It’s All the Little Things

Adopting the German style of birthday celebrations, a few friends lately have hosted their own birthday parties in their homes or at restaurants.  So, instead of relying on friends and loved ones to throw you a bash or get-together, you just do it yourself which I think is actually very sporting.  However, I still do like the idea of having parties for others—why make the birthday girl work so hard on her day? Well, each way has it’s own merits and, by the way, in a German office, a person would be considered strange and anti-social if they didn’t bring their own birthday cake.

But the reason I mention this is one of the recent birthday girls, Kathy, asked all of us invitees to bring a written memory with us instead of a gift.  Kathy is moving back to her home country in a few months and wants to collect favorite memories of life in Germany.  A couple friends said to me something along the lines of “Ellen, you like to write, this should be an easy one for you….”  But really I was a little stumped to come up with something spectacular.  Everything I thought of was good, but small on it’s own.  There are so many little things that, together, create a pattern of something significant.

“Friends” is an easy answer for some favorite memories.  Where else can you sit at a table for coffee with friends and realize that every continent in the world is represented?  But, more importantly, the friendships aren’t based on “wow, you’re from x” – these are all just real friends, with whom you laugh, learn, explore, and come help at the last minute when I realized I actually had 17 children coming to my house for Nora’s birthday party.

Ttraveling, yes, that’s another easy answer. But, I won’t bore you with the travelogue…… instead, I will speak of the little things…….

Completing a transaction in German without having to think about it;

Noticing when the sun comes out in the winter and discussing it all day with friends and strangers. “Hey, I got to wear my sunglasses for an hour today!”

Hearing Jack boast in German to his Kindergarten friends. It’s all the same in German too…”My house is the biggest, my daddy is the biggest….”

Causing a German to laugh really hard and it’s not because of Schadenfreude…It’s always a small pleasure to give a smile to the most dour German, notice their look of surprise, and then see their own smile in return.  But one of my favorites was when I had to return a bathrobe because it had shrunk in the dryer in extreme fashion, even though I followed the care instructions.  When I showcased the now tiny garment and declared it “nur für Barbie,” the sales clerk nearly collapsed laughing.  I didn’t think it was that hilarious but I loved sharing a laugh with her;

America’s FCC doesn’t matter in the rest of the world so hearing all the uncensored lyrics on the radio is still startling sometimes but often amusing. “Oh, so THAT’S what he really meant….”

We have two deer that visit and practically live in our garden. The most surprising part about this is we don’t live in a rural area.  We live near the top of a very busy village and are surrounded on all sides by other houses but these deer seem to like it here.  They often come around when Jack and I are having breakfast but they have never dropped in for coffee. And, whether coming or going, I’ve come face to face with them on the stairs, then I say “hi” (they’ve never said “hi” back) and then they bound off in the opposite direction;

Teaching the local Mexican restaurant how to make a taco salad.  They promised to name it after me and it’s divine;

Witnessing Nora’s newfound sense of freedom.  Since, she turned seven last year, I’ve been letting her go out and ride her bike and play on our street on her own to meet friends.  Many Germans let their children roam at earlier ages than that but I don’t think Nora really wanted to until she got more comfortable in our new world.

I love being American but I’m often mistaken for a Spaniard here.  This all makes a little sense because, after the first time my mother went to Spain and visited a Madrid portrait gallery, she mentioned that she saw a lot of noses in those portraits that look like ours.  We all have a bump that is referred to as “distinctive” by our mother and as “the curse” by my siblings. Her family originates from Ireland and I was confused by her meaning but then she continued with hints about the Spanish Armada spending time in Ireland and fraternizing with the locals.  Hmmmmmm……

Enjoying steam/sauna at the gym after a workout or at the multiple other spas around here. If there is one thing America needs more of, it’s places like this;

Hearing Gary’s normal travel agenda for work often sparks my imagination.  It was far-flung when we lived in America, and now it’s even more like the TV show “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”

During this current school year, I’ve been teaching a class that includes Nora and the children of several friends of mine.  I’m getting to know these children from a completely new angle. And, I imagine they see me from a new angle as well. Each hour packs in more fun and and a little frustration.  There are nine of them and I also have Jack who prefers to start climbing on me just when I’m in the middle of an important point.  I’m forever grateful to the (good) teachers of the world who do this every day.

There are more memories but this is good for now.


2 responses to “It’s All the Little Things

  1. hans-peter trimborn

    Hello Ellen,
    we´ve met at the football – game of our littluns some days ago. You´re doing a very funny and good job about describing us locals including the deer 🙂 Hope I´m able laughing without malicious enjoyment on somebody elses misfortune, will work on that one. The time I´did spend in Charlotte NC. years back I do remember best of my life with lot´s of laughing. Culture, great !!
    Carry on ! And please do visit our site, you even may link your´s into it? Just ask Eva, my very best friend and wife for it.

  2. Ellen Willson Hoover

    Hi Hans-Peter,

    Thanks for stopping in! I’m so glad the blog has brought back some fond memories for you. I love North Carolina too! I’ll be in touch with the lovely Eva soon. Thank you for the offer and I look forward to collaborating with you both.

    All the best,


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