Ten hours ago, I was sitting in my recliner, scrolling through Postsecret.com and the phone rang.
Launching myself out of the chair, I whisper scurried into the kitchen, hoping that the soft, slightly slick soles (sorry for the alliteration) of my slippers wouldn’t make me fall. Pat was asleep; and, given he’s sick, I really didn’t want him to awaken to the sound of me crashing to the floor.
Caller-id confirmed my suspicions about the caller.
My parents. In Germany. Home.
I think the first words out of my mouth were, “I prayed you home.” Or something like that. Screw “Hello?”
I knew who was on the other side of the line. It was home calling me.
Mom’s voice bloomed over the thousands of miles that separated us. The joy in her voice was contagious and I couldn’t stop smiling as she narrated to me her exultation in getting off the main train in Garmisch, transferring to the red “Whisper Train” that is supposed to go all the way to Austria. With absolute joy, she talked about how happy she was pressing the button to inform the engineer/conductor that the train would need to stop in Grainau, at home.
My parents live probably a quarter of a mile from a tiny train station in Grainau, our hometown in Germany. Even now, even while I am listening to a bird warbling in the tree just down from my front porch, even now while I sit here on the Eastern Seaboard, I am emotionally home in Germany.
Mom talked about how the conductor checked out the window to ensure Mom and Dad had safely disembarked. He asked her if “Alles klar?”, if everything was clear. And Mom, being Mom, forgot about German punctuality and quickly went from giving the okay to talking about how happy she was to be home and how she had been in Florida for the last six months and on and on and on.
And the train conductor wished her well, welcomed her back home to Germany.
If I know the route my parents took, they would have walked past a train station that had a little kiosk inside it. The entire building would be about the size of my downstairs (living room, family room, kitchen with dining area, half-bath). Maybe 600 square feet.
They would have walked past the typical Bavarian homes, white plaster-stucco walls with gorgeous, colorful murals painted on them, generally of saints or animals or flowers. On the upper stories of the homes would be balconies on which flower boxes would be hung. And likely, the flower boxes are filled with brilliant, vibrant red flowers…begonias? Something like that.
At the end of the first road will be an old cigarette machine, something like a gum machine. I used to buy cigarettes there when I smoked twenty years ago. I thought I was being sneaky. I was just being dumb.
Cross the road, going parallel to the train tracks and then cross the train tracks.
Hotel Pension Gungl-Stuben. I fell in love with white asparagus covered in a cheese sauce there. Unfortunately the menu changed somewhere in the nineties and the white asparagus and cheese sauce disappeared. My taste buds are still mourning.
Mom and Dad would have turned right here, at this hotel/restaurant. They would have walked by the stone wall. They would have had to listen for the busses that drive along this thin street which really is wide enough only for the bus, nothing else. Mom and Dad would have walked past the woodsman’s house which looks more like a hut. The German concept of a house versus an American house is far different, the German house (at least this one) being MUCH smaller. Frankly, this might have been where Tiny-House Nation got its ideas.
A little farther. The big pine trees and the lattice-criss-crossed pine wood fence that borders home. A huge “house,” rather a structure about three stories high. A house with a long wing attached to it.
6 An der Wies
A metal gate that really doesn’t hold anyone back. A wide driveway with a long garage house in which everyone is able to keep their one car. The house holds at least ten apartments, possibly more. Mom and Dad are on the ground floor in the main building, towards the back.
Their back windows look out onto the mountains, the very mountains that are the main image for this website. For the home page. The anchor on every page.
This is home. And hearing Mom’s happiness as she described to me getting off the train brought me back home. I love my house. I love where I live. I love the fact that home is in the circle of my husband’s arms. I love that home is in my dying blue recliner.
I love that home is my mountain in West Virginia, or in the triangle of my tent.
I love that home is in a tiny town in Germany, where the cow bells remind me of the simple realities of life. I love that home is a place which doesn’t have a Wal Mart or a stop light or a McDonald’s. I love that home has more walking paths than streets and, if one listens really carefully, can hear the high-pitched, shrill whistle of the Zugspitzbahn as the train goes through the valley.
I love that Whisper Train pretty much goes through my backyard.
A year from now, I will go home. This might be my last time there with my parents. My father has been acting rather fatalistic recently. And I alternate between dismissing him and wondering if God is preparing me for the inevitable. Dad wants me to come home, alone. He wants to have one last jaunt around the European countryside with me. No Pat. No kids.
Just Mom and him and me. I fretted about this, talked about it with my sister-in-law, Kathy. Talked about it with Pat.
Pat said that I should honor my father’s wishes. I don’t know if Mom is really aware of Dad’s wishes. I guess we’ll figure it out once I get ready to buy a plane ticket.
But, for now, I’m going to start looking around for my silver shoes. Because the ruby slippers were only for the movie.
And I’m going to see if I can just tap my heels three times. Go home. Sit on the patio one more time and listen to the sound of train whistles and cow bells and church bell-chimes.