You know those days where you forget to eat for about six hours and by the time you realize it you swear your pants are already a size bigger and you must surely look anorexic or vitally ill or, say, like Angelina Jolie but without all those kids or Brad Pitt? And then when you’re in the REWE supermarket you catch a glance of yourself from the side in the fridge isle and realize you could probably stand to go another ten days plus six more hours without eating but damn those sausages look tasty.
I’m not too proud to tell you I stood for about ten minutes in the Suppe isle today. Or that I happened to get about ten packets of soup mix because HOLYLOVEOFGOD the Germans have a lot of packages of soup mixes. I think I purchased a lovely mushroom spice for which to make mushroom rosetta with if I get get the ingredient right (I have the rosetta, mix, and vassa so I think I’m covered?) and a few others for making sauces (for the aforementioned sausages). I also found some Muesli (which in German means ‘Health Nut’) with chocolate and seeds. I’m so all over this.
I can also share with you that today I had to use google translate to see what the message on my German phone was from Telekom. I felt so “Christmas Story” with the Ovaltine Decoder. I couldn’t wait to see what my message was only to find out it was an advertisement for getting more minutes with the SIM.
Like it would be a secret admirer or something. heh.
I stood at the bakery this morning stuttering out my order for a “Große Cappuccino und Ei Sandwich bitte,” when a lovely lady next to me says, “LESLIE! Oh hi!” I am still amazed I would know anyone here and even more so when they start the conversation for me. I said hello, it happened to be the gal in charge of getting me here and home, an admin at work, and we had a nice chat as I stammered in my broken german just enough to get a receipt and laugh, “Thank you for breakfast,” to her. I then biked in to work holding my cappuccino in my take-away cup and my bagel in my backpack.
But even still, with all of these experiences that I adore, places I get to see, people I run in to, there’s an emptiness that only a working parent can feel. I’m unaccustomed to coming home to silence. I’m lost without small articles of clothing to wash. I can’t stand to go a full day without seeing their small faces and hear their goofy voices. Even today, when my 7 year old was having a bad morning, I took comfort in helping her shake out of it by laughing and playing with her on Skype. I can’t imagine traveling before the Internet and Skype and FaceTime and video Chats. It is how I’ve survived.
People at work ask me about my family and if I’m homesick. “Yes,” I say honestly, “Of course. But I think day 10 was the most difficult and now I know every day is closer to me going home and I have only five days to see this site and get my work finished and write during sunset with white wine and a chocolate mouse.” The children tell me not to leave for this long again and I remember my life is not my own. It is theirs, too. I promise them to take them with me next time and show them all I’ve seen. Every corner I bike I take note to remember to tell them all they will explore. I plan on their return and I know it will happen. I will share this with them and they are beyond fortunate to get to Germany before they are 35, before their childhood dreams are long past due before it is proper to try so hard to pursue them. I don’t tell them this, instead I play with them, with a moose, on Skype, and we giggle and laugh and we find the harmony we need to make it another 22 hours before we do this again.
Then we count the days.
The days are disappearing. As excited as I am to get home I’m just as excited to get back. It’s a strange feeling to have such a belonging in more than one place. Riding my bike to the bakery, to work, to the shop: I’m learning secrets about living here. I’ve learned that it cost one Euro to get a cart at the shop so don’t bother, to always bring your own bag because there isn’t such a thing as “paper or plastic”, how to get my bra to dry in one day by air. These are important facets of life here and you only know them by experience.
It’s not that it’s all rosy, mind you. I work 15-17 hour days. I get up early, I peddle to the bakery, I peddle to work and lose time until I’m forced to leave because the market will close and I won’t eat if I don’t leave RIGHT NOW to get some salad so I can keep working at home. I say this because I focus on the positive. I love it. I thrive on it. I am using it to keep me going. I ignore the loss of hair, the extra wrinkles, the stress and pressure. I’m not writing about that because you don’t want to know about it. It’s hard. It’s tough. I’m pushed and pulled and ultimately, at times, breakable. But at the end of the day, I sit and think about how thankful I am for it all.
As much as I want to share this with my children, for now I will wait. Instead I will have a dancing moose “Ebert Baüsen” or “EB” for short, to help them cope with this long separation, one I know they’ll forget before next month. For now, this is ok. We can be silly. We can share our morning dance. I hope they will be here to see the Suppe isle, the beer gardens with playgrounds. For my six year old self, for my thirty-six year old self, for my seven year old daughter, I hope we all return soon. Because ultimately, in some strange strange way, this will be part of me. Forever.