A year ago today, I woke up in Germany for the first time. If I close my eyes, and tune out Sting on the stereo, I can still picture that morning.
We had arrived at our hotel in Andernach quite late. I remember standing at the window the next morning looking over the biergarten below our room and admiring the age of the stone gate across the road. The light was golden in an early fall sort of way, gilding my nervousness for this adventure with a fierce excitement. Despite the long day of travel and the bewilderment of a foreign language in a strange land, or maybe because of that, I bordered on giddy. It shows, I think, in the pictures Ian took of me that morning.
That morning feels so long ago; so much has happened since then. Yet, somehow, it seems as if I should have more to show for this past year. There were three months of apartment living in Bad Neuenahr, followed by three months of castle living in Rheineck. We brainstormed reams of ideas for a company still in its infancy and crawled our way through the entire castle listing out all the items that needed attention: light fixtures to replace, hallways that smelled of swamp gas, walls that had lost their grip on the plaster. I went through the building again to determine its actual square meterage.
We then spent two months wandering Europe. Two notebooks, 50 rolls of film, a bottle of limoncello, and two prints by Subirachs later, we returned to the States. The first months back saw us moving around constantly before finally landing in our own apartment in San Francisco: Seattle, Boulder Creek, Oakland, four suitcases, three backpacks, and the two of us. There was the trip to Santa Barbara to fetch our stuff from storage, then the joys and frustrations of moving into our very own space. We no longer wake up wondering, “Is this the day they’ll tell us to move?”
My sister got married; Ian’s sister came to visit for week. My father continued to decline; we said a final farewell to Ian’s mother. We have readjusted to the sheer size of the most ordinary of American streets and the general shoddiness of American public transportation systems. I have a hard time remembering I can turn right at a red light. (It’s illegal in Europe.) I miss pedestrian culture and riotous flower boxes and Italian style ice-cream.
It seems so slim. I can sum up an entire year in three paragraphs. But there was so much while it was happening that if all I have is three paragraphs, surely I must have forgotten something. What becomes of the little details that add that soft patina to my memories? The butter cookies served with Killybegs’ Irish coffee? The ducks that spent a frigid winter stubbornly diving in the swollen Ahr? The halo behind the mountains as the sun sets on the Lake District? The almost-smile my dad wore when he danced with my sister on her wedding day? How do I measure these?