January 13, 2007

It’s a small, small, small, small world

Last Saturday night, Kevin and I walked across the nearby Löwenbrücke (Lion’s Bridge) to the Würzburg home of Cissy and Sanders W., two people whom we had never met before, but to whom we seemed already intimately linked.

For starters, I was given Cissy’s name and contact information by my high school German teacher, Frau Kearney, who knows Cissy from God-knows-where. At first I think she was a little wary of me. After all, I had called her up out-out-of-the-blue, and, although we had never been formally introduced, I began addressing her as “Cissy,” a childhood name that she no longer uses. However, once she ferreted out who “my people are,” we discovered quite a number of connections. Back when Cissy was a dental hygienist, my great-grandparents were patients of hers. Later, she and her first husband were good friends with my Aunt Matilda and her first husband (“my son still has a scar from when he fell out of her tree”). And she even grew up in my hometown of Warren, Arkansas (pop. 6,000). I guess after my genealogy was carefully scrutinized, I passed muster, so she invited Kevin and me over to her apartment for drinks and dinner.

And what an apartment it is! Situated right on the riverfront, the building has stunning views of the Main and all of the altstadt, as well as large, antique chandeliers in every room. Her own apartment, on the third floor, is made up of at least eight enormous rooms – each larger than our entire apartment back in Boston. And unlike the rest of us, who must buy cheap new furniture when we move abroad, Cissy is an employee of the U.S. military, so she’s able to bring all of her belongings with her for free wherever she is transferred. With previous stints in Japan and South Korea, she has amassed quiet a collection of Eastern bureaus and tapestries and object d’art, and her apartment is a veritable wunderkammer in which you could spend hours exploring.

Sanders, her husband, is equally interesting: A Texan of the old school variety, he’s been a cowboy and an inventor, traveled the world, done two tours of duty in Vietnam, and even in middle age remains a motorcycle aficionado (BMWs, of course). Together, they are a hoot, having polished their fish-out-of-water stories into a perfect comedy routine: such as the time Sanders ordered a Hefeweissen and got gassy water instead. “Now how do you get ‘gassy water’ out of ‘Hefeweissen?’” he wondered. Although they’ve lived in Germany for many years, they long ago gave up trying to learn the language, and I am greatly encouraged by the fact that they can live so well in Würzburg using only English and pantomime.

Before the evening was over, they had given us all kinds of pointers from where to shop and travel, to finding an apartment and navigating the expansive German bureaucracy. And as if she could hear the question working it’s way off the tip of my tongue, Cissy offered to take me “antiquing” when it comes time to furnish our new apartment. They even have a pick-up truck!

Although on the exterior, you could not find two couples more dissimilar, I think Kevin and I have found some very kindred spirits more than 3,000 miles from home.

No comments: