Memories of Childhood—Kindheitserinnerungen
By Barbara Jacoby
It’s a chilly morning in February and the jet lag is keeping me from sleeping. My daughter and I have just arrived at my childhood home yesterday from a long flight across the Atlantic all the way to Germany. I live in the new world now with my husband and two adult children—far away from the place that I call home. Germany is my home country where I gave birth to my children and met my husband. Last night was restless due to the long journey and the excitement of finally being home again, back to those beautiful memories.
I slip into my house shoes
Since the neighbor’s rooster decided that it was time to wake up, I quietly slipped into my house shoes and my bathrobe. I go downstairs—hoping that no one would hear me and that I could have a bit of time to myself before my daughter and my mom wake up. I make myself a cup of coffee and sit in one of the big wooden chairs on the balcony—overlooking the small village where I grew up.
Not much has changed since I left home all those years ago—the wooden chairs with the green pillows on the balcony are still the same and the village seems almost unchanged since I was a kid. I used to play often on the balcony as a child. I sat here as a teenager, hung out with friends and, as an adult, with my parents.
Later after my dad passed away, I often sat here with my mom—talking about everything but really nothing much or just sat quietly, enjoying the peaceful view overlooking my hometown.
Nestled in a small valley
Flussbach—a small village between the Eifel area and the Mosel valley, nestled in a small valley surrounded by lush green from the meadows and the forest. The village had about 350 residents at the time I grew up there. Not much has changed. Now there are maybe 80 families, all connected in some way or another whether it be a brief connection, a sad history, a long-running friendship, or just thanks to them living in the same little village. Flußbach was—still is—the most perfect place for a child to grow up in but for teenagers the most boring town you can imagine. At least that’s what it felt like for me.
The winter sun slowly burns away the fog
The village is still asleep—besides the rooster who really seems to want to be heard by every last person. The two sheep in the pasture next to my mom’s house are finally joining in on the concert—Blacky and Checky. At least those are the names my mom gave them when they moved next door last summer.
The winter sun slowly burns away the fog that is lingering over the white houses of the village. I see cows graze in the distance and hear birds singing together in harmony. The air is fresh and crisp and the weather forecast is right for once with their prediction when they said earlier that it would be a sunny day with low temperatures. Back in California we would probably complain about the freezing weather but being back home in Germany, a dry, sunny day in February is a lucky day.
I smell the smoke from the chimneys and can see it flow through the wind. My heart is happy that I am finally home again, even if it is only for a short week. In a couple of days it will be my grandma’s 100th birthday and my family will come together to celebrate this special day with her.
This makes any grandma complete
My grandma is very dear to me. As a kid I loved to go visit her. She usually sat in the kitchen, knitting or crocheting. She made us kids food when we were hungry and I remember her drying my pants over the wood fired oven, wet from playing in the snow all day. She usually wore a blue apron with little white flowers and her silver hair was neatly put together in a bun. She was a bit on the heavier side, and I still think today that this makes any grandma complete.
I have so many precious memories of my childhood and recall the countless winter days sledding down the hills with my friends. Our favorite spot to go sledding was the road where my grandma used to live on. She passed away a couple of months after her big birthday.
Sledding on our Tummies
Almost every afternoon us kids from the village met in the street where my grandma used to live—regardless of age—everyone played with everyone. Of course, sometimes the bigger kids didn’t want to let us play but my friends and I played with them anyway. Boy they must have been so annoyed with us! We usually laid down on the sleds on our tummies, feet latched onto the sled behind us and sped down the road, pretending to be a train and—of course—invincible.
I remember the adrenaline rush and the pure joy while on our way down the hill. The neighbors were often annoyed by us kids because we made the streets so slick with our sleds. Thinking back, I wonder how on earth we managed not to get hurt. We managed somehow—winter after winter—until we thought we were too mature to go sledding down that hill. Looking back I think about how lucky we were, growing up in such a safe, kid friendly environment.
Sipping my coffee
While sipping my coffee, I look at all the houses, thinking of the families that still live there today as they did when I was growing up. Many of my former classmates and friends have now built their own houses in the village—often next door to their parents’ home. I remember the time when I played with my friends in the tiny forest that used to be the center of our town. Tiny enough for our parents not having to worry about us but big enough for my friends and I to go on an adventure.
I revisit these enchanted places in my thoughts, remembering how my friends and I collected flower petals to build a small carpet for our imaginary house built out of branches that we found. We used to play there for hours and got lost in our own world. That’s the place where my pants got ripped and dirty from mud and when I got that look from my mom who couldn’t help but smile.
An unlocked hunters cabin
Looking at the meadows on the hills, I recall the afternoons when my best friend and I played in an unlocked hunter cabin—not knowing if we were allowed to be in there or not. Either way we were not too worried about it until suddenly someone drove by with his car. We didn’t really do any harm but knew that it would be better not to be seen. I remember that we ran as fast as we could downhill through the high grass of the meadows, just hoping to stay undetected.
The grass was as high as our legs were long. Suddenly, our feet seemed to get ahead of us, resulting in us tumbling down the hill and coming in a halt in my parents backyard.
Memories of an adventure
We did not tell our parents what happened – we didn’t want to get in any trouble but I remember that this adventure was the topic of my essay in school, where I had to write about my greatest adventure during summer break. Yes, there wasn’t much going on in my hometown but for us kids it was everything.
The town is slowly awakening
When my mom joined me on the balcony, wondering why I was up already, I realized that my feet and hands are stiff from the cold. It was February after all and the winter sun did not warm up the air enough to sit outside for as long as I did. Music was playing from the kitchen. My mom’s first task when she gets up in the morning. The sun piercing through the morning fog, familiar sounds filling the air. The town is slowly awakening.
My mom takes a seat in the chair next to me and I see her smile. A smile that I have not seen for way too long. The air was chilly, the last sip of my coffee cold. But I still felt warm and so at peace. I was home, finally! Making more precious memories for the years to come. A fun week lies ahead of me – some bonding time with my family and childhood friends of mine. I think to myself, home certainly is the best place in the world. All the memories that we cherish in our hearts, good and bad, make us the person that we are today. It’s good to be home.
Die Heimat ist der schönste Ort, den es auf der Welt gibt. All die guten und weniger guten Erinnerungen, die wir in unserem Herzen tragen, machen uns zu der Person, die wir heute sind. Es ist schön, daheim zu sein.
Home is the most beautiful place there is in the world. Having the good and bad memories that we carry in our hearts make us who we are today. It feels good to be home.
Barbara Jacoby is a German native who moved to California with her husband and two kids nineteen years ago. The Bay Area was supposed to be a short term adventure. Now it is home to her and her family.
Back in Germany, Barbara was employed by the German Government for many years and before her move across the Atlantic she worked at the Lawyer department of a Medical Association. Traveling, photography, music, nature, visual arts are some of the things that she enjoys doing when not teaching her mother tongue at a language school for children.
In her spare time Barbara works on creating a safe space for children where they can live out their creativity while working on meaningful art projects. Another focus is to learn about important life values such as compassion, kindness, curiosity, honesty, courage – just to name a few and how to implement those values into their daily lives. Learning techniques on how to stay calm and balanced through art when their young lives get busy is another cornerstone of Barbara.
Some of Barbara’s art projects can be found on her Instagram account @creativeyourbalance.