Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Wednesday ...

Today I am nearly spent. I don’t know if I can keep this up each and every day, writing about my life about the minutiae that fill the moments between posts. Yet I am drawn to the keyboard like a moth to hot light, so let it destroy me if it will, I will continue until I am completely spent.

As I write this I can hear His Holiness wailing at his poor mother in the other end of the apartment. He is so tired. We started the day early, with a subway ride to the Dom, then several walk-throughs of the Romisch-Germanisches Museum looking for “big” statues, a round-trip ride on the silly green railroad that runs from the Dom to the Chocolate Museum, then back home for lunch followed by NO NAP! I wasn’t going to tie him to his bed … so we went out again, ran some errands and ended up back at the playground we discovered yesterday.

I met some quite interesting people there today, mothers and fathers with children the same age as HH … One couple was particularly interesting, mainly because they were clearly having an affair, and a fresh one I think, given the deep touching that was going on. I’m sort of a prude in that regard – I don’t have a huge problem with the random sex thing – but I suggest getting a room, don’t do it in front of the kids.

We talked and watched the children play then retreated to one of the local cafés where we continued our conversations while the children ran through the café without appearing to annoy anyone. I am still the classic Manhattan father certain that at any moment a bandit will attempt to take HH from me, or that he will so disturb the serenity of the other café habitués that we will be asked to leave by the management. So I ended up chasing him around the café and probably causing much more of a disturbance than his slight rugrat presence ever could.

Today’s conversation was much like others I’ve had recently. People stare at me with an odd look when I tell them I’m from New York City … they politely inquire about the circumstances of my move while behind their eyes I can hear them wondering loudly WHY DID YOU EVER LEAVE NY FOR GERMANY?? I wonder if I should just say I had some trouble with the law and let them stew on that for a while … rather than go into the whole “quality of life / red state-blue state America is at war with itself” rationale. The thing that really bothers me about their question is that they display such contempt for their own country. I am beginning to wonder if there is in fact something horrible lurking in the shadows, some legion of wandering exhibitionists or junkies, waiting to spring out onto the sidewalks and insult my senses once the weather warms up. Or maybe it’s something much more subtle that I just haven’t the cultural sensitivity skills yet to pick up – that’s what scares me.

Disease and Discovery ...

January 4, 2006

German classes are officially postponed for the time being. Arrangements had been made for His Holiness to attend a local kindergarten, afternoons beginning this week, while I resumed my studies. I’d never seen the place but had been assured it was just fine, well appointed and clean. I must confess at the outset that I have been called “fussy” by some who love me. I’m one of those who is either blessed or cursed, depending on your POV, with an over-sensitive sinus. There is a profession, or rather a calling, in which people do nothing but sample smells … everything from “new car” (yes, that smell is a product) to the latest perfume … the people who practice this art are called “noses” and although I am not a professional “nose” I am fully equipped for the role.
It was my nose that first signaled a problem at this kindergarten; a musty, old diaper, lack of fresh circulating air aroma welcomed me when I entered the room. That in itself was nearly enough for me to reverse course, but it was the deep, raspy, hacking cough from a dark corner at the rear of the room that sent chills down my spine. HH had already crawled out of the stroller and was shedding layers of clothing, so eager was he to be with humans his own age. Those other humans unfortunately were very sick – all of them – runny noses, watery red eyes, coughs of varying degrees of intensity and pitch … So I made a decision, in that instant and swept him into my arms, folded him back into the stroller, fumbled for his jacket and hat and told the supervisor, in my most humble broken German, that I didn’t think today was the best day to begin attending school … that we would be back next week when the other children recovered from whatever it was they were infected with … She tried to assure me that it was all normal, that I should expect him to be ill for the next year or two, that she had been ill since she started working there and that the children just reinfected each other constantly and that was to be expected. I know that nursery schools and kindergartens are breeding grounds for simple childhood illnesses – HH attended school in New York and has had his share of the stuff that goes around … but I wouldn’t leave my pet snake in this kindergarten, much less my one and only son.
So that was that – and afternoon German classes are temporarily postponed. Instead HH and I are off to discover Köln … Each day I plan to widen the circle of our travels a bit more, take in the usual tourist sites in the dead of winter while we can have them pretty much to ourselves. Yesterday in our travels we found a beautiful and previously unknown playground with a log cabin and swings and all sorts of other things … We encountered a group of children from another local kindergarten (all remarkably free of obvious life-threatening illness) and HH was welcomed with open, chalk-covered arms into the group. Even the teachers included him in the playing. I was a little sad for him when the other children were pilled up into their carriage and carted back to school. He stood there watching them go, all small and solitary in that large empty plaza … then he turned to me and laughed, pointed to the swing and started running for it, and we were off again …