The last familiar face I saw before I boarded my United flight to Delhi 6 months ago was my mother’s. We had been through this routine before, of coming and going, for a decade or so now. And see, she and I, we are like Skittles – Colorful hard shells around soft, oozy insides. Except hard shells on people are made of nothing sweet. So what could have, maybe should have, been a more emotional encounter actually was a much more mundane scene than most. I’m sure there was a hug; perhaps an exchange of grumbles about my extra baggage and a very tearless farewell, but otherwise this was an uneventful scene. I’ve learned that two tough, bitterly proud cookies don’t always look well upon the mutual exposure of soft, mushy things. And, with all the love we have for each other – the optics were the equivalent of a straight faced, Kanye shoulder shrug about what would be two (more) years of nothing but space and opportunity.
It has been a speedy 6 months between then and now, but much has happened. I have set foot in 5 countries since then. I have read books about the quarter life crisis that’s been eating at me for about 2 years. I’ve started paying back bills incurred as a result of (unsuccessfully) buying my way out of said crisis. I’ve read. I’ve prayed. I’ve traveled. I’ve loved. I’ve lost. I’ve laughed at myself. I’ve worked OT that I haven’t gotten paid for. And I’m here. Writing. And what, in tarnations, has been going on outside of me? *Pin drop* [Problem identified] I have been in a self-generated bubble that burst upon arrival in Germany and unfortunately soft, cushy, gooey stuff has spilled all over my life since.
I was pretty sure that I was going to die of a stomach bug before I arrived. So, my priorities weren’t such that I wrapped my head around what this reunion might mean. I was excited for the trip, but I wasn’t anxious about seeing my family again. I wasn’t really elated the way I think I should have been. I was just glad to not have to ride in a tuk tuk or eat daal for a week. I arrived in one piece, without the assistance of an adult diaper, and there was Germany – in all her splendor.
You’ve got to be a jackass or an amphibian (no offense to amphibians) to not find something to love about Munich. For you brainy types, there is the Technical Museum. For you ‘barefoot in the grass’ types, there’s the English Garden. There are churches for the godly, castles for the primadonnas, sidewalks for the fit, and clean air for the living. What more could you possibly ask for? Me, personally, I asked for BMW tours, a good tapas bar, men over 5 foot 7, shoe stores that carry my size, safe drinking water from the tap, a facial, and Black people (every cake needs a cherry on top). And, oh man, did this vacation deliver? Or did it deliver?
What it also delivered were 4 of my closest family members. Three women who have been thick as thieves since they had their own quarter life crises, and my big little brother who just graduated from college and will surely need all my 20 something crisis books very, very soon. You can imagine all the gushy things that should have happened, because all the movies tell us they should. We should have gone camping and toasted marshmallows and stared into the night sky. Or maybe we were supposed to go around the table at our first dinner and say what we were thankful for. But, as Em would say, “You Black!” Hence, none of that actually happened. Though, if my shell weren’t so hard and so unsweetened, something could have. Maybe?
Instead, we went forth sightseeing like real tourists. Ate out at restaurants that we got lost finding. We laughed at having to share one bathroom, and got pissed at having to share one internet connection. We discovered that the maid actually spoke Spanish, go figure. We realized that the ventilated air smelled like poo. And we did it all together. It was like being at home again, in having to be around the same people. People I’ve known forever. Day in and day out. Had it really been 6 months since I’d seen them? It had been much longer since we’d spent 7 days in the same place. And yet here we were. And there were no fireworks?
I came back from Germany with my stomach more steady, my bank account lighter and a bit more ‘we’ in my ‘I’ stew. And that left me ambivalent. I didn’t have words to describe the recognition of what years of distance had created. And I don’t think I was prepared to notice it as much as I had. On the other hand, though, what an awesome place to rediscover the art of togetherness while battling the sea legs that come with it. After all, Germany is a place where broken and bitter things have happened. Space and opportunity has been more than hard shells with no mutual ground; it has meant extermination and separation. And yet, these days, certain human triumphs live on and fuel a mending of fences – or a filling in of the once barren land on either side of the Berlin wall. There is a shame in being the site of such vast heartache and loss, but much has come of trying to understand the aspects of human nature that made such pain possible in the first place. There is also the intangible sense that forgiving one’s self for a shared past has an unspoken role in an altogether more positive future.
While I have been away from America for 6 months, I have been away from my family for what feels like all of my life. My mother was 9 when the Newark Riots happened. The Berlin Wall fell the same year my brother was born. I turned a sweet 16 the year the Twin Towers fell. And my father quotes his father more now that his father is no more. I’d say we all have mending to do. All told, it’s taken all the time between when I left Munich until now to understand that while there are advantages to bon voyages and hard shells, my next quarter century can suffer a little less of both. So, I’m taking Germany’s example and learning to reckon with my nature and my past to bridge the divide between a few less ‘I’ and a lot more ‘we’ statements in the road ahead. Now if only this road less traveled also came with a German engineered vehicle.
…A girl can dream