When your 78 year old mother tells you that black is white and white is black, you really have no choice but to agree with her. Yes, Berlin is colder than Bozeman, Montana even though it is Spring here and still snowing there. Yes, I’m not a “real coffee drinker” because I enjoy an occasional flavored coffee in the afternoon instead of a straight up cuppa joe. And yes, it was me who smashed the bedroom door with my tennis racket during high school, not my sister (wait a minute, maybe she was right on that one!). Well, it was 10 days of being submerged in a world that didn’t make sense to me, but I am so grateful to my wonderful sister that she chose to spend her entire two-week vacation in Berlin and brought mom along too.
There were loads of stressful family moments, but we got to see grandma ride the U-bahn, listen to the kids chatter in German with her, and hang out at the 5-star Kempinski Hotel. The apex of familial tension came when we gave the update on our homecoming plans. We have finally decided that Brian will teach at the John F. Kennedy School for one more year before returning to Bozeman High School, but I will come back in time to teach at MSU during the Spring 2012 semester. We are trying to figure out how to split the 3 kids in half for 6 months, but in all likelihood Sam and Olivia will return in December with me. I do not want my mother to be without family in Bozeman for 2 full years, but we felt that one year in Berlin would be too short! This approach to our dilemma has all the qualities of a classic compromise; no one is fully satisfied, and my mother is especially aggrieved. Still, we feel we made the best choice under the circumstances.
After making my last trip over to the Kempinski yesterday morning to tuck my mom and sister into their taxi to Tegel airport, I spent a wonderful day of feeling that my burdens were a little lighter. The highlight was a lunch-time stroll with Brian through the Heinrich Baehr Park in Zehlendorf. Berlin still holds many treasures to discover and I felt good all day knowing I had done my best to meet my family obligations.
My serene feelings lasted until I arrived home and checked my email to discover a message from a Berlin city official informing me that my application for German citizenship has been lost. Yes, the all-efficient German bureaucracy lost an application containing many documents that I painstakingly put together last summer to establish my identity as the descendant of German Jews who fled the Nazis. The official indicated that he could no longer be of assistance to me and suggested that I file a new application and begin the process all over again. I now await word from the German Consulate in San Francisco to see if there is another remedy for such bureaucratic incompetence. Stay tuned for further updates.