Monday, November 28, 2016

To stand where they stood and see what they saw.

In 1976, Randal (my biological father) was stationed in Mannheim, Germany for three years, being newlyweds, my Mama joined him overseas. Once the three years were up, Mama and I returned to Louisiana and have not been back since. Over the years Mama and I discussed returning to Germany, to see where I was born, but life sped by us. So you can imagine how thrilled I am to say that the Smith family will begin an expedition through a large chunk of Europe, in May 2017!
Me, Mama, and Randal
It's more than a family vacation, this is a pilgrimage to my birthplace, nearly 39 years in the making! It will be an important point in our family's history: a shining spot in Cheetah's memory of the summer he spent in Europe, with his parents (before he realized how dumb they are); and for us, a fantastic journey with our little boy (while he still enjoys our company).
Tarzan, Me, and Cheetah
We plan to visit Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria. We will explore Germany in two parts of our trip:  During the first stopover we will locate the historic site of the former Armed Forces Hospital (where I was born) and explore the city where we lived - Viernheim (the two places where we lived and the neighborhood we called home); and the second stopover will be to traverse some of the countryside and take part in the 403rd castle illumination in Heidelberg - our good friends will be accompanying us on this leg of the tour.
1st apartment (top 2 windows), American Armed Forces Hospital, and 2nd apartment.
I am excited to have the opportunity to show Cheetah part of the world and explore some of the most historic sites in Europe. As our itinerary continues to take shape, I am surprised by my mixture of emotions.
The basic route for our trip.
Being someone who believes in the healing powers of self exploration, I've longed to return to where my odyssey began in hopes to complete my origin story. I have spent years thinking that something in me will just "click" when I lay eyes upon the places that my Mama and Randal called home. To me, Germany is more than a country or home to a military base that beckoned two young newlyweds from Louisiana; it is a place that changed him, her, and my entire life.
Mama (and me!) in our Viernheim apartment
Germany was the site of a pivotal moment in the lives of 3 people; it is the place where promises were broken and hopes of better a tomorrow were created. I need to see where my Mama was sad, scared, and lonely. I need to see the scene where Randal decided it was too hard, where he was cruel, and where he gave up. But more than that, I need to see where my Mama was brave, strong, resilient, and happy. I need to find forgiveness, for the scars he left her with.
Me, Mama (Sheron), and Daddy (Freddy)
However, this IS just a place, a mere speck of dust in the grand scheme of her and my life but without these 3 years of our past, the truly fantastic life we have could have never been. Maybe seeing these places and finally returning to the beginning of it all will prove to be anticlimactic, that's why I know this is not a trip I should do alone. Someone needs to be there as a reminder that it isn't just the moments or places in my history that define me; and I know Tarzan and Cheetah can be that reminder for me. Going on this sojourn with them lessens the pressure of finding closure and creates an opportunity for them to see Germany through my eyes, understand how important this place is, and help me create new memories there.

1 comment:

  1. This was a beautiful entry. I am so excited for the whole Smith family!