Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays! Oh, what joy and happiness I felt to hug my parents again after being separated from them. I was very glad to see that my father is doing fairly well, although he still continues to fall about once a month. He is very vocal and seems to be a tiny bit better than he was when we saw him last – he’s a lot calmer and not as wired and antsy. I wonder if this has to do with the fact that this past summer we took him off several horrible drugs – perhaps they were doing far more harm than good.

We have so much to look forward to during our time in New Jersey: a performance of Handel’s Messiah, a big Christmas party for Japanese people, happy reunions with friends, eating lots of Asian food (we don’t have many Asian restaurants nearby in Germany), and celebrating Christmas with my family.

This past weekend, we enjoyed a few days with Matthias’ family and then had a long flight back to Philadelphia via Frankfurt airport.

Dinner with my parents-in-law, two brothers-in-law, and sister-in-law

Visit with Opa and Oma Krammel

Oma Krammel’s ham, salad, and delicious potato salad

My Oma and Opa Krammel speak German very slowly and clearly, making it fairly easy for me to understand. They love to talk and share stories! I was very glad that I made it through eight hours of hearing and speaking German without getting a slight headache (which used to be the case during the first few months I moved to Germany). I was utterly fascinated to hear stories about their childhood as well as life during and after World War II.

I learned that Matthias’ great-grandfather died in a Siberian work camp. Oma Krammel showed us copies of several of the last postcards he ever sent. As I examined them, I gasped loudly to see a stamp with Adolf Hitler’s profile.

I was touched to see how much in love they are – holding hands, kissing, being affectionate and laughing together.

Opa Krammel when he was 21

I also enjoyed seeing my Opa Walter who is 84 years old. I was excited that I understand him much better than I did the last time we met. I had a lot of fun try to talk with him and watching super cheesy TV shows together, laughing at the silly romantic scenarios in the soap-opera style dramas. At the end of a show, he always says, “Alles quatsch!” which roughly translates to “What a load of nonsense.” I wish that my German were far better than it is, but I am so thankful for the fair progress I’ve made and that I can communicate on a basic level. I truly look forward to many more years of learning this very challenging language.