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Germans Love Babies, Part III

What would you give up for a year off work to raise your children? What would you be like when you returned? German parents face this question with every trip to the maternity ward, and their answers are more complicated than you might think. […]

Giving Over

I realized this morning that against my will, against my reason, and even against my character, I’m ethnocentric. Despite my efforts, despite being a Europhile as long as I can remember, and contrary to my self-image, I keep feeling like things aren’t right here, and that I’d all be better off if they just did it like they do back home. I never know what to expect. Is this actually familiar to me, or does it just look familiar and it’s going to be a royal pain when I find out it isn’t? This is my life. It’s the nagging fear that accompanies each interaction, each step outside the door. So, I keep looking, unconsciously, but desperately, for little corners of my former life to crawl into, little eddies on the Isar where the flotsam of America has been trapped, where I can circle awhile before rejoining the channel. […]

Germans Love Babies, Part II

The playgrounds here in Munich have huge forts, gigantic spider-web rope nets, tunnels through hills, and at one near my apartment, the most amazing merry-go-round. It takes ten children working in concert to operate it properly. It is small, about six feet, in diameter. Four children jump into the middle to turn it by pushing on spokes leading from the central pillar to the outside platform. The six riders stand on the outside platform and reach up to hold onto a bar above their heads for stability. Because of the small diameter relative to the force four children can exert when excited by chocolate and beautiful spring weather, the thing spins fast. Very fast. The children scream excitedly as it speeds up, and then, laughing maniacally, the bolder children kick their legs out and hold on with only their hands to the top ring. Their legs fly out and they are spinning horizontally, staring at the ground or the sky, according to their preference, feeling the pure joy available only to children who have no knowledge of health insurance premiums, or personal injury laywers. […]

Germans Love Babies, Part I

Germans love babies. They really do. Every single one of them. Whenever I take Ella on the train, around a park, to the mall, to the museum, to the bakery, anywhere, everyone loves her. They smile, they make faces, they cluck. They actually cluck. Not like a chicken, but a snap of the tongue from the roof of your mouth to the bottom, with your lips in an “O” shape. It’s the sound you make to simulate a clock, except it’s not a “tock”–it’s a “lock”, with a hard pop on the “L”. […]

Good Friday

I got up early today, thinking I’d get ahead a bit. I was up and out of the house at 6:50 A.M. The bakery down the street was dark yet, which was weird because their sign said they opened 7:00. An employee had just unlocked the doors, and someone else, perhaps the manager, came up […]