So the story goes like this.
25 years ago, my parents came to Germany and stayed with their friend, Rolf and his wife, Doris. Their daughter, Brigitte, gave birth to a daughter, Julia, in that year. Rolf brought my parents around Germany in that 2 weeks they spent there.
25 years later, it is with excitement that Mum recognises their home as the car drives by. It is with anticipation as both Dad and Mum rushes to meet Doris. Doris tucks her dress shirt in, opening her arms wide to receive us. At 80, the creases on her skin are but evidences of wiseness. It is the first time I see her, and at one glance, one could tell she is a fit and healthy lady, even at 80. I later learned that she makes dolls and teaches doll-making in her free time. There is no wifi in her house, only dolls and blooming flowers. When Dad tries to help her down the stairs, she animatedly refuses any help, saying “I’m not old!”
She welcomes us to the dining room, and I notice a familiar picture hanging on the wall. Oh hey! That’s us sisters 17 or 18 years ago. Accompanying the photo are photos of her granddaughter and grandsons. My heart flutters at the thought of how important my sister and I were, to a lady that we’ve never met until now.
She can’t speak English, but her expression says it all. She looks at us as if she has seen us somewhere before with that look of familiarity, seeing us as if we were beauties in her eyes.
She hurries to serve us dinner, and refuses any help. “It is my job,” she insists. Mum is overjoyed to have Doris’ specialty potato salad, a dish that she tried and failed to replicate. She said she has been missing this dish for a long time and proceeds to devour the food on her plate. Germans as they are, eat sausages. All of us eat silently, pampering our tastebuds with the goodness of sausages that we never knew existed. Doris keeps pushing more food to our satiated tummies, saying she bought plenty of food just to prepare for our arrival. It must be such an important occasion for her, us visiting her. I am so touched by this thought. She serves us handmade freshly pressed apple juice from apples at her backyard.
For dessert, she hands us another handmade sweet pastry made of almonds, sugar, orange peel and chocolate. My mouth waters just thinking about it now. I will miss this pastry the most.
Brigitte takes us out on a walk to visit Rolf’s grave after dinner. On the way we pass by a wooden (do they exist anymore?!) playground and old swings, wild flowers and a sun setting on a countryside. It got me thinking what a nice little town it’d be to retire in, with neighbours you can count on for help and entertainment.
I wished I’d met this man they speak so fondly about.
At night, Doris takes out old photos for Dad and Mum to see, and fond memories were conjured up.
The next morning, we were greeted by an immaculately adorned dining table, filled with matching table wares and a plethora of bread types and spreads. Her spreads were all handmade from her garden. Oh, how I wished to stay longer, if only just for the food Doris makes.
Brigitte had very kindly cleared the weekend to take us on a road trip around South Germany, see Bavaria and witness the Austrian alps. Without her, our Germany trip would not have been so fruitful, both sight- and taste-wise. There is so much kindness in the world.
We met Brigitte’s daughter, Julia, in Munich several days later, when we were visiting there. She is now 25, 3 years older than I am. It took a couple of years for my parents to get back in touch with their family, after overcoming the language and distance barriers. I didn’t think any of us would have dreamt to be able to visit Doris (again, for my parents). It seems it is time for this 3rd generation (me) to continue this special relationship we have with this extraordinary family.
Latest update: Just concluded my 18-day travel with my family, 28-day travel since being home. 7 countries backlogged, not to mention the number of cities I went. This includes: Germany, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, Belgium. I’m currently camping overnight at Rome’s airport right now, waiting to arrive at Paris tomorrow morning.
2-3 May 2015