Sunday, September 18, 2011

Leaving Home, Finding Home

In just a week, Mary leaves to be a teacher's assistant in Brittany, France for the academic year.  In the autumn of the year I graduated from college, I also made a significant trip to Europe. Recently, I found a notebook from that trip and I was struck by how much that I wrote then, still rings true today.  In fact, many of the dreams for my life that were developed and articulated during that time away from home, have come true and sound rather like this blog!
 Though the timing of this trip in Mary's life is similar to the timing of my trip to Murnau, Germany to learn German at the Goethe Institut; there is a huge difference between our preparation for such a trip.  Mary is a seasoned traveler and a very enthusiastic one.  She has already been to Europe earlier this summer! Mary was eight years old when we made a trip to Europe as a family. We visited Manchester, England where David and I spent five months in 1985. Mary and Jacob met children from around the world who were also staying in the university flats that summer.  Mary has also studied French since she was ten years old because we had the good fortune to have a lovely French woman move into our neighborhood and begin teaching French. Mary has made trips to Spain, and France with school/college groups and we took wonderful trips with the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra to Italy and Central Europe. When Mary chose a college, it was four states and one-thousand miles away. She  drove herself.

   My situation back in 1977 was a little different.  I did not know any German. As a student of art history, it was a good idea to learn German, as the German's invented art history! So that was my purpose for the trip.  At that point in my life, I had not even traveled outside the state on my own, much less across the ocean.  I was terrified!  My brother Doug and sister-in-law Becky took the shuttle from Boston to New York to see me off.  I was so scared I could not fully appreciate this act of kindness. My flight was from New York to Frankfurt, but the only time I slept was when there was turbulence (I like flying!) This was right after the l976 Munich Olympics and the attacks on the Israeli team. Germany was on high alert.  For some reason, we were not able to go straight to Frankfurt and had to land in Cologne.  The flight then when on to Frankfurt.  The same plane was supposed to go on to Munich, but we had to switch planes for some reason and we had 20 minutes to get to this new flight with our luggage and go through customs. Some how I made it.  In Munich, I managed to make my way to the rail station and obtain a ticket to travel to Murnau, although the communication was not via spoken language! On the way to Murnau, a little town nestled up to the mighty Alps, we made a number of stops and the landscape was as foreign as the language to me. Trees were completely different. This was wonderful!  At Murnau, it was as if I were deposited in a cow pasture (which doesn't seem like such a bad thing now.)  I found a place to spend the night and I'll never forget the sound of the cars on the narrow roads bounded by buildings right along the main thoroughfare.  Now our cars in the US sound very much the same and the sound I hear on my street in Lexington is not unlike the sound on the Mainstrasse in Murnau. The next day, I registered at school and landed at my new home for the next two months.  In my little room with my Italian roommate who spoke no English (and I no Italian) accompanied only by the possessions that could fit in one modest suitcase, I learned what I wanted in life. I wrote that in my little book and when I re-read it just recently, thirty-four years later, it was still true! Perhaps, ironically, it was/is all about home.  Sometimes you have to travel far away to see home clearly.

     Mary has already had these experiences of traveling far, on her own and with just a few possessions.  Still, I hope that she makes some new discoveries about what she wants in life.  And I hope they come true, too!

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