My family and I are back from our travels overseas. It was a great adventure! We made some wonderful memories and took some pictures that will be cherished for generations, I'm sure. The minute I booked my parents' and my family's tickets back in February, I knew this trip would be a real tear-jerker, and I was so proud of myself that I held it together for the entire trip without balling at every turn.
You see, my father stated that this would be his last trip back to Germany (having a high degree of Wanderlust, he'd rather explore other parts of the world like Hawaii or Alaska). That alone choked me up. The reality of a final trip to Germany for my parents, who are 68 and 74, had never entered my head before. My memories of Germany over all of the years of my time spent there are all about being young, really. My first real memories of Germany were from our trip when I was 16 (I had been there as a little kid but don't remember much). Then, I studied in Bonn (the former captital of West Germany) at 19. I spent a lot of time with my relatives that year. My dad's sister, my aunt, was about 60 then, and she was definitely my surrogate mother during my time there; we became very close. I visited her often at her home in Detmold, the city of her and my dad's birth and where they grew up. She was a very energetic woman who was always smiling and laughing. During each and every visit, I had a lot of fun with her walking through downtown Detmold, shopping, eating in cafes, and hearing countless stories about her and my dad growing up. In fact, even though I spent a year away from my dad during my time studying there, I came home that next summer believing I had gotten to know him better than I ever had. My aunt's stories revealed a lot about my father that I had never known. And just spending time among Germans for a year opened my eyes to so many of my dad's mannerism, speech patterns, and quirky habits that before then I had thought were just a little odd; after that year, I discovered they were typically German and that his homeland had truly shaped the man who was my father.
This summer's return to Germany brought together two families who have all gotten older. My dad hadn't been back to Germany for 19 years. His sister, my Aunt Erika, is now 80. Her son, Martin, my only first cousin, is over 50 and has 3 boys. I'm married and am a mom to a preschooler. Although I've been there numerous times since then, this trip made me realize how long ago it was that I spent my year there exploring the country and soaking up every minute of youthful freedom, independence and excitement that studying abroad instills in a person. Time continues to march on.
During this trip, we spent a few days in Detmold where my dad lived with his family until he was 21. We accomplished the one thing I had wanted to do the minute I booked our tickets: we took a picture of 3 generations of relatives in front of my dad's childhood home. It's a huge half-timbered house that was probably built sometime in the late 1500s/early 1600s. Here we are (my son, me, my dad, and my aunt):
And here we are in the center of town (my cousin, my aunt, me, my dad, and my son):
Who knows if we will ever get pictures like these again. For my son, it may be the only time he is ever with his Opa in Germany. I will keep my fingers crossed that this won't be the case, that my parents will remain in good health for years to come and that we will all travel there together again someday. But for now, we will all cherish the precious memories that we made this summer and look to the future with anticipation, certain of many more to come.