It was a great weekend, spending time with the Schulzes, and Maria and I even got to visit my host grandmother, Oma Christa, at her retirement facility. The weekend involved lots of reminiscing about my year with the family. It was a comfort and pleasure to discover that lots of things are the same, even after twelve years of water under the bridge and numerous life-changing events. The Schulzes are as friendly and fun-loving as they were. The candy and chocolate are still stashed in the same living room cabinet, despite being in a different house. Oma Christa's bright, mirthful eyes. Of course, some things are different. I couldn't help but look at Alina with something approaching awe. She was six when I lived in Germany. Now she's a lovely, bright, good-humoured young woman of eighteen. And Fussel, the cat, has been replaced by Denni, the dog---as noble and intelligent a beast as you could wish to meet.
The Schulzes are consummate hosts. We felt completely taken care of during the stay. We were so well fed that on numerous occasions I had to sit back and laugh out of pure gustatory joy.
|After a meal of pork filet in cream sauce over homemade egg noodles with homegrown carrots and green beans on the side, followed by a beautiful German style cheese cake and lovely mugs of coffee.|
|Louisa, eating her first German cheesecake. If she looks distressed, its merely because she has nearly finished her helping.|
|Villingen's Carnival Character,|
|Denni, stalking the town pigeons. His focus was truly impressive. A scene from the forest primeval.|
But our hosts' forethought and readiness went beyond food and entertainment. I failed to ask Bruni about sleeping arrangements for the kids, but without my asking, she had borrowed a travel bed for Loulou. When the weather turned cold and I discovered that I had failed to pack Louisa's sleep sack, Bruni went into her storage room and emerged with the sleep sack that Alina had used as a baby along with a bunch of toys to keep the girls happy. When we ran out of diapers after the shops closed, Alina called a family friend and rode on her bike to pick up more.
As if all this were not enough, on our first evening Bruni and Alina whisked Maria and me off on a shopping trip to round out Maria and Loulou's winter wardrobes. The Schulzes also gave Maria a bicycle hat to keep her safe while she's using the balance bike they so generously gave her last spring. Finally, before we set out on the return trip to France, Bruni and Dieter made sure we were stocked with plenty of food for the trip, and plenty of dark rye bread and German chocolate to enjoy once we returned home.
So thank you, Bruni, Dieter and Alina! I hope someday we can repay your generosity! If not directly, then in the karmic sense. Donnie, what do you think about taking on an exchange student? Maybe he/she could fit in the foyer.