Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 13, 2022
Taking a drive
When we three kids were kids, our folks would sometimes announce we were going for a drive. Sunday afternoon was a common time.
These spur-of-the-moment trips were somehow special and I think part of that was because they weren't purposeful. Usually when
we climbed into the car, the reason lay at the end of the trip - visiting relatives, friends or attending some school event.
But the purpose of a drive was just that - the drive.
Thinking about it now, it seems a bit strange how enjoyable something like that could be. After all, the fields and pastures of nearby farms or the sights in area villages were all things we had already seen many times. Yet it was somehow exhilarating to leave our familiar day-to-day situation at home for another that was almost equally familiar. Sometimes we'd encounter friends or stop for ice cream, but it wasn't necessary.
I had a sort of rerun of one of those long-ago drives about a week ago, but far from my childhood home.
And it began very differently. Two days before, daughter Mariya and wife Miriam took husband Art and me to the airport. We have often traveled with the goal of seeing this or that, adding visits with friends as time permitted. But this time, other than where we'd go and when, there were no plans. Seeing old friends we've come to regard as family, mixed with a change of scenery, was the aim.
Waiting to board a plane and taking to the skies was once a thrill in itself. Not so much now. And the woman across the aisle on our seven-hour journey to London didn't help. When she wasn't sleeping, she was trying to clear her very stuffy head or equally congested lungs. Even if it was only a common cold, it was not something I wanted for a travel companion.
Everything else went smoothly. By the time we touched down in Berlin, it was a bit past 8 p.m. We knew Matthias would have prepared things for us. We first met him when he was a lad of 19 and very curious about the Americans renting one of his mom's zimmers - rooms. Now Cassandra, his oldest, is that same age. While his "day job" involves working for the German federal government in public health, he has expanded his mother's rentals and lets us use one whenever we visit. Our little bungalow is nestled in the Brandenburg woods near the Petersdorfer See (lake). It was a welcome site when lit by the headlights of our rental car with night almost fully upon us.
Our late arrival had prompted Art to ask Matthias if he could get us some staples to carry us through the next morning. He had done a wonderful job, with a selection of cheeses, packaged meats, dark breads and various juices. A supper of liverwurst sandwiches washed down with a beer may not be to everyone's taste, but it hit the spot just before the twenty-plus hours of travel caught up with us. Since this was a trip without a timetable, unpacking could wait for tomorrow. By 11 p.m., sleep closed in.
It was 10 when we awoke. But rather than feeling tired, we were unexpectedly refreshed. We ate breakfast while fielding phone messages from our friends with the goal of organizing the next few days.
On past trips, the first order of business was to shop for groceries. But this wasn't one of those. So, instead, we decided to take a drive. The lush green fields intermixed with ones of brilliant yellow rape we had seen from the plane windows were calling this farmer's daughter.
We headed north through Furstenwalde, checking that our favorite grocery store had survived the pandemic. Then it was off through the fields of Brandenburg.
My first visit to Germany was in 1989 and that was in what was then called West Germany. I loved the differences with home - not better or worse - just different. There was a newness to things, probably born of the fact that everything was rebuilt after the war. Some places, like Frankfurt, had built in a modern style, while Nuremberg and others chose the traditional German architecture. So it was a shock in 1991 when we had the opportunity to travel in the former East Germany. It was like stepping back a century. The villages were literally in black and white from the soft coal burned for heating. Men were plowing some fields with horses.
But now in the east there is a wonderful blending of old and new. East Germany had been the country's traditional bread basket and still today is almost all small villages and farms - the kind of place a small-town Kansas farm girl can feel very comfortable, yet also be intrigued and uplifted by the differences.
By late afternoon, we arrived at Nadja and Matze's place, one they bought this past year - their first home. It is hard to believe it was 17 years ago she came to us as an exchange student and now has a husband and a young boy and girl.
After catching up and taking a tour of their home, we decided to head back to our place to let them settle down to dinner. But part way home, Art suggested we head over and surprise Tim and Meike. We met him through Nadja and have known him almost as long. Tim had lived with us while working a six-month internship at our local airport. Now, he and Meike have two boys.
Our surprise visit held a surprise for us as well. The Saturday birthday party for one of their boys had been rescheduled to that night because Meike's parents had a trip Saturday. Our "quick" hello became a two-hour visit!
Our afternoon drive had shared much with those of so many years ago. Familiar things, yet different from the day-to-day, had been mixed with an unexpected twist. It had all combined for a thoroughly enjoyable time.
Top: one of the many fields of yellow rape. The plant is a major source of cooking oil and in the United States the oil is called Canola. Bottom (l-r): Art standing on the patio of Matthias' bungalow; Gloria enjoying an afternoon tea on the patio; Tim speaks with son Mats; Meike holding son Timo; Nadja holding daughter Luna while son Leo holds her hand. Art has his arm around Matze.