Tag Archives: Germany

Have Kids, Will…Hide My Tweezers!

I’m not sure what it is about my kids and tweezers, but good God, I can’t keep a decent set of them around here to save my life.  My eyebrows are such that if I go more than two days without plucking and tweezing them, I could easily be mistaken for Frida Kahlo.  Or Groucho Marx.  They’re unsightly!

On top of that, the males in my household seem determined to either ruin or confiscate every pair I buy.  They use them as some sort of tool that is not related to grooming.  Sure, they can be used to remove ticks–but please, not from the dog!  One of the grossest things I’ve found was a semi-smooshed dog tick impaled at the end of my tweezers just as I was about to remove the offending hairs above my eyes.  I don’t mind if my tweezers are used for removing splinters either, but no one around here likes to have their splinters pulled.  They’d rather use the soak and fester method.

So, how in the world my tweezers disappear, have the ends blunted and burred, or become pulled apart and warped, is beyond me.  These people confess to nothing.  It’s a mystery, and a terribly annoying one.  It’s not like they’re taking the cheap drugstore brand pairs either.  No, no, those aren’t good enough for their nefarious deeds.  They’re taking the $20 Tweezermans.

When I was in Germany last summer, I splurged on a really great pair of tweezers that I had kept hidden from everyone.  They were perfect in all their beautiful, German engineering…sharp, angled just right, and with a grip that exactly matched my preferred finger placement.  Wouldn’t you guess that the one time I left that supremely important instrument out, one of the boys took them, used them in some plot for destruction, and left them, useless, on the bathroom floor.  I cried.

No one admitted to any wrongdoing, and they all looked at me like I’m crazy when I started gesticulating with my arms about the importance of my having a decent set of tweezers.  “Don’t you know,” I pleaded, “that I will develop wooly caterpillars across my forehead if you all keep taking my tweezers?!”  They just don’t get it.

I’ve decided I need to buy a lock box or a safe for my prized possessions.  Some women safeguard their jewelry.  I covet my tweezers.

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Have Kids, Will…Savor My Own Childhood Memories

While having dinner at The Aachener Brauhaus, a traditional tavern in Aachen, Germany–my great-grandmother’s hometown–I was suddenly reminded of my grandparents’ house in Pennsylvania.  Taking in my surroundings, my senses jolted with recognition.  The dark, grainy oak of the benches and moldings; the smell of sauerkraut, cigarettes, and beer; the sound of many voices, mostly the baritone of men blending together into a hypnotic hum, all became a blanket that wrapped warmly around me as I sat eating a plate of sauerbraten with red cabbage and potatoes. The jovial faces and sometimes boisterous conversations that surrounded me lent a feeling of comfort and familiarity.

My grandparents had 12 children, who in turn produced about 50 of my first cousins–no small feat.  Their home, when we visited, was always bustling with the activity of multiple family members visiting at once.  There was lively conversation, plenty of booze, massive, steaming bowls of either spaghetti or stuffed cabbage rolls–anything that could feed a large crowd, and an abundance of children running through the house playing hide-and-seek.  As the evenings wore on, someone would inevitably pull out a guitar or my grandmother would sit at the piano after being coaxed into playing Flight of the Bumblebee, an amazing song to hear and watch being played. The music would fill the living room and spill out onto the wraparound porch, where even more family members were catching up and swapping tales under the dim porch lights.  As a child, I didn’t often recognize the songs being played as my uncles would croon along to the guitar, but the sounds were soothing (and amusing as more imbibing took place).

The camaraderie of family and friends, coming together to visit, eat, drink, and entertain each other is universally appealing.  Nothing can replace the fundamental importance of generations coming together, whose shared heritage pulls history not from the pages of a book, but from the energy of the past.  The ghosts of those who have come before us, through life’s struggles and successes, live on in these moments–brought back to life through stories told and memories shared.  We carry our pasts with us no matter where in the world we go, and sometimes we find visiting other places helps to heighten our memories of past experiences as we are simultaneously creating new memories through new experiences.

As my children grow and I wonder who will need the most therapy for my sometimes inept parenting, I hope they are absorbing the best of what surrounds them.  Isn’t that what we always want for our children?  Knowing that both ordinary and extraordinary experiences will help to form them into the adults they will become, I hope they come to appreciate the ordinary love of family and the extraordinary effect it can have on them.

Have Kids, Will…Backpack Through Germany (Alone!)

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You might be wondering how, exactly, a mother of four young children can pick up and travel solo to Europe.  All I can say is I owe my husband–big time!  As much as I romanticized the notion of backpacking through Europe when I was younger, I never had the chance to do it.  I love to travel, but the “backpacking” part of it got old pretty fast and is much better suited to the younger set.   That part was purely accidental anyway since the airline lost my luggage, and my backpack was literally all I had in addition to the clothes on my back.  Given my propensity for mishaps, this isn’t surprising.

Going to Germany all alone wan’t the least bit intimidating.  I knew I could figure things out, like train schedules and restaurant menus.  I got really good at asking “Sprechen sie English?” as soon as I needed help with something.  Most Germans seem to know at least a little English.  When they don’t, a few hand gestures work just fine.  Of course, I had a few hiccups along the way.  Aside from my lack of luggage, which was remedied with a shopping trip after twice having washed my underwear out in the bathroom sink, I did misinterpret my train schedule one evening.  Without realizing that all trains to Aachen stopped at 11:20 p.m., I had a late night rendez-vous with the station master in Belgium.  He was kind enough to call a taxi for me once we established, with cave man talk and hand gestures, that I had missed the last train and was stranded.  Alone.  It was an expensive mistake, as I ended up paying 55 euros for the taxi back to Germany.

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I really enjoyed my day in Belgium and would love to go back soon.  Brussels and Antwerp were both amazing cities to visit.  The beer, the chocolates, the waffles–all delicious! Brussels, especially, will hold a special place in my heart since this is where a handsome, young waiter generously gave me an ego boost which, at this stage of the game, is a gift.   At 38, with four children, I’m pretty sure my sex appeal has fallen away like the leaves on my ficus tree that never gets watered.  After chatting with this fellow for a short amount of time, relying on his suggestions for food and beer, he asked what hotel I was staying in and would I like to have some company!  As creepy as that might seem, I was flattered and will be eternally grateful to him, even though I did decline…I swear!

Antwerp is an energetic and eclectic city, where I talked to a Hassidic Jew, a Texan expat, an Irishman, and had lunch in a pub owned by Russians who served Croque Monsieurs.  There are really great jazz clubs and museums, breweries and restaurants, and many, many bicyclists.  I loved how the city center has bike lanes that were more crowded than the actual streets.  Even ladies in dresses and heels were commuting to work on bikes.  No wonder they’re so thin!

The whole reason for this trip, which took me from Washington, D.C. to Aachen, Germany and Antwerp, Belgium, was to conduct research for a book I’m writing.  It will be loosely based on my great-grandmother’s experience emigrating from Germany to the U.S. in 1904, as a 16-year-old girl.  Her story has always intrigued me, so I’m taking bits and pieces of it, adding my own imaginings, and turning it into a historic fiction novel.  Stay tuned!

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