Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Home is where you feel wild and free

When I was 10 years old, I fell in love for the first time. A boy was involved, sure; but much more importantly, it was a place and a lifestyle. 
My best friend's dad had grown up on a farm, and every vacation the entire family went back there to help his older brother who had taken over. There was no mom but there were 4 kids, and the oldest one, a 14-year old boy named Andy, had to work on the farm like a man. 

In the summer of 1990, my friend took me there for a week. I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on the farm. You had to go down a steep hill, and at the bottom of it, there it was: an old farm house complete with a big chestnut tree in the yard, a large meadow on one side and the barn on the other. Chickens were clucking and picking in the yard, a cat was lazily sunning herself on the windowsill, and behind the house I could see a glimpse of a small orchard with apple trees. A huge Bernese Mountain dog named Eddie greeted every newcomer enthusiastically by jumping up and licking their face, which caused me to topple over backwards the first time he did it to me. His body was a lot bigger than my 10-year-old one, and I hadn't been prepared.

They had milk cows, and part of my job for the week was to help clean up the cow pies by using a  wide slider and sweeping them down the metal rods that were recessed in the floor behind the cows. I helped feeding them and watched Andy expertly attach the milking machine. Together we carried the heavy milk cans into the little cool milk shed from where they were picked up once a day, teasing each other in the way kids do when they like each other. I had a huge crush on Andy, and his surprisingly skilled attempts at flirting (he was only 14, after all) made me feel like a million bucks.
It wasn't all work - there was a lot of play. The farm was in a tiny village where all the kids were running wild, and I was enthralled. During the day we climbed as high as we could into the rafters of the hay barn, daring each other to jump down into the hay. We built tunnels through the hay so long, they were pitch black in the middle, and going through them was a sign of one's bravery. 
We were riding our bikes all over the village, and the most reckless of the kids would cycle down the steep hill towards the farm with no hands and no brakes.

But the best (and scariest!) part was the nights. Every kid was camping in their yard, and it was customary to get up in the middle of the night, sneak to the other tents and knock them over. Gangs built, alliances were formed and broken, and one terrifying night I ended up in the wrong group, running like I was possessed when I realized that I had lost my friends and ended up with the wrong people.
It was crazy and awesome, and I felt the most free I'd ever felt up to that point. 
The week was over before I knew it. I had just spent the best week of my young life, and after saying goodbye to everyone and climbing in my friend's family's car, I promptly burst into tears. I didn't want to go home.

***

I haven't thought about that in years. But I just spent a week in Germany with my and Rich's family, and during that time a lot of old memories surfaced from the depths of my subconscious.
I love my family. We've had our ups and downs (which family hasn't, right?), but I love them, and we've moved past our old differences and are in a good place now.
But every time I'm back in Germany I realize anew that this country is not my home. I've lived in Canada for over 16 years, but even before I moved here, Germany didn't feel like home for quite a few years.
I sometimes wonder if there is such a thing as being transcountry - being born in the wrong country. That's how it feels. Being back is always a curious mix of familiar and strange, of falling effortlessly back into my old slang and using words I thought I'd forgotten, but also feeling like I'm in a strange, unfamiliar country. It seems impossible that I was once one of them, that I breathed and lived and felt German. These days I'm always slightly off-balance when I'm there, my tummy queasy from food that has become foreign and my nose unused to the cigarette smoke that still lingers in many homes, pubs, and patios. 
Every time we visit we are treated like royalty by our family and friends, which is wonderful and also weird. Drinks are bought for us, outings planned and dinners organized, and hugs are given much more freely than what's normal for Germans. During that last visit we even made it into the local newspaper for being the people who traveled the farthest to attend a street fest of Rich's Schuetzenclub in the neighbourhood.
I feel extremely lucky to have found my place in the world, but to still have a connection to my old world. Germany may not be home anymore, but there are people there who feel like home, and that's such a precious and wonderful gift.

Above all, I'm grateful that I don't burst into tears anymore at the thought of having to go home. These days there is no place I'd rather be, and I feel as wild and free here in Canada on our little ranch as I did as a 10-year old during my first big adventure away from home.
We had a wonderful, yet exhausting time. I'm thrilled to have been there, and I'm even more thrilled to be back!

xoxo Miriam



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4 comments

  1. I love the idea of being transcountry! I so feel like that these days -- every time we travel back to Sweden or to Scotland, I know that I'd rather live my life there than in America. Maybe one day...

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    1. If it's meant to happen, it will! I can totally see you in Scotland or Sweden,I have a feeling you would fit right in!

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  2. Just returned from a 2 week family visit in Austria and I feel the same way! Thoroughly spoiled! I had a great time but it’s nice to be back in Canada!

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    1. I know, right? The old country doesn't feel like home anymore, and it's so nice to have found a new one ❤

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