My friend Sabine recently commented on Facebook about the sun in Germany. Evidently it hasn’t been shining much lately.
In an instant I was transported back to summer of my 14th year and a farm in Germany. Although Sabine is far younger than I am, her parents and mine were good friends in Pakistan. It was a German-American alliance of the best sort. I remember a mutual love and respect for the Munzinger family and we adored their (at the time) little kids – Sabine and André.
The summer of 1974 saw us leaving Pakistan for a year furlough in the United States. I would begin high school in a small, town in Massachusetts, the town of my birth. My older brother, Stan, had just graduated from high school in Murree and he and my brother Tom had planned a trip overland through Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and more. They would make their way to Europe, and from there fly to the United States. It is ironic, or perhaps not, that their way was smooth until they reached the Detroit airport. This is another story but it belongs to my brothers.
The rest of us and my cousin Barb would travel through Europe before arriving in Boston. The Munzinger family contacted relatives and arranged for us to stay with these relatives on a farm in Germany.
So there we were, on acres of beautiful farmland in the countryside near Koln. Green and lush as can be and treated royally by this delightful family.
It was on this trip that I learned the only German I know “Mine auto ist kaputt” taught to me by Sabine’s grandmother, a complete delight. We laughed until my stomach ached with the strain of fun as we tried to communicate – she a white-haired woman, I a confused teen, coming straight from a protected, small setting miles away from Germany. I milked a goat and learned that I didn’t like warm milk straight from the source. I tasted my first chocolate with liqueur in it, which, for this missionary kid who had never tasted alcohol, felt scandalous. I ate more than a few chocolates that day, feeling sweetly devious and grown-up.
We, strangers to these German relatives, were welcomed because of our connections and relationship with a German family that had made their home in Pakistan. It’s remarkable, really. Living now in an area of the United States where it can feel difficult to make friends with people, and dropping in spontaneously to homes is reserved for only the best of friends, I marvel at our welcome on that farm near Koln.
This memory wells up, all because the sun is not shining in Germany.
The way memories are called up is fascinating in any setting for any person, whether they have lived in the same town or grown up across the globe. And perhaps this is one of the marks of growing older as well, we want to capture those memories through pictures and prose. In the absence of a place to return to, those of us in the between worlds category have memories called up through reading newspapers of uprisings and drone attacks, through typhoons and regime changes, through hearing about someone’s vacation and because the sun is not shining in Germany.
It’s a world where memories are not bound to one geographic location, rather they are spread across the globe with this friend in Canada, the next in Germany, the third in Mongolia. Our tribe spreads its wings far and its impossible to keep up with where we have landed.
But the memories are as sweet as liqueur filled chocolates, and twice as satisfying.
With Thanksgiving just a couple of days away for those who live in the United States, Stacy brings us a great Cranberry Muffin recipe. Thank you Stacy!