Yesterday I went with my husband and boys to a German town in Georgia. We have gone every year at Christmastime, with the exception of last year, since moving back to the South. With my husband's work schedule, we just couldn't fit it in last Christmas and the boys and I were not going without him.
Every time I visit the town and talk with shop owners who have relocated from Germany, I think of my mother and oma and our other relatives from Nuremberg whom I've met over my lifetime. It's so difficult to hear a German accent from people who speak just like my Oma without tears welling up, but I bite my tongue and enjoy it.
My oma passed away when I was in my early twenties and I'd give anything to be able to hug her one more time. I have wonderful dreams about her, and some sad. I dreamed about her just this week. In my dream, my mother and sister and I were parked outside of the small Florida home my oma lived in my whole life. I was nervous to walk up to the house to go see her, but my mother and sister encouraged me to go, telling me that it would be fine. I think I was nervous because it had been so long since I had seen her or even dreamed about her. I walked up the path while my mom and sister waited in the car, watching. When I reached the front door, it was open and I could see through the metal screen door that she was right there, inside, and wearing a peach colored t shirt, one she wore often when she was living. She was so happy to see me. I opened the screen door and she was in my arms. I could even smell the fresh linen scent of her shirt. When I reached maturity as a teenager, she found it hilarious that I was taller than her and had to bend over to hug her. My dream was so real that she even seemed to be the right height. I hugged her so tightly that she laughed and asked why I was hugging her so hard. I told her that it was because I hadn't seen her for so long and that I usually dream of her often. In my dreams I take the opportunity to hug and hug her. It had been too long since I had dreamed of her and I didn't want to let her go. She laughed. My mother and sister came in. Oma said that we were all going to wear wedding dresses that day and she pulled out a big box of them out. It sounded like a crazy thing to do, but it was always crazy when my mother, her mother, my sister and myself were together, so without thinking anything more of it, we all began to dig through the box. I passed on several gorgeous, pristine white gowns and in the bottom found a simple, dull and yellowed old gown with pearls sewn along the neckline. It was perfectly me. At this point, my husband's alarm went off and I woke from my dream, but it was very vivid and I can still feel her in my arms.
This year, visiting the little German town was particularly difficult because it was the first time I've visited the town since my relationship with my mom has become so strained that we haven't seen each other for a couple of years. It has always been understood that we would go to Germany together, now even thoughts of her in a mini replica of her motherland made me feel lost and lonely. I had a fabulous time with my little family (how could I not?) but Mom and Oma were simply everywhere. I have been there with both of them, so not only were thoughts of them with me but memories of them in different locations were with me as well.
I noticed late last night that I had missed a call from my sister. I decided to check my messages in the morning to see why she had called. It's strange enough to be getting calls from her since our relationship and my relationship with my baby brother and mom were damaged all at the same time under the same circumstances. When a mutual friend passed away a few weeks ago, my sister called the night before the funeral to make sure I had heard. She had only learned of his death and was determined to attend the service. I felt awful for not telling her as soon as I'd heard the sad news. I had known for five days and had assumed she'd heard, as well, since we have all the same friends and she lived not thirty minutes away from him.
My sis is hard to get close to. Think biker chic, tattooed and pierced from head to toe. In fact, I've just described her perfectly. She's awesome, but sandpaper to my sensitive soul and to the natures of my husband and children, as well. Oil and water. There are a few times in our lives, however, that stand out in my memory as times I've felt love and even nurturing from my older sister. Her call to tell me of our friend's passing has been added to the list. She was furious that no one had told her and, I could tell, so hurt by the loss. She's German to the core. Doesn't speak, but barks, like my Oma did, but with a soft heart that she refuses to let anyone see. I was stunned when, at Thanksgiving, before I could call to wish her a happy holiday as I'd planned, she called and put me on speaker setting of her phone so her three boys could yell loving well wishes to me all at once. I ended that phone conversation shortly because I could no longer speak around the lump in my throat. Heaven forbid I let my sister know I'm choked up, that was NOT going to happen!
My little brother is a whole other story. The fact that anything could have strained our relationship still leaves me stunned. I was thirteen when he was born. He says I was like a second mother to him. The only thing I see now that could have come between us is his ill treatment of one of my children, of my sons who thought the world of him. It happens all the time with everyone. Family problems. Not my family. I was always able to sit and smile politely. Well, everyone has a line. I didn't know I had one. I did. And when I finally stood up to say enough was enough, all hell broke loose and it has yet to calm.
When I saw that my sister had called for the third time in only a few weeks, I began to feel that there was hope. Obviously she's trying and I won't slap her in the face by turning my back on that. I've tried with my mother, spoken to my brother once since the Big Blow-up, but with such differences of opinion and my husband and myself feeling the need to protect our children from bullying they don't even get from other kids their age, it's been difficult to figure out how to go about opening doors or deciding at what point we are ready. A little boy who is furious with the whole situation and deeply scarred by the incident has been another thing to consider. Furiously protective of each other, these boys don't take mistreatment of the other lightly and even let me know when a punishment administered to the other seems unfair. I am amazed at this little guy's strength at only age 11 and the level of confidence he exhibits.
As it turns out, when I listened to the message from my sister, it was actually my mother whose voice I was hearing. I had mistaken her number for my sister's. She was calling to let me know that my brother is flying in from out west tomorrow and that my sister and her brood are driving up to stay with her for Christmas. They all want me and my family to come to "just have a jolly time" and that they would not speak of "anything controversial" (meaning homeschooling and what I see as the homeschool intervention that took place two years ago), or if we can't make it, they could all come over here this week. I don't know what to think, say, or do. Of course we are going, but I am terrified...just floored because it was my mom I dreamed about last night whose thoughts have been filling my head all day. Shocked that it was her call I missed. I was very close to calling her and would have by day's end, but I never expected this or such consideration for our feelings. There are a few subjects that I have decided are off limits, if and when all of us were ever to be in the same room together, at least until my kids are old enough to hold their own, which they just may be at this point, but the fact that she knows this without me ever voicing my "ground rules" is reassuring.
I've spoken to my husband, my best buddy in the world, about it. I wanted to know if he thought I was ready and should risk what is to be a fabulously peaceful Christmas week with him and my boys by opening up this can of worms. He was so wonderful. We talked about how much I've learned about myself over the last two years and how much I've changed. I told him that I hope that I have learned enough to deal with whatever could come of this visit. He said it would be a good test. I assumed that he meant it would be a good test to see if I truly have learned as much about myself and keeping my own harmony within myself as I think I have. He corrected me and said that what he meant by saying that was, that it would be a good test for them...to see if they have learned anything over the last two years. My hero!