Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Noah's Ark Quilt Embarks to Germany

When I learned that our friend Ella in Germany named her little boy Noah, I knew I had to send her the quilt with the Noah's ark print, which I originally named Sasha for some reason. The Noah's Ark Quilt is a much better name, and I whipped out a few burp rags to go with it. I sewed them with minky fabric on the back, which is a total pain to sew with, but super soft and cute.

This quilt is for the new baby in a family that has come to be a part of our family. Although we are half a world away, we think of them a lot. They have had such an impact on our life, we can't imagine not knowing them. Yet the chance that we ever met them in the first place was very slim.

Back in 1998, we were at an International Convention in Nuremberg, Germany with Candace, Summer T and Linda K. The other languages were Hungarian, Polish and Czech, besides German. We had decided that instead of taking the tour bus to and from the convention, we would go by subway so we could arrive earlier and stay later in order to associate more. The last day we stayed a very long time, singing with the Hungarians on the soccer field. By the time we left, it was pretty cleared out. We were tired, dragging ourselves and our stuff the long walk back to the subway. There in the parking lot was a cute little family having a picnic from the trunk of their car.

They were (and still are) a Polish family who had moved to Germany for family obligations. They had two cute teenagers, Dominika and Ella who were 16 and 14, plus the mom and dad, Georg and Margereta. The girls had learned English in school, and Ernst could speak German with the parents. They were about to head off for a visit back to Poland. We took some pictures, exchanged addresses and said our goodbyes. I wrote them, they wrote back a few times, this was of course before email, these were good old fashioned letters and hard copy photographs. We promised on our next trip we would visit them. I wrote them a few years later, that we were coming again, and we arranged to stay with them a few days.

They live near Mainz, which is near Frankfurt. We drove down after seeing Ernst's family in northern Germany. We pulled up to their sort of cookie-cutter looking apartment building, and Ernst said, "OK, remind me again, how do we know these people? And how many days are we staying here?"  We knocked on their door and entered their apartment, but really we were walking into a friendship that would span years and miles and laughs and tears and unimaginable joy. We stepped over that threshold into a relationship that has enriched our lives.

Ella and Dominika

They treated us like kings, they took us everywhere, entertained us, cooked for us, bought us things and when we left actually insisted that we take money from them. They were insanely hospitable. We cried and hugged and promised to see them again. A few months later they called, and they were coming to visit us in California! Try as you might, you can't "out-hospitable" these people. They managed to spoil us even on our own turf! They arrived with an entire suitcase full of gifts for us, including crystal from Poland. We took them up to Tahoe, Napa, San Francisco and they went to LA and Santa Barbara. Everyone who met them still asks us about the Cute German Family. Since then, we have been to Germany twice more to see them, the girls have been to California twice and to New York and stayed with my family back East.

On our last trip to Germany, we had one of those weird, haven't we been here before moments. We were with them in Leipzig, Germany at the International convention. Again, we stayed a very long time, I was running around getting my umbrella signed. Our plan was to travel with them to Poland after the convention. So there we all were, some of the last ones in the parking lot and we were eating potato salad from the back of their car in an impromptu picnic. And it occurred to me, that is exactly how we met them, in a parking lot, eating out of the car trunk, packed up for a drive to Poland, all because we were the last to leave the convention. It was one of those Wow moments in life.

Three years ago we went to Dominika's wedding in New York when she married her wonderful Justin from Wallkill. By this time, my family knew theirs, and my mom's house was filled with pretty German/Polish girls out for the wedding. A mom and daughter we know from Tahoe came, there were people we had met in our travels in Germany; it was a most joyful, special wedding of two people who were beaming with love. It was their fervent dream to become missionaries, and with their knack for learning languages and incredible love for people, they would have been amazing. By this spring they were at Patterson, he was in the Service Department and they attended at the same hall as my family.

Sweet little Ella's wedding to Adam was last fall, it was the same time as our 10-10-10 party, and we were all disappointed to have to miss our respective big events. Ella and Adam immediately became pregnant with a very, very planned little addition, and their baby Noah was born a month ago. Six months ago Dominika and Justin had a very, Very, VERY unplanned little surprise come along too, who will be here in three months. They were shocked, floored, stunned and had to decide what to do, where to go, which country to have the baby in. They decided to move to Germany, although he is from the States. They are getting used to the whole idea, now that the initial shock has worn off. She says she is huge, which we imagine must look like an olive on a toothpick!

The three families all have apartments in the same building, the same one we have stayed in so many times now. We might to go to Europe again next summer, but ugh, that will be such a long wait. My dream job right now would be with the airlines, specifically an international carrier. I think I am too old to be a flight attendant, too tired to lift baggage, can't hear well enough to be in customer service. But I could drive around the carts. Clean toilets, that I can still do. I could be the person who takes away your toothpaste. Anything, I have to find a way to fly cheaper. Something will come up, it will be legal - legal is important. Too bad I can't make a Noah's Ark Quilt that floats.

I was having a day long mild vertigo episode, spent on their couch. They were all so sweet and kept me laughing. The kid in shorts is my Zack from Sac; we took him there on our last trip in 2006.
 Dominika playing in the KH band.

 Ella, Dominika and Kornelia in Leipzig
 In Poland doing invitation work for the upcoming International convention. Polish is a beautiful, soft language, but not easy to read like German. It would have been tough getting around without their help. As in Germany, they were the best hosts, spoiling us rotten.
 At a relative's house in the Polish countryside. People still have wells there, that they use for living, not just a decoration in their yards. I look like an idiot, but I was just tickled that I brought up a bucket of water from the ground, as if no one had ever done that before.
 Invitation work in Poland. It doesn't really show in the picture, but this was the most run down, sad place I have ever been in that actually had people living in it. I had Dominika go up the stairs first to see if they would hold her weight, then I ventured up. This four story apartment actually had no roof, it had fallen in, it was gone. We climbed up to the fourth floor, and there was the sky! People were still living here, no roof and all. I don't know if they were squatters. Once we were in there we thought maybe it was a drug or prostitute house, but there actually seemed to be nice families living there.
 Georg and Margareta, the Polish-German Hosts of Legendary Fame
 They gave "us" Speedos for our fifteenth wedding anniversary! Thank you, thanks so much! And yes, there is vodka involved with each visit.
Zack and the girls

 Ernst in his German gear for Dominika's wedding in 2008 in New York
 With Sarah from Germany
 Margareta and Dominika
 She had all the little girls wear white to the wedding, and they were all flower girls, every last one!
 Justin and Dominika, future missionaries?
 All the guests who came from Germany and Poland
 Sleeping Beauties at my mom's house.
These friends of the family (Kornelia, Kesja and Mirela) were a blast to hang around before and after the wedding. They all want us to come visit and meet their families in Germany, which is just too, too far away. As soon as they know the sex of the upcoming baby, I'll be on a new quilt in no time. If I could hand deliver it? Now that would be priceless.