, my daughter and I will have had our minutes and hours stretch into days and weeks, and likely months, that we have gone without touching. And this will be a blessing.

I think of my father every single day — there was a time, after his death, when I don’t think a minute went by without my thinking of him. That stretched to hours, as my grief faded, but it has stretched as far as it will ever — I don’t believe there will come a day when I don’t think of him. I know there will never come a day when I don’t think of my daughter, no matter where she may be. And someday, when her life takes her far from me and her father, I trust that she will think of us.

 

wherever I’m with you

The last time I made a post here was April 2, 2019 — almost a full year ago! By April 2, 2020, we will (God willing) have a newborn baby with us, in our new home in central New York. David and I have never been very good at staying put but we’ve made a pact to stay in this location for at least two years (ooh).

Right now, I have been living in our new apartment for about four days. It is still primarily a city of boxes, but we have carved out areas of sanity : the master bathroom, the corner of the living room, the table, the galley kitchen. I brought my beloved pothos plant, Hestia, all the way from Idaho. She traveled wrapped in newspaper in a carry-on suitcase and I repotted her when we arrived at my mom’s house for Christmas. As I write this I can see her on the table beside me — she is flourishing! Travel and moving evidently comes fairly easily to Hestia — all she needed was fresh soil and a few big drinks of water and she perked right up.

I’m not sure that’s quite as true of me, although certainly big drinks of water are helping. All of these transitions at once, though : it’s a lot. I quit my job in December and don’t know when I’ll return to work, or whether I’ll return to my field (counseling) or branch out into something new. We moved across the country, and meanwhile I’ve been growing us a baby who is expected to arrive sometime in March. My body, home, and vocation have all been dramatically changed in the past several months.

I think all this change may be why some of the unpacking has been so comforting. There may be a lot of change, but many of our beloved items are the same, and they feel like an anchor : the colorful blocks I took from my father’s office after he died, the set of coasters that looks like a sheep that my friend Ruth brought us from Ireland, photo books from our past travels, the quilt made from fabric scraps from years of Grammie’s sewing. These things have moved with us many times and each time we unwrap them from bubble wrap or old t-shirts and cardboard boxes, it is a bit like seeing a friend or a familiar patch of land.

I wonder if David and I will ever be “rooted.” Our origin is in travel : we met while studying abroad in Germany. We grew up on opposite sides of the country, and we’ve already lived together in several states in our five years of marriage. Sometimes we fantasize about how it might feel to stay somewhere for ten years or some other incredibly long time. No matter where we live, we’ll always be far from some part of our hearts.

It’s corny, but Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros kind of hit the nail on the head when it comes to how I feel about David :

Home, let me go home — home is wherever I’m with you…

Life in the West

We moved to Idaho in June and have spent the summer alternating between settling in and traveling on weekends! We were able to head out to Washington two times to spend time with David’s family, and we also had the pleasure of hosting David’s sister & her husband, and later, David’s parents. We also spent a super fun weekend in Los Angeles for our friends’ wedding, so all in all, it’s been a pretty busy summer! Yesterday, we kicked off the fall season with a day-long Hogwarts Express Day celebration.

Life in Idaho has been a real adjustment, and I’m sure there’s plenty more adjusting to be done. But there are many lovely things about our life here : our apartment is in the most perfect location. Our next-door neighbor is super kind and helpful. My best friend Lindsey lives in town (!!!) so we get to hang out ALL THE TIME, which after years of always being in a long-distance friendship is pretty awesome. David is doing well at his new job. And I have access to bazillions of beautiful, hilly running trails. During summer I ran usually six days a week, but I’ve just begun training for a half-marathon in October, and I’m running three days a week and lifting weights three days (plus one rest day). I miss my trails, though, so I often add a long walk on lifting days. (Sometimes I add a long walk on running days, too.)

I’m working on navigating the counseling licensure system here, and in the meantime just housewife-ing to my best ability. Cooking, cleaning, you know. Recently, I’m most proud of my frozen bean-and-cheese burritos that David can take to work for lunch, crockpot steak fajitas, and the “sorting hat” cupcakes I baked for our party yesterday. I’ve also had plenty of time to read and get to know the local public library system.

 

moving again

When David & I moved in with my mom last summer before traveling abroad, we had a goal : we would enjoy time with my mother, dog, and hometown, and by the spring, we would move again.

Here we are in May and we just finished packing up our “moving pod.” Next week we will start our 2500 mile drive to our new home in Idaho. David got a great job out there in the data analysis field, so we’re headed west again!

Our time in New York has been so special to me. We’ve gotten to spend lots of quality time with my mother (and with Pip the Kerry Blue Terrier!), and being in my home environment has been so nourishing. I love my childhood house and I love the wood paths nearby, where I’ve run or walked daily. I still dream that someday we will settle in New England, but for now, this job opportunity for David was too good to pass up. We’ll enjoy being close to David’s family and my extended family and friends on the west coast, too.

We found a sweet little apartment with the help of my best friend Lindsey who lives in Idaho (another perk of moving!!), and we’ll be setting up house out there in early June. Maybe I’ll get back into writing a bit more often again (how often do I say that?). Lots on my mind lately : slow/sustainable fashion, baking, how to make a new place home…but lots to DO as well, like, you know, moving across the entire country.

 

how things look right now

…because everyone seems to be asking, anyway.

Since David and I returned from our grand European tour, we’ve been living in my childhood home, with my mother and the family dog, Pip. While I know moving back in with your parents isn’t exactly on everyone’s late-twenties bucket list, it’s really been lovely. For one thing, I think something about losing a parent at a relatively young age (in my case, I was twenty when my dad died) shifts the way I think about my family. Even if most of the time we’re just doing regular stuff like watching TV together, going for a walk, or running errands, I really value my time with my mother.

Also, as any of you who know my in real life are already deeply aware, I am absolutely passionately obsessed with my dog, Pip. You know how some parents worry that they’ll finally cave and get a puppy, and then their kids will lose interest? Yeah, I’m not that kid. Pip is thirteen years old and I still think (know) that he is the greatest animal on the planet.

While we’re here, I’m doing a hodge-podge of home and personal projects while applying to jobs (no luck yet, but I’m not exactly rushing), and most importantly, David is working very hard to try to finish his doctoral dissertation. It is all that lies between him and his PhD, and y’all, it is a lot of work. He’s in his office most of the day and has Skype meetings with his advisor regularly. Living at home has allowed us the luxury of time : David has lots to focus on his work, and I have lots to take care of projects and decompress from the world’s most stressful job. I loved my time at the domestic violence shelter/rape crisis center/human trafficking service center but, I mean, as you can guess from the workplace, it was extremely high stress.

So here we are, living a calm and cozy life that feels a bit like a break from real life (but, I must always remind myself, is in fact a real life). I read a lot, I try to cook all the meals and keep the house tidy, and I daydream and worry far too much about what our future holds.

On that note, I’ve got to go tidy the family room and do the dishes. And perhaps have a cup of tea while I’m at it…

the end of one adventure

Well, it’s been a few months since we finished our trip and you may have noticed a lack of updates on our travels. We got so busy and involved in experiencing our trip that blog-writing fell by the wayside…so I’ll give a quick overview of our last few weeks of the trip.

After our wonderful time in Sweden, we spent about a week in Cologne, Germany. My good friend Peter lives in this city, and it was great to see his life there, experience the city, and meet his girlfriend. We also met up with our friend Matt, who had been in Berlin for a conference and came and spent a night at our AirBnB with us.

 You may have heard that the Kölner Dom is large : you have been misinformed. It’s impossibly large.

Germany was, as always, a fun opportunity to brush up on our German skills. We’re always rusty, but it’s always fun to practice.

We were good guests and ate all of the delicacy that Peter ordered for us in a restaurant one evening — Mettbrötchen. This consists of…raw ground pork on top of some bread, with raw chopped onions on top of it. It was a deeply challenging food to eat, but Peter and his girlfriend raved about how delicious and beloved this food is.

After another visit to Cipressa — documented in a previous post — we went back to the U.K. Our first stop was a London suburb where we stayed with an online friend of mine, Katharine, at her family home. Internet friends are not (always) serial killers, guys!! Katharine is super nice and not ONCE did she or her parents attempt to kill us. In fact, it was relaxing and fun and delightful to get to know Katharine “IRL,” meet her lovely parents, stay in their beautiful house, and explore their town. Said town happens to be the site of a, er, famous agricultural experiment. What famous agricultural experiment? Well, if you knew as much about the history of statistics as David did, you’d know. 😉

David and I dipped down to Alfriston, England, for a two-day trip. Why Alfriston? Well, we knew we wanted to spend some time in small-town/rural England, but we didn’t know where to go. So we spent one long evening in Cologne choosing. I set up a complex system involving each of us choosing three possibilities from a list, researching one another’s choices, and presenting the options before having a final vote. My goal was that this way, neither of us would feel bad that the town “we” wanted to visit won. In the end, we both felt guilty : David initially chose the town, but I researched it, so we both felt like we were getting our way while denying each other their choice. But we got over that pretty fast once we got to Alfriston and both fell head-over-heels for the town. We stayed in a 13th-century inn…

which provided hiking trail directions & sack lunches for folks wanting to explore the South Downs trail. There were two hike options : one was a 1.5 mile hike of the town, the other was a 13 mile hike to the ocean and back.

We took the 1.5 mile hike the evening we arrived, after visiting the Clergy House, the first property ever purchased by the National Trust. It dates back to around 1350! It was amazing to visit.IMG_3411

We took the other hike the following day. The long hike ended up being more like 15 miles because we occasionally strayed from the path, either on purpose or because we were confused.

And it…was…AMAZING! David had the map, and I had the directions, and together we followed this beautiful hike that took us up into the hills, through pastures of sheep and fields, into forests straight out of the Shire, through little towns, and to the Seven Sisters cliffs on the coast. The entire day was like a dream. We stopped for tea in the afternoon, and when we finally got back to our hotel in the evening, we had time to shower and head downstairs for dinner in the beautiful dining room of the inn. It was honestly one of the best days of the entire summer, and it’s in the short-list for best days of my life. We have a new dream of someday hiking the entire South Downs trail now!

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We returned to Katharine’s home and spent a few more days with her lovely family…and one day with ALL THINGS HARRY POTTER. We spent six hours at Leavesden Studios, where the Harry Potter films were created…but I could have spent days, literally. It was an incredible place to visit and we saw SO much cool behind-the-scenes stuff.

 

After this excellent finish to our visit to England, Katharine’s lovely dad drove us and Katharine to Cardiff, Wales. We spent two days there, exploring Torchwood landmarks, admiring the bay, visiting the Doctor Who Experience, and visiting the National Museum. Katharine hung out with us for part of the time before heading off on a camping trip with her friends. We are so grateful for her friendship and help!

Our last stop was DUBLIN, and we went hard. After three hours of sleep and an incredibly early flight from Cardiff, we literally went straight to the Guinness Storehouse and had a tour (complete with pints) at 11 AM. Our AirBnB in Dublin was beautiful and cozy, and we had a quiet evening in due to pouring rain.

Our final full day of the trip was packed…and amazing. We took a walking-tour of Dublin and learned a lot of history about Ireland. In the afternoon, we saw the Book of Kells, which was truly incredible. In the evening, we ate traditional Irish food and spent the evening in a pub listening to live music.

We got up early on the day of our flight home, in order to have time for fresh doughnuts and a visit to Christ Church Cathedral. 

It was hard to believe that our trip was coming to an end, but we enjoyed our last morning nonetheless, and left Ireland even more in love with the country and each other than we were when we’d entered it. Our long flight home passed over Greenland, which has been since added to our list of future trips. I’m so, so glad that we did this slightly crazy trip when we had the chance, and so, so grateful that we were able to do so.

DublinHapenneyBridge
just before leaving Dublin

Tübingen

In case you don’t know any of David and my background as a couple (which you probably do, because if you’re reading this, you’re probably either my mom or David’s — hi Mom!), I’ll give a brief overview.

David and I met in the spring of 2011 in the city of Tübingen, Germany. We attended different universities but both schools sent students to the same study-abroad program. (In fact, the program was part of the Oregon University System — which I attended — and David’s university system in Arizona was testing out whether they could send students to the same program successfully. David was one of two students from Arizona whereas the vast majority of our cohort attended school in Oregon, including myself. I think Arizona’s test was a MAJOR success for me personally. Thank you, Arizona university system.)

We first saw each other at a Greek restaurant on April 1st, but didn’t speak until the next day during a walking-tour of Tübingen. I noticed David’s boat shoes and polo shirt and thought he looked like the kind of preppy boy with whom I’d attended high school. This made him seem familiar and unthreatening to me, so I awkwardly walked up to him, stuck out my hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Laura.” We chatted throughout the rest of the tour, along with another person who has become one of our dearest friends, Jenny.

At the time that we were attending study abroad, I was in a relationship. I had met my then-boyfriend Peter (still a dear friend today) in high school and we dated for the first three years of college. He saw me through incredibly difficult experiences, including the death of my father the year before I met David. Peter and I were already drifting apart by the time I arrived in his home country of Germany, but didn’t formally break up until a few days after I returned to the United States. So, when I met David, I wasn’t looking for a significant other, and I didn’t think about him in that light for quite a while. His experience of meeting me was rather different, but being the respectful person he is, I did not know that for a long time.

Throughout the semester, David, Jenny, and I became friends. Jenny and I were (and are) very close and David often joined us on outings. In the final week of the semester, through a series of conversations, David and I developed a deep emotional bond. In the weeks afterwards, while we traveled our separate ways (David solo, and me with my family), we each began to realize the extent of our feelings for each other. (Well, David had known since he met me that he was attracted to me, but had quickly pushed those feelings aside out of respect for the fact that I had a boyfriend. I hadn’t realized that I was interested in David — probably also out of respect for my boyfriend, subconsciously — until I was writing in my journal while in Italy with my family. I still remember the moment that I realized that I was writing an awful lot about David, paused, and quietly said, “oh, shit” aloud.)

We ended up finally deciding to try a long-distance relationship in October of that year, and here we are six years later, married and increasingly smitten with one another.

The point of this long tangent is that Tübingen, while sort of the ‘birthplace of our relationship,’ really felt less significant to us than Bloomington (where we had most of our visits, where we moved in together,  where David proposed to me, and where we lived for two and a half years after we got married). So much so that we nearly skipped visiting Tübingen, because neither of us felt that it was important enough to us to visit. It would be fun if it made sense, we thought, but wasn’t really a priority. When we were planning to meet up with my mom in Zurich — a plan that fell through due to some family stuff — we booked a plane ticket from London to Stuttgart and David found us a place to stay for a couple nights in Tübingen. It was less expensive to fly to Stuttgart than Zurich, and we’d be able to take a train to Zurich and meet my mother there before continuing on our trip.

As Tübingen grew closer, we each got more and more excited. Rolling into the city on the “Airport-Sprinter” bus from the Stuttgart Airport, we looked at each other and asked, “how could we have considered skipping Tübingen?”

We stayed in the most ridiculous AirBnB, a bizarre, tiny turret-shaped house beside one of the streams that leads into the Neckar River. You have to cross between two apartment buildings, down a driveway, through a lawn and down a set of stairs to even reach it. It was absurd but delightful and took us forever to find, even with directions. After laying down our packs and taking quick showers, we set out for dinner at the Neckarmüller, a beloved Tübingen restaurant where we enjoyed Käsespätzle & Flammkuchen, and of course beer (helles for David, dunkles for me, as always). Our conversation during the meal turned emotional as we reflected on our love for one another. The only detail I’ll share is that I knocked over David’s glass (and broke it) while reaching for his hand because my eyes were too blurry with tears to see properly. After finishing the meal — and apologizing profusely for the broken glass to our server (who said merely, “oh, es geht” — oh, it happens — with a tone that indicated it must happen about ten times a day — indeed, we’d heard it happen behind the bar about thirty minutes earlier) — we went out to enjoy another German tradition : ice cream cones while strolling.

img_1076
worth documenting

The next day, I finally got to eat some Krauterquark, one of my favorite foods. It’s basically a soft yogurt-cheese with herbs. It drives me nuts that I can’t buy it in the United States, and I’ve been saying to myself that I just need to learn to make it for six years. Maybe I’ll finally do that this fall.

We also visited our old class building — peeking our heads inside to see unfamiliar teachers — and walked around the town, commenting on changes we noticed (and more often, on how many things had stayed the same). Dinner was Döner from a beloved shop by the train station, followed by a bus ride up to Waldhäuser Ost — the dorm buildings where all the students had resided. Jenny, David, and I all had lived in building #15. If I recall correctly, Jenny was on the fourth floor. David was on the first, and I the eighth. We went for walks in the nearby woods and fields, where David had enjoyed long walks when we lived there, and where I used to run.

Our visit was brief, but by the time we left we were already hatching plans about a couples trip in future with Jenny and her husband Matt. I’m very glad we ended up staying in Tübingen, despite our initially casual attitude towards it.

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we’ll be back for more Döner!

they can’t take that away from me

The title of this post is, of course, a reference to the wonderful song. I’ve no idea who wrote it, but I think of this version : 

 

I wrote this on July 8, early in the morning, in the kitchen in Cipressa.

 July 11th is my father’s birthday. Born in 1948, he would be 69. He passed away seven years ago after a long and difficult battle with cancer.

I always miss my dad, and there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about him. We were very close, sharing a love of poetry, waking early, going for walks, running, and toast & tea. (I didn’t fully develop my love of tea until the past few years.) In Cipressa, my grief has been heightened. Probably some of this has to do with the time of year — I often feel grief more strongly around his birthday, the anniversary of his death, my birthday, and the winter holidays. And probably some of it has to do with vague memories of being here with him, in this house in Cipressa, when I was seven years old.

The thing about grief as I experience it — or one of the many ‘things’ — is the futility. No matter how strongly I feel pain, or sadness, or the gaping hole of his absence — and I feel all of these things very strongly sometimes — it makes no difference. I could tear down a building in my agony, and he would still not come back. Sometimes, I don’t even acknowledge my feelings to David, because it feels so pointless. We’ll be sitting across the room from one another, me twisted up with the agony of loss, and I think, If I tell David I’m missing Daddy, he’ll hold me, and I’ll cry, and then eventually I’ll stop and move onto the next activity because what else is there to do? Why bother?

On the anniversary of my dad’s death as well as on his birthday, I like to enjoy his favorite things — Indian food, Beck’s beer, poetry, jazz, and, if possible, strawberry shortcake the way his mom made it. Maybe we’ll ‘celebrate’ his birthday the usual way next week when we are in Cologne, as we’ll have a whole apartment and not just a bedroom to use, and we’ll be with my friend Peter, who knew my dad.

Last night, David and I were walking up to the tower that overlooks Cipressa. We were talking about vivid memories — which moments our brains have held onto with sharpness and color. Most of my vivid memories are from traumatic moments in my life, some of which involve my father and his illness and death. But suddenly, mercifully, a different memory popped into my head. It was the memory of a dream. In the year after my dad died, I had dozens of dreams about him. In almost all of them, he was dying for some reason or another, it was my job to save him, and I always failed. But in the very first dream that I had after my father’s death, I am on a stage, participating in a math competition (nervously, as someone not particularly talented at mathematics). I look to the audience, and am surprised to see Daddy, sitting in the front row. Our eyes meet, and he smiles at me and makes the “I Love You” symbol in sign language. And I feel like I can do whatever scary thing the competition throws at me — because my dad is still here, somehow, and he loves me.