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