Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Finally: the reason we went to Germany! My friend Peggy and I met when my son Lukas and her son Florian were toddlers, probably in 2003 or 2004. She's originally from eastern Germany, which was still the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik: German Democratic Republic, and anything but democratic, and from the point of view of West Germany, occupied territory) at the time. She moved to the west after the fall of Communism and has come a loooong way in rebuilding her life. Peggy and Florian have visited us three times in Cyprus, and after her nightly two-hour phone calls with "just a friend" during her last visit here, we were not particularly surprised to hear of their engagement!

Before we left the H family's house, we got Barbara to take a photo of all eight of us together, dressed up and with someplace to go:

We do technically own an iron here in Cyprus, we even bought it ourselves, so that I could iron the t-shirts that the children made at a holiday club in 2009, to set the colors. (Never mind that I ironed them the day before the holiday club in 2010.) That is, to date, the only time I have used that iron, and it stays in the guest flat. Most of our clothes for the wedding did need ironing, but Barbara has a very fancy, special iron, which she wouldn't let me use. It did not make me sad in the slightest that she ironed everything for me. Admire those wrinkle-less clothes--they only appear for weddings. (I ironed our clothes for my brother's wedding in 2009 and my sister's wedding in 2010, too, so it's not that I NEVER iron...)

Lukas was VERY excited to wear a suit and tie, still being sad that he hadn't gotten to keep the tuxedo that had been rented for my sister's wedding. We got most of the pieces at the thrift store, but did have to buy the shoes new, since Lukas refused to wear tennis shoes. (Florian wore tennis shoes, though!)

A blurry photo of the procession into the church, Florian and Lukas with the flowers, followed by Peggy and Hannu.

The church had pews on three sides, the middle ones facing the front and the ones on the two sides facing each other. We sat in the front pew on one side, so had the absolute best view of the bridal pair, as well as of the Blumenkinder. Which was quite...interesting. Lukas totally rose to the occasion and behaved flawlessly for the entire hour, even while Florian was being a bit more of a typical nine-year-old boy...

Helen fell asleep against Jacob.

Marie (wearing the dress she'd gotten for my sister's wedding), Phil and Margaret Daniell, and a sleeping Elisabeth on my shoulder.

Katie was extremely impressed with the horse and carriage.

As we drove from the church where the wedding was to the church where the cake reception was, Jörn took a photo of the horses in his rear-view mirror.

M & M's with Peggy and Hannu's names on them were scattered on all of the tables. As the reception wound down, Lukas got permission (not from us...) to go around and collect all the M & M's that hadn't been eaten yet. We probably brought home close about 500 grams of them.

The official "wedding cake" had six different cakes (the bottom one isn't visible in this photo) on a stand, and there was also a cake buffet with many more. Everything I tasted (didn't count how many...) was scrumptious. Germans really know how to do cake.

Lukas and Florian.

After the cake reception, about 40 of us went to yet another location for the evening dinner and dancing. Lukas danced nearly the entire three hours between dinner and when we left, mostly with Katie, but grabbing any other partner he could when she took breaks, or just dancing by himself when he couldn't get anyone to dance with him. I have a great video of Lukas dancing with Katie, which I keep meaning to post on Facebook, and here's a photo of him dancing with Helen.

Helen's shoes, which we found in the too-big-for-Helen things right before we left, started to come apart during the reception. Jacob whipped out his trusty roll of duct tape and repaired them. (No, I do not know why he took duct tape with him to a wedding. But I'm glad he did.)

Peggy and Hannu. :-)

Nobody took any photos of Jörn and me dancing, but here's a nice blurry one of Marie with Jörn. Her dress is actually bright turquoise (with a black sweater over it), I don't know why it looks so dark here.

Elisabeth, my only non-party-animal, wanted to go to bed. She kept asking to go out, to go to bed, go to sleep. She finally fell asleep anyway, without a bed, and I put her on these chairs.

Helen sharing a special moment dancing with Jörn.

Peggy and Hannu danced the official first dance, and just after that a few other people joined in for one or two songs, but for the vast majority of the evening, it was only Langes on the dance floor, sometimes up to seven of us. (Jacob was the only one who wouldn't dance.) We had a great time and were sorry to leave before the party was over, but both of us had to drive (we had two cars), and we knew we had to get up early-ish the next morning, so we left at 11:30.

...two more days in Germany...

On May 3rd, I did say it might take me until June to actually post about the wedding, but I hadn't really meant to take that long...and now it's June 13th! Oops. And I may or may not get to the wedding today, because I tend to be a bit OCD about chronology, so have to finish up the two days before the wedding first...

So...going back to April once again, our third full day in Germany was Thursday, the 19th. At some impossible hour of the morning, Elisabeth and I left, taking a couple of trains and a bus to get to Ratingen for Elisabeth's two-year-old check-up. While the well-baby/well-child check-ups ARE now compulsory for people living in Germany, we can get excused from them because of not living there full-time (although we still have our residency there), but we receive notifications for every one as it comes due, and then warnings that a social worker will visit us (really? here in Cyprus?) if we don't respond by such-and-such date. It's not a big deal, but I don't mind the check-ups, and so when I can make them happen while we're in Germany, I do. As I have been told at EVERY single U7 (the two-year-old check-up), this particular one is known as the "screaming check-up", as two-year-olds have such a reputation for not being cooperative. However, with most of my children, I've been told that by a very surprised nurse or doctor, because most of my children thought the whole thing was very interesting and cooperated very well. Elisabeth, however, was quite into the two-year-old thing, and it wasn't a great experience for either of us.

I ran a few errands in Ratingen, got the bus back to the airport, two (or three?) trains back to Hamminkeln, and arrived just in time for lunch with my brother-in-law and his wife, who had taken time off of work to drive the three hours one-way to spend an afternoon with us. Didn't get any great photos, but here are a few.

Tante Claudia with Katie, who just happens (truly, it wasn't planned!) to be wearing a dress that Lars and Claudia gave to Marie when she was six or so.

Not sure what Katie is doing to Onkel Lars here, but he was laughing...

Just before Lars and Claudia left, Lars decided to show the boys how to do a hand-stand against a wall. He didn't notice the clotheslines hanging up and broke one with his feet...

Thursday night Jörn took the train to Düsseldorf to pick up the car that the C family was lending us for the weekend, and Friday morning E from Globe Europe took me into Wesel to pick up a rental car. I also took Marie, Katie, and Elisabeth with me. While I went to my doctor's appointment (routine check-up, no, I am NOT pregnant), Jörn took the other three children with him to take Lukas to his orthodontist appointment, also in Mülheim. Jörn's Cypriot telephone doesn't work in Germany for some reason (mine, a cheaper one, does), so we had no way to contact each other, just agreed to meet up at 1:00 at the house of friends in the north part of Essen.

I was finished with plenty of time to spare, and as we were driving past the ´main city cemetery anyway, I stopped there. Neither Marie nor Katie wanted to get out, so they stayed in the car reading, while Elisabeth and I went to the "Sternenfeld"--the place where babies under 500 grams are buried. I'd only been back there one time after the funeral for our son in 2007 and surprised myself with walking straight there, taking all the right turns without even thinking. The graves are unmarked, but the area is marked off, with a statue in the middle where people can put flowers and such, if they want. (Which I don't.) I took the photo first, then walked closer...and realized that there was going to be a burial that morning, possibly any minute. The funerals are only twice a year, once in April and once in October, always on a Friday morning, and this was exactly five years and three days after our own baby's birth, five years to the day after that year's April funeral. Because of tests that were run on our baby (because of that being my third miscarriage), we just missed being able to participate in the next funeral and had actually had to wait until October ourselves, but I hadn't forgotten the date. For no reason that I can explain, I did want to see the burial area again, but I did not want to meet the funeral procession coming from the chapel, most definitely did not want to see that tiny, tiny coffin containing all of the miscarried and aborted babies born in Mülheim since October. Nor did I think that any of the parents who might be there would be really happy to see me with Elisabeth, so I hurried away.

A more cheerful sight on the way to the Autobahn: a field of daffodils.

We all met up at Thomas and Caro's house with no problem and had a wonderful few hours with them and their two gorgeous daughters, with whom my own daughters immediately ran off to play princesses and lots of pink and girly things. Elisabeth enjoyed riding on this quadracycle:

We took several nice photos, but I try not to post photos of other peoples' children without their express permission.

From Essen, the four youngest children and I headed back to Mülheim for Mutter-Kind-Kreis ("mother-child-circle", a playgroup for children up to about age 6, which I was part of from when Marie and Jacob were four and two), where I thoroughly enjoyed seeing lots of old friends. Lukas participated in the Jungschar group (a sort of junior youth group, ages 6ish to 12ish), excited to see Florian, and I got to see Peggy briefly and meet Hannu, as they were setting up for the wedding reception the following day. In the meantime, Jörn and the other children went to the H family's house in Oberhausen, where we met up with them after Mutter-Kind-Kreis.

One measly photo, of Andrea playing with Helen:
Andrea's mother, Barbara, runs another playgroup (for children under three), which I was also part of from when Marie and Jacob were four and two, so I've known Andrea since she was eight years old and Barbara and I became good friends. She took care of the three oldest children while Katie was being born, was the person we could call at 3:00 a.m. to take all four children when I had my last miscarriage, babysat at other random times, and spent many hours packing and cleaning our flat before we left Germany. I tutored Andrea in English for a little while (I think when Katie was a baby), Barbara and Andrea visited us in spring 2010, and Andrea came and stayed with us in Cyprus for almost six months in 2010/2011, while she volunteered in a nursing home here. She and her cousin visited again in autumn 2011. She's now studying to be a nurse, and most exciting of all for us, she's here in Cyprus with us right now for 11 days. :-)

We spent the night at their house (also briefly getting to see Barbara's husband and her son, Nils), and that makes this post quite long enough.