Back to the future

It was real. I was really there in Kirchsteinbek, a suburb of Hamburg. The day’s outing was over and I stepped off the bus at just the right place.

Twenty-five years earlier I got off the bus at this same stop, loaded down with school books. I was a fearful girl then, unsure of my life. What did I believe? Who was I? It was a year of getting to know myself, an American teenager in Germany. I worked incredibly hard at learning the language. I had an ear for it; I could converse almost flawlessly – until that is, I totally lost myself in an impossibly contorted sentence and forgot which verb to put at the end. And in my intense desire to appear to fit in, I would rather stay silent than risk the chance of making a grammatical mistake.

But an eighteen-year-old didn’t get off the bus this time. It was the next-to-last day of my visit back to the place of those memories, and a forty-three-year-old wife and mother stepped down to begin the walk “home”. I had talked for hours that day with my host brother, Henning. I hadn’t cared a bit if anyone heard my American accent, or if I’d gotten a word wrong, here and there. It had been a great day. Now, I was headed back to the Fitschen’s house. Hundreds of times I had walked that stretch before.

Everything was so familiar….. Suddenly, I was young again! I closed my eyes, my heart beat faster. I was that girl again. All the years ahead! A whole lifetime! But what was contained in those years? It came rushing upon me – scenes and faces, swirling around me. I felt the burning in my throat of suppressed sobs, for they were crying faces, screaming faces – mine, filled with grief.

When I had walked this way years before, I had a brother, I had a whole family, I had an unbroken body. Between this walk and the last one, they were gone. Years had stolen them.

Then, other faces took their place: Three babies, my husband.

There was no separating the pain and the joy. They were joined like an object in a picture lit brightly on one side, yet deeply shaded on the other. One object, one life: My life.

I can’t take away the bad, without doing away with the good. If it could be any other way, I would choose it.

So that is life. I can choose every day to live in the lit side, or in the shadow. It is only one small step from one to the other.

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2 thoughts on “Back to the future

  1. Yes, beautiful!! And you MUST MUST MUST get Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts”. You will love the writing style and the message is what you just said.

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