It smells like spring in Germany. The snow is melting on the Schwabisher Alb, but not before we could spend a long morning screaming down the steep slope covered with wet, icy spring snow under a cobalt and cream sky. Our children have missed winter. Those who’ve been swimming in December and ridden camels in the desert ought not complain about such things, but they are northern babies and they love their snow. It was with almost overwhelming joy that they they borrowed snowsuits and boots and traditional wooden sleds with metal runners from our German friends and made for the hill.
We know it is spring, in spite of the sledding, because flowers are popping up too: snow drops, crocus, and big fat buds on the magnolia trees. That very same afternoon found us walking among vineyards on the south facing side of a castle topped mountain soaking up the warmth of the sun and watching leather skinned men prune the old growth from the vines, leaving only the three or four most promising shoots to bear the bulk of this year’s fruit. Their wives, wrapped in colorful scarves, piled the clippings on sheets to be taken from between the rows of plants, a cathedral to Bacchus with aisles swept clean and proper prayers offered to the god of drink.
This week finds us in Ansbach, visiting with the Barker family. You remember them, don’t you? The folks we celebrated the fourth of July with last year. Their Daddy is now home from Iraq and they’ve moved off of the military base into a huge house in the middle of a perfect little German town. Our afternoons have been spent walking the fields and woods surrounding the village, watching the children get wet feet in icy ponds and collect bits of moss and pussy willow to decorate the table with at home. Carla and I are uncannily alike and our families fit together like hand and glove. The children have more fun than is respectable and our evenings are filled with local wines, garlic stuffed olives and lots of laughter. I can’t say enough about how much we love this family and how blessed we are by their hospitality and friendship. Our very favorite part of this trip has been meeting the few folks we know will be part of our lives forever. So strange to come half way around the planet to find ourselves right at home.
We’re getting an unexpected surprise this weekend: Hannah’s old babysitter is coming to visit. Sean’s family was the one I invited over and naively asked how to raise perfect kids, like theirs, when I was expecting our first little bundle. His mother, graciously, didn’t laugh too hard at my new Mama question. They’ve long been a family we’ve admired for their love of God, service to others, high educational standards, musical talent and many more things than I could possible list. Four for four, their children have turned out to be fabulous young people, and that doesn’t happen by accident! Sean is in Germany working on a post graduate course of study and we just happened to connect with him through facebook a few months ago. He’ll arrive tomorrow night by train. I can’t wait to see what kind of wonderful man he’s become and then write a letter to his Mom.