Sunday, November 8, 2009

Halloween in Germany

Halloween is over. I am a big Halloween fan. And as an American living in Germany, I really miss the way kids and adults get so into this tradition in the US.  But never fear, Halloween came to Hannover! We hosted our third annual Halloween party, complete with glowing jack-o-lanterns, tombstones, cobwebs, a giant black ghost hanging in the dining room, and twelve costumed five and six year olds swinging between happy, puzzled, and delighted. The delighted part came especially during the eating-mice-hanging-from-the-witches-broom game, and the beyond delighted came during trick-or-treating. My neighbors were amazing. Twelve homes got in to the spirit - and we organized a trick-or-treating night right on our street. It was incredible. Each neighbor seemed to have their own way of bringing the magic into the night. One had the flicker of a candle flame moving all around mysteriously on the other side of their glass door. One reached out a spider-covered hand when they opened the door. Many answered the door dressed up as witches or vampires. The children yelled trick-or-treat (in English!) and usually the whole gang was invited in! It was very touching to see the neighbors embrace this strange holiday and create such fun and mystery for the kids. 

German flower bouquets from friends

I love the artful bouquets of flowers that are typical in Germany. They are usually shorter in height than the bouquets in the US, with creative but simple combinations of the season's most luscious floral offerings. Recently I received this stunning purplish-blue hydrangea and rose bouquet from my friend Simone. It was covered by an almost industrial silver mesh net, which was perfect for my current love of all things dove gray and purple. You can find these bouquets everywhere- at the markets, the flower shops, on many street corners. It is just another way that beauty is celebrated here. Here it is on my desk, inspiring me while I do my writing and consulting work.

The sweetest of summer for a five-year-old

This amazing summer with my five-year-old was like a stream of joy-moments one after the other - so this entry tumbles out of me much like the memories fly around in my heart. Weekend walks with Daddy and her dog Beau. Planting her Junior K bean plant on the back balcony and watching it climb. Swimming in the clear blue water at Grandmommy's pool to practice for the Seahorse Swim Patch test in Germany. Singing and learning Bible stories in her second annual Vacation Bible School at Grandmommy's church in Annapolis. Mommy, let me tell you about Moses... The daily tea parties on the beach at the Atlantic Ocean with Chloe, Rowan and Grayson. Mommy, here is your cherry pie. Mommy, do you want another cappucino? Learning to pick up pennies from the nice Daddy at the July 3rd pool party in New Jersey. Riding in a wagon with Chloe to night-before Fireworks on the river. Dancing in her long pink cotton Chipie dress in the sand with Chloe at the 4th of July party at the Sands Beach Club in Seabright, New Jersey, reminding Cathy and me of our own beach dancing in the Bahamas when we were 18. Fireworks over the ocean. Driving Chloe's pink motorized Jeep all around the green grass back yard. Playing hockey with Rowan and his dad in the driveway. Eating edamames with the kids. I've got a two-beaner! I've got a three beaner! Seeing first Helmut Crab on the beach.

La-ter-ne, La-ter-ne, Son und Mond und Ster-ne

I just love the German tradition of the Lantern Walk for children with their families. The Lantern walks usually take place in late October and November, although some hard-core traditionalists will tell you that they should take place the Sunday after November 11, which is St. Martins Day. Our international school combined the traditions of Halloween with the Lantern walk and it was a cozy, happy celebration.

Hurry up and get married

We were eating our fresh "brotchen" from the corner bakery. Beau and I were feeling alive after a brisk walk/trot/sniff through the Eilenriede's brilliant pallette of yellow and gold colors. We snuck past our usual bakery and went across the street to the newer one to get the oat-covered rolls. Back at the house, our five year old was listening to her dad and I talk about early days when we used to go exploring and check out little boutiques in San Francisco and New York. She said "That is when I was (pointing up) up there. I was up there watching you and waiting and waiting. "Hurry up and get married!" I said. "I am getting hot sitting in this big cloud all the time." Ava has always had broad ideas of soul, eternity, and that our human experience has a before and an after. It amazes me to hear the ways her ideas enter into our day-to-day conversations.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Car Prayers

We have a prayer ritual that I have grown to love, and my daughter asks for with a not-yet-awake voice. When I drive the 12 minutes from our home to her kindergarden, right after we pass our favorite white marble statue of the two sisters (princesses) with their arms draped around one another, and just before we pass the music university, we start. The prayer begins with giving thanks for the blessing of the beauty of the day in front of us- today it was the intense golden leaves as we drove alongside the forest, sometimes it is the rain, and sometimes it is the sun. We then ask God to wrap his arms around our little one and guide her through each part of her day - from circle time to snack, from learning Jolly Phonics sounds to music, from lunch, recess to art, PE, to library. And we ask that she is strong on her own, that she stands up for herself with other kids, that she takes deep breaths when she needs to feel calm, that her love shines through her to others, and that she goes to the quiet place inside if she feels frustrated or needs peace. I usually thank God for blessing me with the honor of being her mother, the fun and thrill of sharing each day with her. By this time, we are rounding the corner at Waterloo Platz and driving down the tree-lined alley to her school.

She jumps out of the car and pushes her arms through the straps of her pink book-bag with her name and a monkey face on the back. We walk together across the school yard to greet her friends, and we have the gracious feeling of being more closely connected to one another and to God.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Closer than close

Ava rolled over for the tenth time, complaining that she was just not tired. We had read three books and said prayers, and she sang a beautiful song to me about bedtime and sleeping that she must have learned in kindergarden. She really wanted me to lay down with her, and cuddle in the glow of her pink flower nightlight.

I said "Ava, it is really important that each of us know how to relax and fall asleep on our own. There will be many times in life when you cannot sleep, and you will need to know what to do. Close your eyes, and think of special moments in the day today, like when we showered together and blew dry each other's hair, or when we snuggled and watched Mary Poppins this afternoon. We had fun searching for the Halloween box in the cellar and unpacking it. Eating pumpkin soup with daddy, and baking cookies in the kitchen was fun and yummy. Replaying the memories helps them stick better."

Ava said "Mommy, I want you with me." And I said "Honey, you have Monkey, Bunny, Biggie Bear, and Gingie." Take turns cuddling with each one until you fall asleep." Ava replied, "Mommy, I want a human."

I understood. We were so close today, this cold, rainy October day during her fall school break, that it was just too hard to separate at sleep time. We had not left the house once and we both felt the special luxury of our retreating for a day. We lit red candles during our "girls spa time" and had jack-o-lantern candles glowing while eating pumpkin soup at dinner. Today was a day of deep peacefulness, comfort and joy.