Time Spent Up North

Between all the get-togethers and the wedding, I had one full day at my grandparents’ house to catch up with stories unheard of in the last 24 months. I hadn’t seen them once ever since I left for New York. So two full years had indeed passed until I got to visit them in their home up north. They live a good 4 ½ hours from us – depending on car and autobahn traffic. I was fascinated by the places we drove by. Cologne, for one, and its well-known telecommunications tower Colonius. Then the industrial area of Germany called the Ruhrgebiet. More of my relatives actually live here, but we didn’t have time to stop by and say hello.

The further up north you drive, the flatter the land becomes and the greener it seems. We drove close to the Dutch border, as my grand-parents live less than an hour from it. It is also here that I passed signs to a water-castle and indications pointing out that the prairies used to be duff. Gloomy moorlands that turned into wonderful green grass over the course of centuries. I can imagine pictures from my old history book in which people were bent over sticks and picked duff to make a living.

The time spent at the house was a trip back into the past. My grandfather had stacks and stacks of old pictures from the 19th and 20iest century. We weeded through them and I found an interesting photograph from 1911 (estimated time), supposedly an aunt of my grandfather’s mother. Isn’t she beautiful?

I can basically see how an old movie would convey the way of living way back then, before both wars and before technology came around. I sometimes contemplate how life had been on both continents – how it had been similar and how it had differed.

In our quest to create an old family tree we ran across many more of these. I really hope that my mother one day completes her book on her father’s side of the family and I hope her good intentions will not be forgotten in the depths of procrastination…

During the talks about old times and life in Deutschland during a difficult era, it sorta hit me. Being apart from my country for so long has made me forget the obvious. Experiencing firsthand how Germans are still viewed among foreigners and also among Jews has sometimes made me feel rather ashamed of my heritage than proud of my country. But we cannot be misled by false thoughts and by misrepresented views of small-minded people or folks who have never left their own country to get to know other cultures. And life back then was not how life is right now. Most of my generation will never be able to comprehend the mentalities, the personalities, and the motives of the people that have lived 100 years ago. So judging these events from a perspective of today will always be shadowed by the obstacle of time and change.
I am just glad I never had to experience a war up front and that most of my family is healthy to a point I don’t have to worry about them. And that is the most important thing you can hope for in life.

Aside from an old-school-evening filled with memories, we also ate splendid food and drank good wine. My grandmother still cooks wonderfully well, even at a high age of 77. Her green bean salad is one of my favorites. Her cake is also indescribable. I told her that she could open up a cake shop in New York and make a lot of money off of her cheese cake and Black Forest Tart. She just laughed and probably thought I was joking. Maybe one day I will do it for her!

Despite a short time planned from the start, those 24 hours went by way too fast. I hope to see them sometime soon. Most likely back at home, in good old Germany!