My time back home

As always, I want to document and share a little bit about the time I spent at home – my other home, haha! – with my family in April. It’s always such a precious, intense time for me and it usually takes a bit to ‘digest’ and come down from my emotional high when I return.

TL;DR: My time back home was packed full of awesome people, delicious food, and great memories and I returned to the US with a really full heart.

The highlights of my trip were…

… being at my childhood home

I love coming home to my parents’ house and sleeping in my childhood bedroom. I enjoyed breakfasts with my parents in our kitchen and spent some evenings just hanging out with my mom and dad in the living room, and I was so content and happy to just “be there” with them.

morning view from my bedroom

… spending time with my niece and nephew

My niece is 14 and my nephew is 13 now. They’re teenagers and I guess the days of sheer excitement for their aunt to come visit are over, haha, but I am grateful that we still got to spend some quality time together. We went on a family hike, had a board game night, and played tennis together, and I got to see one of my niece’s soccer games (she’s been playing for a while and she’s pretty good – not surprising with a dad who used to play semi-professionally and a mom (and granddad) who is (was) a P.E. teacher).

… visiting my aunt’s burial site

My aunt was not religious and she had a tree burial in a forest. It’s become a lot more common for people to be buried outside of a traditional “graveyard”. The German word for these types of forests is “Friedwald” (which loosely translates to “peaceful forest”) and I like the idea of returning to nature after we pass away. Markers on the trees provide information about the place of burial, but individual graves are usually not designated.

I was pretty bummed that I couldn’t be there for my aunt’s celebration of life service in February but I was looking forward to visiting my aunt’s last resting place. Grieving from afar is weird, my friends, and I didn’t fully comprehend her absence until I was in Germany, and the only place I could go to ‘see’ her was the Friedwald. It was a very peaceful experience though. It probably helped that it was a beautiful sunny day, the trees had started to sprout leaves, there were wildflowers on the forest floor, and the birds were chirping. I like to think that my aunt would have loved this place and it truly gave me a sense of closure.

BTW, cultivating the ground and placing devotional items is not permitted; so the little knit doll at the base of the tree was only there for the visit, a little keepsake my aunt made for me and my sister for our 40th birthday.

… spending time with Ingrid

I mentioned before somewhere that I have regular Skype dates with an old family friend (who is somewhat like a substitute grandma to me and my sister). She’s 92 years old now and I am thrilled that was I able to go see her again. She lives about 2 hours from my hometown and yes, she still lives independently in her own apartment. It’s amazing!
We originally had planned to arrive for “Kaffee and Kuchen”, but then Ingrid suggested that we already come for breakfast (“so we can really make use of the day”) and we didn’t need to be told twice. We ended up spending 8 (!) hours with her that day and if you ask me, it still wasn’t enough time. Is it ever?

… spending an overnight girls’ trip with my mom and sister

I almost never get to spend time with just my mom and sister anymore, so the overnight stay that we decided to add in the Teutoburg Forest area after our visit with Ingrid was such a special treat. I don’t recall if we ever just did a little trip – just the three of us – but I am glad we did this time. We did a little “touristy thing” and visited the “Externsteine” and the Hermannsdenkmal.

… spending time with my best friend from high school.

I’ve mentioned before that my best friend has been dealt a pretty shitty hand in life. She’s been battling a brain tumor for more than a decade, has acquired a chronic pain condition on top of that, and has been dealing with the consequences of a stroke that she suffered during her last surgery, which has left her partially paralyzed. No, she’s really not getting any breaks but here she is, soldiering on. I always tell her if everyone just had an ounce of her courage, the world would be a better place. She’s a tough fighter, if I have ever seen one and it pains me to be so far away and not be able to be there and support her more on a regular basis. I was so glad to spend some precious time with her again during my recent visit. We can still talk and laugh about the same old things.

… a visit to my beloved Köln

I went to Köln to meet up with my uncle and aunt (who live there) and a friend. I didn’t get to see much of the city this time, but I did see the “Dom” (cathedral) and that’s always makes my heart so happy. (And one thing I noticed, there was (almost) no scaffolding on the front side this time. That’s so rare because they’re constantly working on it.)

… spending time with my family and friends

I went walking with my mom, played tennis with my dad, baked and cooked with my sister, and spent some time with my cousin and his girlfriend. I got to visit my uncle and aunt and meet up with one of my longest, dearest friends in Köln. This quality time was just so good for my soul.

… eating all the food

It’s always a highlight of my trip home to eat food that I usually don’t get (or make myself) in California, especially food that is prepared by your mom (can anyone relate?).

Not pictured is pizza from our favorite Italian restaurant, my favorite lentil detox soup that I cooked for my family (which they loved!), various delicious cakes and pastries (I did not hold back), and ALL THE FRESH BREAD + ROLLS all day, every day. 

homemade pasta – Morrocan meatballs with couscous – goulash with homemade dumplings
potato pancakes – fava beans with bacon – currywurst with fries
homemade burgers – German dinner – potato leek soup in a bread bowl

I think it’s pretty obvious; I had the best time and I am so thankful I was able to go!

  1. *seufz…Der Dom! :)

  2. I’m so happy you got to spend quality time with everybody at home, especially Ingrid and your best friend.
    Love that your aunt was laid to rest in a peaceful forest, and you got to process her loss a bit by “visiting” her.

    1. Thanks my friend <3

  3. What a fabulous trip, San! So much wonderful soul-filling time with family and friends, and great food, and being HOME. How lovely for you. I am so glad you got to go.
    I hope that being able to visit your aunt’s resting place gave you some peace and closure. I know how hard it was for you to not be able to go to the service. xo

    1. Thank you, friend. It trully filled my cup!

  4. What a lovely trip.

    I loved hearing all about Ingrid (what a sweet relationship) and I’m glad that you were able to grieve more fully the passing of your aunt.

    I can 100% relate about food from childhood; I still love, love, love when I go home and have familiar dishes from when I was a kid. It’s very comforting – and delicious.

    1. Thank you, friend. This trip truly filled my cup.

  5. What an amazing, fulfilling trip! You really made the most of it. And whoa, Ingrid is amazing! And so is your friend!

    I am LOLing at there not being scaffolding in front of the cathedral. Nearly every time I’ve gone to one, there has been! LOL

    1. Thank you so much – Ingrid and my friend truly are troopers! :)

      Haha, I had to laugh because you’re right – most cathedrals are ALWAYS under reconstruction!

  6. I’m so happy you were able to go on this trip and that COVID stayed away until you were back! What a lovely way to spend time with your family and it looks really beautiful!

    Do you find it hard to switch back to English when you get home? I’m fascinated by people who speak multiple languages and how they go back and forth.

    1. Thanks friend. It was such a precious time.

      I usually don’t find it hard to switch back to English when I get back to California. I think it has to do with the fact that I speak both languages frequently enough (I talk to my parents/family at least 3x a week) that I don’t completely lose one or the other.

  7. I am so sorry to hear about the additional setbacks your friend with cancer is facing. As if she doesn’t have enough to contend with as is, a stroke that resulted in being partially paralyzed is just awful. I’m glad you got to spend time with her.

    Your trip home sounded absolutely wonderful. That is awesome that your 92yo surrogate grandma is doing so well and still living independently! My grandma turns 100 this week (!!!). She’s in assisted living but is in pretty good health. Her biggest issue is that she has terrible macular degeneration so can not see much. But she’s in good health otherwise and is still quite sharp! I’m excited to celebrate her in person this weekend!

    1. Wow, 100. That is amazing! I am so glad to get your grandma in person.
      I truly hope Ingrid will make it to 100 and I can visit her a few more times until then!

      And thanks for the kind words about my friend. She’s been dealt a truly terrible hand in life and I wish there was more I could do for her. I feel like she was robbed of everything in her life… a career, a partner, a family… it truly makes me sad to think about it.

  8. Enjoyed this recap very, very much! I could just feel the warmth radiating from the pictures and words. You are very lucky to have such a tight-knit family, part of me is very jealous (that’s not the case for me).
    Unfortunately, my moving to the US 20 years ago has put even greater distance between me and my family in Russia. Then factor in mental health problems in my parents and sibling’s alcoholism. Well, I’ll stop here, I think you get the picture!
    BUT: I have my own family now, partner and children, plus my “adopted family” in the US (via friends or people that are estranged from their families, like me). I am determined to “break the cycle” and create a different life for me and my family.

    One day, I hope that my kids will come to visit me and T if they live in a different country :)
    Again, great post-thank you for giving your readers a glimpse into your family life.

    1. Thank you, Daria. Over time, I’ve learned that what I have with my immediate family is something very special that most people don’t have and I am aware of it and treat it as something very precious.

      I am sorry you’re kind of estranged from your family, but I love that you’re trying to create something special with your husband and kids! <3

  9. What a lovely trip back home for you! It seems like you got to see so many people and do some really important things, like visiting your great-aunt’s burial site. I’m glad it gave you a sense of closure. <3

    1. Thank you friend. It was a wonderful trip!

  10. I’m so happy for you that you had such a great trip! It seems like you so many really special moments. :)

  11. San, I am so happy that you were able to spend time with your family. It seems like this was a longer trip, too, which helps so much when you have so many people and places you want to see. I just (as in yesterday) returned from visiting my own parents in my own childhood home, so your words about how wonderful it was to spend time there with your parents really spoke to me. <3 (I'm also sad, as my parents are now talking about when they will be moving out and my mother actually said that it would be within 5 years… that's going to be hard, even though I know they need to move…)
    I also love those quiet evenings spent with just my parents, too – there's something special about the ordinariness of it, to me. :)
    So glad you had this time with those you love, my friend. <3

  12. Oh this post. Love everything about it. So many great memories you obviously made. So many great pictures. How lovely you have so many people to call loved ones and to visit. You truly did make the best of it. That mom-sister trip sounds so lovely. Also your deep relationship with Ingrid. And your friend really does sound she has been dealt a shiotty hand. So sorry. It sounds a bit like my favorite aunt (eye tumor and lots of other health issues that made her retire before Turing 50). It’s so hard to see.

Comments are closed.