I never cease to be amazed by the people that find one another around the dinner table… missionaries and cyclists, teachers and Apache helicopter pilots, theology students and veterinarians, six year olds and computer programmers, artists and mothers, babysitters and musicians. I regularly take mental snapshots of candlelit laughter and wine colored cheeks to save for the dark days of my elder winter. These are the perfect moments in life. The moments where it becomes so obvious that there really is a master plan and the threads of lives separated by years and miles and experiences are artistically woven together to form a tapestry, the design of which cannot be seen.
Our week with the Barkers in Germany was a whirlwind of long walks through the “Whispering Woods,” resulting in boys with wet feet from jumping the swollen spring creeks and hours of trampoline jumping, fish watching, hama bead melting good times. We laughed too much, slept too little and sampled the local wines into the wee hours of the morning. I hope the kids had as much fun as the parents did.
The surprise of the week was the serendipitous arrival of our old friend, Sean, the son of a family we admired much when our children were babies… and who we still think of often with fondness and much respect. He was one of Hannah’s first baby sitters. Now he’s studying in Bonn and living in a monastery for a period of time. It was a joy to listen to him talk, ask him questions, and pretend not to listen while he gave the kids music lessons and added songs to their repertoires on guitar and violin. I can’t wait to write to his Mom and tell her what a great man he’s become and how much he blessed our family.
This evening finds us watching the sun set over the budding trees in Cerna Hora, CZ. We’re happy to be here, cocooned in the basement of the Adam’s Family home eating salami chips and drinking Grena and remembering all of the things we loved from the Czech last summer.
Getting here was not without its adventure. Carla dropped us at the station before eight in the morning and hugged us onto the train bound for Nuremberg. We waved goodbye until the platform disappeared. Off to a good start… until we got to Nuremberg. We found the platform for the second train in plenty of time, the train was already there, so we hopped on and settled in, satisfied with ourselves… until the train pulled out ten minutes early… “What’s going on?” “Why are there only three other people on the train?” “WHERE is the driver?! THERE’S NO DRIVER?!” Then came the awful realization: This train is headed off to the train yard, NOT Dresden. A German word we’ve learned but not yet used comes to mind… but I digress. The train stopped, we tumbled out, bags, kids and all onto the side of the tracks and started RUNNING the half kilometer back toward the station… along with the other three fools who couldn’t read the German “don’t get on this train” sign that had been blinking in green lights on the side of every car. This was not a good moment. Running along active train tracks with four kids is NOT where you want to be. Trust me. Especially as a BIG red train slowly chugs up beside you and blows it’s horn in a short, sharp blast. We looked up to see the driver motioning us on the train.
Let me interrupt and point out that it is a lot easier to climb on a train from a platform, up only three steps into the belly of the whale than it is to make it through the door from a good four feet below the door level. It is a comedy of boosting kids, bags and selves up and over the threshold and then clambering up the last steps to collapse in relief… until the train doors close leaving half of the family screaming on the tracks and the other half screaming inside the train. Children howling “DADDY!!!!” at the top of their lungs and banging hysterically on the door windows. Ahh yes, this is why we took this trip… for the glory and the glamor of international travel, for the exotic European experience. The driver heard us. Of course he heard us. Most of the former East Germany heard us. The doors magically opened and we hauled a howling Elisha and a grumbling Daddy up into the train and laid on the floor of the train gasping while the Patron Saint of Stupid American Parents ferried us in his red rescue train back to the platform. To make a long story short, we made the train to Dresden. Barely. The first 100 km or so were spent lowering my blood pressure and counting heads and cursing my illiteracy. German is the next language I’m learning. Obviously, I need to.
Sam Adams (no beer jokes please!) and the oldest third of his children met us in Brno. We hugged amid a shower of sparks produced by workmen cutting metal in the middle of the central train station… OSHA would definitely not approve… but it was picturesque… until Elisha started stomping out embers landing perilously close to our big, yellow, waterproof bags.
We’ve been here almost 48 hours and we’re having a great time. We’ve barely seen the kids. Highlights have included: playing multiple games of Uno, Phase Ten and Fill or Bust, playing horses for HOURS, running the grounds of the Word of Life Camp and petting Caleb’s newest pet tarantula. What could be better? Add to that the Czech delicacies and the good friendship and already the visit is going too fast.