I have had a rather enjoyable time here thus far with my family in France. It is the first Christmas the family has spent together in three years! We were also here in France at that time, a little over a year after I graduated from my high school in Germany, just across the border from where my parents now. I give you fair warning for the long post ahead, dear readers.
I have to say that while I've been having a good time for the most part, it is more than a little odd to be all "living" under the same roof for a week. While it is nice to have the family in one place for the holiday, it doesn't give me all warm and fuzzy feelings but the realization that the time of being together as a unit is long over and can't happen naturally again. I think that because it seems unnatural, I have more of a tendency to feel pressure to "perform" or perhaps a better word is "restrain" in certain circumstances. That's rarely a pleasant behavior to enact. I have this desire that we could all relate to the place each of us are at in our lives and though I'm sure some families successfully navigate that process or make some semblance of that, it's seems impossible to do with those you left sometimes, especially when people treat each other as figures as they were in the past.
The past is something I always have to face when I visit with the family. This year is no exception. Last time I came it was my former alumni from high school; this time it is boxes. Twenty-some boxes of my life, from grade school onward. My parents want me to go through them and downsize all that I have in storage. They are full of papers mostly, personal and academic all jumbled together in a vague order. '98 in one box, '01 and '02 in the second, Biology, Statistics and Creative Writing in another. Sometimes it's not so simple and all kinds of writing falls out on my lap. Some of which are embarrassing, some cute, some useless now, and others...others I would care to forget. Then I realize that forgetting is the easy part, but there is a price in that some of what I wrote then stems from a world from anxiety and hurt. Writing regarding events or ideas that were certainly formative in making the man I am today, but that is too striking to read in the present. I was shocked to experience the feeling that I wish I never had to write certain things about family, for school or otherwise. Some things are better addressed than forgotten, regardless of how strong the drive is to move on. My mom turned to me at one point during my adventures in filing and in a light-hearted tone asked, "So, taking a trip down memory lane, huh?" I swallowed the lump in my throat and mumbled a non-committal reply. Sometimes memory lane is a dark and twisted alley. I've thrown out old math and german tests or the like, some history notes, but I've saved all my writing assignments, journals and drawings. Most of these will remain in boxes, but some I have to take back with me. I can't box them up again.
One of my favorite part of these days here may very well come at night when I can curl up on the couch with my yellow lab, Athena-how I've missed her- at my feet and touch my present life via the keys on my laptop.
That being said, today's trip to Lucerne, Switzerland was most pleasant and the weather cooperated marvelously-except for the temperature which was hovering above freezing with the wind chill. It is one of the most visited cities in Switzerland and for good reason. It is full of stunning architecture-castles, bridges, bell towers, monuments and stone walls. There's a great new vista behind every building. The bridge in the above photo is the oldest covered bridge in Europe. Being the day after Christmas, there were few people walking the streets. However, also being the day after Christmas, there were not many shops or restaurants open. We weren't going to the city for either particularly, so it was fine except when it came to eat. After looking up and down narrow streets, we found an open restaurant-a modern, sprawling three-floor McDonalds. As I said to my dad, menus at McDonalds do differ quite a bit around the world, so it was a cultural experience. I made up for it by having a vanilla Berliner post-"Chicken Mythic" sandwich. I'll share pictures of the whole trip as soon as I can gather them from the couple cameras we used. On our way back we cut across the German border and back into France with a great meal by Mom and a viewing of Iron Man with the family.
Tomorrow will be a quieter day for the most part. I will likely visit my old high school for a few photos along with my old dorm. I'll pick up a German pastry from the local bakery a few blocks from the campus. Tomorrow might also be the day I eat lunch at the best Turkish döner kebab in the world-no joke. In the evening, we will be having my dear, dear friend, professor, drama director and choir instructor, Michele, over for a dinner of Mom's homemade pizza! I'm very much looking forward to the good food and good company.