Germany

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Last summer: Team Eleven O’Clock, at the top of the Cologne cathedral, in Germany. Staggering, how quickly they made it up the stairs, practically racing up hundreds of steps so they could get . . . to that . . . view.  Had the petals not stopped now and again to make sure I still had a pulse, I would still be in that tower, counting the steps.

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Sometimes, you think you know what’s waiting for you at the end of a climb like that one.  You think you know how cool it’ll be.

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And then you get there.  And you realize you didn’t imagine big enough.

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Davidson Team, Cologne, Germany 7742

I love it when that happens.

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Do you have a pair of kids who run hot and cold?  Sometimes they’re famous friends and partners in crime (eating bowls of cereal together up on top of the kitchen soffits), sometimes they’re Montagues and Capulets, if you take my meaning.

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One day, years ago, when I was thinking about these two children and wondering how to grow their love, a small, knowing voice inside me said something like this:  “Pair them up doing what they do well together.”  Hard to translate.  If you have your own “knowing” (a handy thing to dial into, when you can manage to quiet your mind enough), you know that while the meaning of those nuggets of wisdom is perfectly clear to you, it can be hard to put into words that mean anything to anyone else.

Anyway.  I tried to do that.  Tried to create moments of “collision,” where these two could come together in seemingly random ways to be silly and have fun and therefore decide (hopefully) that fun just happened better with a sibling alonside you.  Sometimes it worked.  Sometimes it didn’t.  Their temperaments were so different.  One was often his own best company and thus got impatient when others wanted onto the merry-go-round, as it were.  The other did want company, especially his, and got her feelings bruised when he was in a mood.

There were tears, sure.  But when it all worked . . . wow.  They were meant to be friends, these two.  I knew it.   “They’ll be okay,” promised that voice inside me.

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Eventually, the younger one decided she really liked who she was and had no particular desire to apologize for it.  Fiercely persistent, she threw herself into her school work, her talents, her friendships, and, predictably, she reaped the rewards of her hard work.  One day, the older one said to me with a bewildered shake of the head, “How does she do it?”  And I smiled, because I knew what he meant.  When I pressed him to explain, he got more specific.  She did hard things, he said.  And she did them surprisingly well.

Now Mr. Older is gone, off in another corner of the world, working hard himself and thinking, occasionally (his letters suggest as much), about the younger sibling he has come to value deeply.  Turns out that one of the things each treasures most about the other is the very particular brand of silliness that defines so many of their moments together.

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They did the work of getting acquainted as friends.  They get to have the fun. And I get to be reminded, as I sift through these photos of our European adventures of last summer, that I ought to relax more, secure in the fact that my own knowing had it right all along:  they laugh hardest when they’re together.

(In these photos:  The Two, embracing their inner nerds in Nuremberg, Germany.)

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Family Fun in Passau, Germany

by Becky on October 2, 2012

in Food, Fun, Music

When our ship docks in Passau, a quintessentially picturesque city in the heart of Bavaria, I couldn’t be more excited.  A world-class organ in a centuries-old cathedral awaits–a fact that has my oldest son, the music lover, totally “stoked,” to quote his surf team coach.  And the possibility of vintage clothing and/or jewelry stores showing up in our day has my daughters equally breathless.  And narrow, cobblestone streets to zoom up . . . and zoom down . . . well, that’s about all my youngest needs.  Places to stretch his legs and flex his running muscles:  what more could you want when you’re eight?

The cool thing about being in a fairy-tale town in a storied little corner of the world?  Watching your kids, ages 19, 16, 13, and 8, discover it!

Turns out the concert puts everyone to sleep except Young Mr. Beethoven.  Turns out there is in fact the perfect antique trinkets/jewelry store parked on a tiny side street in town.  Turns out the patisseries are spendid.  (What more do you need in your afternoon than a fine piece of cake?)  And with my husband’s omnipresent camera, the story of the day is–voila!–a movie.

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