Oct 072008

As I have written before, I went to a family reunion last weekend. I left here Thursday in the morning and came back on Sunday just in time to have dinner with my own family.

My father was the one to organize this, and I didn’t realize how much organization there was needed until I saw that there were 27 of us, who came from all corners of Germany, and that our days were nicely structured. I was a bit scared beforehand because I didn’t know anybody there, apart from my parents and me, that is.

On Thursday I was mightily proud of myself because I had everything packed the day before, and I left with time to spare, and I was calm and composed. It seems that in going in panic mode the week before I had gotten over it. The whole train ride was very pleasant, even changing trains went smoothly and uneventful. The only thing I didn’t like was that the table in the train was so small that when the woman sitting across from me put her laptop down there wasn’t any place left for me. I ended up squeezing my lace pattern under her computer cables, where it was hanging precariously. (And on my way back the same thing happened. First a guy with a laptop (who also kept his big luggage under the table so that I didn’t have any room for my feet), and then a woman with a big writing pad and a newspaper. Next time no table for me.)

The hotel we stayed in was about the ugliest hotel I’ve ever seen. (I won’t link to it here for obvious reasons.) The rooms though were big, and so sparsely decorated that they had a serene feeling.

After unpacking I went down to have dinner with the first bunch of relatives. Four of my father’s cousins with their respective spouses. I was surprised at how nice and kind everyone was. Through the whole weekend I felt blessed that these people on the whole are very friendly and warm, intelligent, and with a sense of humor. (I always had taken sense of humor for granted until I met a bunch of my mother-in-laws relatives. Somehow they just don’t get this whole laughing thing.)

The next day the reunion started in earnest and the remaining people arrived. We had lunch together, and then went for a guided tour of Wernigerode. The guide was not as funny as he thought he was, he played guessing games and gave away bonbons for correct answers but at least we got to see something of this really beautiful town. At one point in the tour the guide’s wife approached him saying, “Is this the second tour? When will you be home?” And he answered he’d be home at half past four but you could see that she didn’t believe him. At which point I gave up on ever being warm again.

On Friday evening we had dinner at the hotel, again, talked to each other, and saw part of a video about a historical play one of my father’s cousins has written about the town where my great-grandparents come from. It’s a bit weird to be related to so many people with a totally different dialect. A lot of these people are from Erzgebirge, that’s Saxony, another group came from Hamburg (you know about Hamburg, don’t you, no need to link this one), and the rest from various places around Germany, Hesse, Lower Saxony (totally different from Saxony, and in a completely different part of Germany), and then there was me, living in Bavaria. In viewing the film it was evident that quite a few people didn’t understand a word of it because the actors talked dialect, and two thirds of the audience didn’t understand a word. Interestingly I didn’t have much difficulties. Living in Bavaria for ages and having friends from all over the country obviously has trained me in understanding different dialects. Well, German ones at least.

There was another thing that had me wonderfully prepared, my father sent me an e-mail beforehand, explaining who was expected to come and whom they were related to. I took that out quite frequently to help all those conversations that went like, “And that is Fritz, I think, and he’s the son of the youngest daughter of my great-grandmother. And this is my grandmother, and the guy over there is my father,…” and so on.

There was only one other person in my age group, also a singing teacher, and also called Susanne who came with her son. Creepy, isn’t it? And our mothers have the same first names too. It would be even creepier if both the name Susanne and our mother’s name weren’t so common in our respective age groups.

It also seems that all of my paternal grandmother’s relatives like to sing. There was an episode on Saturday with spontaneous bursting into song. With harmony. Nice. Who would have thought.

It was really fun to look at all these faces and see their similarities, and differences. To see people in the hotel lobby whom you had never seen before in your life, look at them and think, “Oh yeah, she’s one of us, just look at her nose.”

On Saturday we took a steam train up to the Brocken, the highest mountain in that area. Sadly, it was a very foggy day but we were lucky, and just before we had to go down again the fog lifted and we could see a bit of the beautiful landscape.

On Saturday evening the hotel had a dancing party, and someone (might have been my father, also the hotel manager) thought it would be a good idea to attend. Well, the food there was the best I had in that hotel. (The food I ate in those four days had me longingly think about vegetables, and even salad by the second day. They did have salad, in a way, but it mostly consisted of cooked green beans and shredded carrots with sugary dressing.) But then there was a big woman telling jokes, interspersed with one of these unspeakable dance duos, you know the kind, a keyboard and a guitar, and one of them sings, and they play all the songs that I try to avoid as much as possible. And then the music is so loud that you can’t talk to anybody.

And so I excused myself just after dinner, went up to my room, knitted and read the latest Terry Pratchett. A very nice evening but I regret that there were some of my relatives that I haven’t spoken to.

Sunday morning I went back, this time the trains were a bit more crowded but not unpleasantly so.

I found that I really enjoy traveling alone. It was very relaxing to just do what I wanted when I wanted to without having to consult with anybody. It was nice to have my own quiet room. It’s also much easier when I only have to pack my own things without trying to cram my son’s stuff into the same backpack as well. It was lovely for a change but I also missed my family (you know, my son and husband) and was very happy to be back home.

As I’m writing this I’m still a bit tired and overwhelmed by my weekend, and I feel that this account is brittle and dry and doesn’t do it justice. Anyway it was decided then and there to meet again, in about two years at the place where my parents live. And I’m looking forward to it.

  4 Responses to “The Family Reunion”

  1. Because some of my relatives came, many, many years ago, from somewhere in Germany (yes, vague, I know, sorry, but I don’t know as much family history as I wish I did), I read this post with such pleasure, imagining that it is entirely possible that I am somehow (though ever so distantly) related to this great group of people. And I am fascinated by your account of the difference in dialects. I would have imagined that everybody in Germany could understand each other’s German, that the differences would be only a matter of accent. So glad you could meet so many family members.

  2. I think it sounds fabulous (not just the traveling alone part!).

    Many years ago there was a family reunion on my mother’s side. We all promised to do it again, but so far it hasn’t happened. No one wants to take on the big job your father did of organizing it.

    OK, maybe it is the traveling alone part I like. I’m so glad you had a good time.

  3. Your dad is a hero for organizing this. That’s a huge job. Sounds like an exceptional time.

  4. You’re so lucky that you liked your relatives! I went to an extended family reunion a few years ago, and I couldn’t believe how … well, to put it kindly, how unlike we were in terms of personality. We did all look the same, though!

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