Nine years ago I was learning not to pet peoples’ dogs or smile at strangers like we did back in Montana. Parenting took up a lot more of my time than it does nowadays with only one very independent tenth grader left at home. And I was obsessed with eating giant cheesy brezels with pumpkin seeds on top.
Every year since we moved to Berlin seems to bring as much change as continuity. Retirement planning was a big focus this year, and though it sounds boring, the outcome of our efforts was to swap our house in Montana for a pied-à-terre near my sister in California. We won’t be using it for a while though since Brian and I are both still working full-time, in my case in a new position at a small private international university. But, as I wrote in my essay Reflections on Inhabiting Two Cultures, family ties exert a strong pull and keep me rooted in the U.S. as well as Berlin.
Cutting back on writing this year after A Place They Called Home was published gave me a chance to discover and contribute to other projects documenting a Jewish return to Germany. I especially enjoyed meeting Aaron Lucas, whose forthcoming documentary, I’ll Be Frank, traces his journey through the recorded and animated memories of his Opa who fled Germany in 1939. Aaron is one of the many third generation descendants of German Jews who have moved to Berlin, in his case from Sydney, Australia.
Although 2019 was marred by continuing reports of anti-Semitic incidents and far-right political gains in a number of German state elections, Berliners still turn out regularly in record numbers to oppose the forces of hate that seek to undo the democratic advances of the last 70 years. It’s disappointing that the sensationalised headlines that sow fear and evoke outrage are often followed by scant analysis, a theme I explored in my recent piece, How the Media Distorts Public Perceptions of anti-Semitism.
Each year we put our German passports to good use and are fortunate that the big kids still like to take family trips with us. My dream destination for 2020 is Ethiopia, our son Sam’s birthplace. But if Avery moves to Italy as planned and Olivia continues her studies in Scotland, we won’t be lacking for European getaways either.