I grew up under a hot, burning sun. There was no snow, not even winter. Both snow and winter I only knew from the tales of my grandmother and the old fairytale book where the woods were always dark and nearly black and there was a whole world full of snow involved in the most impressive tales such as in the tale of the Star-Money, where a little girl with bare-feet stands in an icy landscape till the stars fell down and as they reached the girl they became precious coins. Oh, how I wept about the poor barefooted girl. But here in a southern suburb of Berlin, where I am in he moment and for a few more days, there are no wrecked children, but a lovely park with hills and many old trees surrounding the park, the houses and the streets. Many children live here and none of them has no shoes to wear. Quite the opposite is true, the kids here wear boots that look like if you might walk across the Alps and they don’t wear things you just could simply call jackets or trousers but outdoor gear would be quite the appropriate term for the multifunctional, thermo-insulated and high-viz clothes they wear. Of course, they do not have only one sleigh but mostly three or four for their choice. And the sleighs look as they might be able to start in the Olympic Games. But when you as I do walk the dog around the park in the afternoon, you do not see as you might expect cheerful, happy children with apple-red cheeks, laughing or shouting. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that all the children are accompanied by their parents, who are their children’s devoted servants, who pull the sleigh up and down the hill, and assist their children in everything. I never knew beforehand that so much assistance would be needed for such a simple thing as to jump on the sleigh and to cart sledding but as someone who only knows the sun well, one should be probably more careful. But the children you see here, are either crying, nearly crying or just finished to cry. They fall from their sleighs but are not able to get up again, without the help of their personal assistants or are not able to pull the sleigh up on the hill. Most children just stumble through the snow, crying again or shouting at someone or kicking their boots off. The parents try their very best but alas it does not seem to be an easy thing to keep up the spirits. At least one child laughs as it runs down the snowman on his super-sleigh F. and I built yesterday. We should have thought of getting the poor chap a breastplate instead of a carrot.
But out of the blue or better out of the grey, it starts to snow. And it does not stop, till the all the trees are thick covered with snow. The houses wear their white crowns with proud and the fences, built somewhere around 1900 and rusty but now looking fresh as never before. So much snow and all the neighbors gone, not a single footstep in this splendid white and then, F. and I run, fast and faster, slipping and sliding along the road down to the park. Snowballs we form and snowballs we throw as if we were still eight years old and the world a place of magic. We twirl around and even late at night, when we are cold and our finger and feet are frozen red, we can not stop to look out of the window, where more and more snow falls and the sky is so dark as if the stars are all gone like ourselves to build a snowman as high and as round as never before.
To say that the Irish are obsessed with christmas underestimates the reality by far. Here reigns christmas madness. But it has nothing romantic in it, nowhere do you see children singing enlightening christmas carols or elderly ladies wrapping holly wreaths. The grocer’s wife terrorizes every one who enters the shop to buy sticky, oily and teeth-drawing mince pies. And no, she won’t let you leave with just one, but hands to you a package where you find them piled up to the last corner. I tried to feed them to the seagulls, but even they looked not very grateful, but shrieked obscenities, even beginners in seagullish can not overhear. In the office nearly everyone wears a christmas jumper. Why grown up people wear a horrid sweatshirt with roaring elks or half-naked Santa’s on their breast is far from my understanding. And those are not even the worst examples, today on the DART, a couple wore a black jumper, with the headline: “I knew what you did last christmas.” Ho, ho, ho, ho. All the best for this year. In nearly every window a Christmas tree blinks in the most colorful way, I am sure when you come closer than 30 centimeters they start to play: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. But the worst thing experienced here from late November on are not mad shoppers but a tradition called the “The twelve pubs of Christmas.” The idea is as simple as possible, twelve pubs, twelve drinks, one night. And yes it means mayhem, especially when you as I do, live next door to a pub, at the end of small village, where always from Friday to Sunday, the round of twelve pubs comes to an end. Oh, how nice it is to count the number of drunkards, who use your fence as last stabilizer before they vomit in your front-garden, before they wander off the lone, dark road. Oh, how glitter the stars, when people bang at 1 AM against your door, shouting: Santa is coming before they puke against the door, and nothing sounds so christmas like as women howling “Last Christmas” drunk as one can only be. And with a warm feeling in the heart you clean up in the morning, because christmas is coming soon and the grocer’s wife shouts loud across the street: “Love, when do you head home?”At the 21st grocer’s wife I cry back and the grocer’s wife assures me, she will save a big package of mince-pies for me to take back with me.
Here nothing more than a long sequence of defeat, embarrassment and faintheartedness. And when one imagines that things could not be worse, they are.
When I was a child, visiting my grandmother in the long summer holidays, I loved to sit early in the morning, because my grandmother got up never later than at 6.30, on the rim of the bathtub looking at her. My grandmother never yawned. Nor did she make any comments about her look. She threw half a litre ice-cold water in her face and applied two small drops of Eau de Cologne behind her ears. She never wore earrings and when I wore a nose-ring she looked at me, asking if I planned to start a career as a dancing bear. I didn’t. My grandmother was kept not busy with many bottles, tubes and pots most women and more men are surrounded with, she just would have curled her upper lips in slight annoyance. But every morning, my grandmother rinsed her hands, brushed her fingernails intensely, cut her fingernails as short as possible, and dried her hands and arms most careful, with a towel just for this purpose. Strictly it was forbidden to wipe my chocolate-spilled face or my always dirty fingers with it, the latter my grandmother treated as rigorously as her own. The soap, she used and she bought it twice or thrice a year in a pharmacy was not soft but possessed a feeling of sandpaper, a big green bulk, with squiggled letters, I never managed to decipher. The soap smelled of pines and some essential oil, a harsh smell that always made me sneezing. When she was in a good mood I was allowed to make her hair, using the shell-formed combs I loved so much. When she was in a bad mood, she just grabbed some hairpins, cursing the world through clenched teeth. At 7. 15, my grandmother left her home, with her a big, black leather suitcase. In her bag she carried a piece of the same strange smelling piece of soap, and when she returned in the late afternoon, she went into the bathroom, repeating the same procedure she did in the morning again twice or thrice times. Sometimes she sat at the kitchen table, examining her hands, looking out for small cuts or scratches. Then she sighed and climbed upon the chair to get the big, brown iodine bottle, and i was told to get a pair of tweezers, gaze and carefully applying the liquid upon her hands and arms. She did not even move an eyelash. Not once. No need to make a fuss, she said, and she looked away, thinking of the lost world, where her true self laid buried, and she got up to make dinner. But sometimes when I read as today, how people still praise the health sector of the GDR, then I get angry and angry is no word for the feeling, when I think that my grandmother, who was a dentist had to treat patient after patient without gloves, day after day, year after year, because the praised system did not care enough for its personnel to supply its doctors with the simplest measures against infections and whatever diseases. Once my grandmother asked in a meeting why this were the case, but the answer she got, again is a great witness of the excellence of the GDR healthcare system, because it was simply the case that the immune system of the eastern doctors and nurses was stronger than of their weaker western German counterparts. For her question my grandmother paid with a number of night shifts in the local hospital, but outstanding and an example for solidarity, was the system, so say those who defend it with their bare hands. Still, today in my drawer lies the last piece of the sharp-smelling, green soap my grandmother used as long as I know her, and later, many years later I realized how much she must have hated this scent.
Oh, how much I like to possess a dressing gown. At best in a midnight-blue. Not made from satin, but from a light and gentle cotton, Egypt cotton would suit this purpose best. Because those who wear dressing gowns, and this is for sure have a life that swings easily and friendly along their legs. If I would do as I wish in my midnight-blue gown, I would stay in bed till 10 AM. I would yawn then and look in the mirror, quite pleased and not as I do now, stick my tongue out to myself. Never I would be in need to rush out of the house and no way that I would realize on the DART that I have a run in my tights. I just would get back to bed with the news in my hand. Of course I would not read what unpleasant happened in the world but just look at the theatre critique and nod when an actor was blamed for his bad articulation. Tea from the white china porcelain would stand next to my bed and careful, careful not to spill over the long and wide arms of my gown I would here and then drink a cup and look out of the windows. The ships leaving the harbor I would count and gently stroking my cat. Maybe I would walk to the shelves and look for a book. Washington Square maybe, because I always had a sweet tooth for Henry James and nineteenth century novel in particular. The ringing phone I would ignore, my Macbook it would get dusty in some corner of my desk. For lunch I would cut an apple in four slices and later I would eat a bread buttered with honey and turn on the record player. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf would sing Schubert songs and I still in my gown would slowly dance through the parlor, closing my eyes, engulfed in the safety of my midnight-blue gown.