Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - August 31, 2018
All grown up
When daughter Mariya was born, like any mom, I was simultaneously excited about watching her grow and worried whether I would be
up to the demands of motherhood. Those fears were amplified by the death of husband Jerome shortly after we learned I was pregnant.
But nature has a way of making you focus on what is important, and my attention was soon drawn to all those little milestones kids
go through. Sleeping through the night was a big one. Sitting on her own, eating with a spoon and babbling new words quickly followed.
I met future husband Art when Mariya was just starting to walk. Since he had two grown kids, he was able to quell some of my anxieties as the changes kept coming and the years rolled by.
Daughter Katie came along six years after Mariya was born. By then, I thought I was a pro at being a parent. In reality, we were probably just lucky as our greatest challenge was coaxing Mariya out of bed in the morning to get ready for school.
Our third child arrived almost fully-grown while Mariya was in her second year of college. Nadja was related to German friends and had wanted to spend her high school junior year in the United States. Of course, she wasn’t really our daughter, but we quickly took her into the family. We became her Mom 2 and Dad 2.
A couple of years later, we acquired a son. We met Tim through Nadja when he was about to enter college in Berlin. We shared many vacations together, but got to know him best when he lived with us during his six-month internship here in Manhattan.
All relationships are tested by the inevitable changes life brings, and perhaps no experience brings bigger changes than growing children. Art’s mom Donna often said she preferred her kids fully grown, so for her, each day of motherhood was a step toward an even better tomorrow. But I enjoyed those years when our two youngest girls were small as well as watching them, Nadja and Tim change from young adults to adults.
This summer seemed to symbolize that final step in a particularly dramatic way. Our trip to France and Germany was different because it was the first time in many years that we went without our younger girls. Mariya spent the summer working at the university and preparing for her upcoming wedding to fiancée Miriam, who started a new job at the university. They have also been making decorations for their Harry Potter-themed wedding, which will be tomorrow. Earlier in the summer, they painstakingly landscaped their yard, planting heat-tolerant bushes and flowers in various plots filled with gravel, wood chips and stepping stones.
Katie and her husband Matt moved to New Mexico, where he started a new job in information technology and she began graduate studies in anthropology and sociology. I had to laugh when she told me how much reading she’ll have to do. She’s always loved reading, but her current books are liberally sprinkled with Latin phrases, causing her to pause to look up their meanings.
So Art and I planned our Europe trip to be more leisurely-paced this year and to spend time with Nadja in Berlin and Tim in Potsdam.
Nadja, now almost 30, and her partner Matze are expecting their first child in October. We went shopping for baby clothes and spent some time wandering the streets of Berlin, seeing the cathedral, the city hall and the TV tower - all familiar sites from previous trips. They also took us to some shops near the Hackescher Markt we had never seen before. We also joined them at a family gathering at her sister Arlette and brother-in-law Matthias’s place on the River Spree east of Berlin. Arlette and Matthias’s three children, Nadja and Arlette’s mother Silvia and Matthias’s mother Bärbel rounded out the group. We first met Bärbel and Matthias in 1991, and they both have visited us here in Kansas, so we felt like part of their family. We chatted over coffee and tea and Arlette’s homemade marble cake. Later, we shared supper.
Parents get extensive family time in Germany, so Nadja is currently on leave from her work in public health while Matze works as an IT manager. Later, after the baby comes, she will at some point return to work and he will become the stay-at-home father for a time.
We visited Tim and partner Meike, who are already into that second step of parenthood. She had just returned to her computer design job while he was on leave from his engineering position at the airport to take care of their 1-year-old son Mats. Twice Tim brought Mats to the place we were staying and it was fun to see Tim negotiate the car seat, the stroller, the diaper bag and the other paraphernalia that comes with having a baby.
On the way, he bought several kinds of much-appreciated brötchen - a variety of rolls - for breakfast. We talked and ate, while Mats entertained himself with the pots and pans from the kitchen. We five spent one afternoon wandering Potsdam’s Neuer Garten, (“New Garden”) which is home to the Cecilienhof palace where U.S. President Harry Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin made plans for the post-World War II era.
Another day, we visited the home they will start renting in September. When we arrived, Tim was mowing the yard, Meike was watering the grass and Mats was helping with his own plastic watering can. Ah, signs of true domesticity!
It’s been fun seeing our kids adjust to life as adults. Yes, I still have moments when I think of some situation from the past and for a moment lament the loss of those earlier times. But it is sufficient compensation to witness them in their new roles. They’re all grown up now. I’m just not sure how it happened so quickly!
Top-left: Nadja and Matze enjoy lunch with Gloria and Art at an outdoor restaurant in Berlin's Hackescher Markt area; top-middle: Matt and Katie at home in New Mexico; Top-right: Miriam (left) and Mariya with their wedding gift from Nadja; bottom-left: Tim pushing Mats beside Meike and Art in the courtyard of the Cecilienhof palace; bottom-middle: (l-to-r) Arlette, Bärbel, Matthias, Silvia, and Arlette's and Matthias' children Leander and Kassandra having coffee and tea beside the Spree River; bottom-right: Mats helps with the watering at his and his parents' soon-to-be new home.