Posted by on Feb 14, 2012 in Adventures in Germany, Family, Family Traditions, Gratitude, Life Philosophy, Personal, Travel, Valentine Tea, Valentine's Day | 5 comments

“Not necessarily better or worse,
just different.”
~ me

It’s Valentine’s Day.

It’s Valentine’s Day, but it doesn’t f e e l like Valentine’s Day, and in fact, little feels like it always has.  Gone is routine.  Familiarity vanished.

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Try to imagine landing in a place where e v e r y t h i n g is new.  You’re seeing people, places and things for the first time ~ all the time ~ so there are no touchstones, no landmarks, to remind you of where you are.

Except you know where you are, but that’s about all you have to hold onto.

Well, that, and GPS, God’s greatest invention for Me-and-My-People who can’t find our way out of a bucket.

The converse side of all that is people are people, places are places, and things are things–not better or worse, just different.  So in that sense, all these new things ARE familiar. 

And, this, my friends, is why my husband would tell you I’m complicated. 

It’s Valentine’s Day and it’s snowing...a first for this ol’ Southern gal who still has a few Michael Simon heart-embellished sweaters in her closet.  Back home.

For 16 years, I’ve co-hosted a Valentine Tea Party with my mother-in-law, Sarah, and daughter.  What began as a timid suggestion by Sarah has flourished into cherished tradition for the women in my family and a few close friends. 

Five thousand miles Almost eight thousand kilometers between us makes this year’s Valentine Tea an ImpossibiliTea.  And this, this of all things, is my first taste of homesick.  Bitter on tongue’s tip.  Ache in my heart.

Distance between Chattanooga and Burghausen, Bavaria (Germany)
For me, Valentine’s Day isn’t roses and romance (though we usually go out for or cook a candlelight dinner); instead, it’s a day to candy and treat my children, and to celebrate the women in our family…three generations strong

We brunch.  We eat off my mother-in-law’s delicate fine china, pink Depression glass and gorgeous sterling silver.  We tell stories.  We laugh.  We listen.  We hear.  We “please” and “thank you” and restrain ourselves from licking our plates clean, because manners matter no matter how good the raspberry mousse is this year.  I mean that year.  We’d exchange surcie’s ~ little love gifts ~ and some of us have been known to clap approval and squeal with delight.  ~smile~

S i g h.

I can’t seem to crack time’s code.  Monday, Tuesday, Friday–does it matter?  Not really.  My laptop clock remains set on Eastern Standard Time; it orients me to what my children might be doing without having mentally to calculate the difference.  The wall clock strikes Bavarian time, orienting me here

Because here is where I am.

So, today no Valentine Tea tradition.  Instead, we’ll practice hospitaliTy to strangers–we’ve invited three young work associates of Tad’s for dinner; translators from America and Great Britain and a German intern. 

People around a table, talking, listening, and hopefully laughing.

See?  Not necessarily better or worse than my 16-year Valentine’s tradition.  Just different.

I’m beyond thankful to be able to say I love being here; Skype, Facebook, emails and Twitter keep me connected to family and friends back home and allow me to SEE and talk to my babies.  I even like the challenge of living outside my comfort zone.  But, still, my steps have an uneasy traction, sliding on ice instead of skating on steel blades.  And the language barrier–I feel like I’m living in the shadow of Babel’s half-built tower(Though I should add many Germans speak at least a little English and everyone I’ve met has been gracious to extend kindness not condemnation when I shyly stumble over my words.)

It’s 14:00 CET (Central European Time) on Valentine’s Day and snow has been falling for almost seven hours; I think the highest temperature we’ve seen since arriving two weeks ago is -4°C (25°F), and the snow hadn’t yet melted from last week!  In less than three hours my husband will ride his bike home from work.

Believe it or not, he’ll likely say about that, “It’s different but better.”

blink blink.

* * * * *

In April, I’ll head back to the States; in May we’ll have a mother-daughter tea with our family’s newest addition, Miss Abigail.  Our Valentine tradition will move into Spring (at least this year), and again we’ll circle around a table with everything that’s necessary.

Not necessarily better or worse, just different.

Which I’m beginning to see is more than fine.