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Toiny

Last week, for the first time in 20 years together, Dave & I went away for five whole days without any children.  It was the 70th Anniversary of Operation Market Garden, and Dave jumped as part of the commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem.

On Saturday we woke, way too early before five in the morning, to heavy fog.  The planes were grounded and the planned jumps into Ginkel Heath were delayed.  Eventually only half the jumps were rescheduled and we found ourselves with the luxury of wandering through the events, displays and ceremonies.  The actual DZ (drop zone) was located in the middle of nowhere, Holland.  The jumps that day planned to re-act the same jumps 70 years earlier, in the exact same location. We parked our van as close as we could, then joined the crowd hiking in. Soon we were surrounded by not just walkers, but also hundreds of bike riders.

Halfway to the DZ I heard a low rumbling, steadily getting louder and deeper.  At first I looked up, expecting the planes to be rolling in despite the lingering mist, then I realized it was coming from the ground right as the first half-track (part tank, part truck) came careening around the corner aiming straight for me.

Thankfully Dave pulled me to the side, and after five minutes of watching the British retreat (they were due for different ceremonies over in Nijmegen), I remembered my camera and pulled it out to quickly snap some photo’s.  More half-tracks passed, a troop transport, medical vehicles, motorcycles and scout bikes (comically small motorcycles dropped with the parachutists), and jeeps.  Lots and lots of old, lovingly restored WWII era jeeps.

Walking through the woods of my childhood that day was surreal.  A mix of modern and an era before my time, as bikes rode past and jeeps kicked up dust, while half-tracks and troop transports had me dodging behind trees.  I could almost feel the fear, and the elation, of my forefathers as vehicle after vehicle passed by.

When we finally reached the DZ, looking surprisingly like the practice DZs back at Ft. Bragg, I was overwhelmed to see thousands of people gathered for the commemoration events (news reports put it at 40,000).  It was at least a 6 kilometer hike in, and yet it felt like half my country was there to honor the Americans, Poles, Brits, French, Italian, Belgian soldiers who fought to liberate us 70 years ago. Operation Market Garden

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Way back in the dark ages, I was a high school cheerleader.  Back then I loved football! I loved the smell of fresh grass, the energy of the crowd, hot dogs, cheering. I loved night games under the bright lights, those are almost magical. I loved football.

As the years passed, and we left California shortly after Cole’s birth (and my beloved 49ers), we watched less & less football as a family.  There wasn’t enough time in a day to shuffle 4, 5, 6 kids to school and all their activities and watch football.  Maybe because of that none of my kids played.  Until now.

For two years Cole has been begging me to play football.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love football! But Cole had severe asthma when we moved to Germany.  I had fear of him rolling around on grass. It has been two years since he’s truly had an attack, after talking to his doctor, and clearing him to play, I signed on the dotted line.  Cole is on the football team!

OMG! Football is not cheerleading.  Football is a way of life.  There are daily practices, diet changes, meetings, fund raisers, emails flying left and right…. aaaaaaaaaaah! I’m dizzy from the demands of being a football mom!  Cole, on the other hand, is glowing. Usually with exhaustion, but also with pride. He loves being on the team.  I have never seen him work harder at anything in his life.

Friday is his first game.  It is a night game.  I can’t wait!

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We have 1-2 years left in Germany.  I can’t believe how fast our time here has gone. I can’t believe how much my kids have grown.  I really can’t believe how much of my bucket list I haven’t seen!

I love travel.  I love new places, new sights, new smells, new foods!  When I realized my passport expired in July, I also sadly realized we couldn’t go to Slovenia or Norway this summer but we were once again headed to Holland.  We were all a little sad.  Thankfully, Holland is so awesome that once we were there the sadness just washed away and we revelled in her awesomeness.

We had never been to Texel, and it was only the kids second visit to Amsterdam.  Amsterdam is just gorgeous.  I am in love with this city. If I had to live in a city, this would be the one.  Despite the hustle & bustle, there is a small town feel.  And yet, unlike my small town, there is a different culture, a different food, a different smell on every corner.

Out of all my photo’s, this one got the most oooooh’s & aaaaah’s from my friends.  So Amsterdam. So quiet, and yet right around the corner is the Anne Frank Huis, and the historic Westerkerk with the best tower to climb & see the city below.  I could spend weeks, months, probably years in Amsterdam and still not see or experience everything.  One day was definitely not enough.

Thankfully I get to go back next month. Because.  When I went to go get my passport renewed, the passport agent took all my papers, my renewal application, our military orders, my certified German papers and my old passport.  My biometric passport with my 10 fingerprints, eye print, vial of blood, hair of the dog, and she said:

“Mevrouw? U bestaat niet?” or; “M’am? You don’t exist?”

Panic.  Complete question of my existence.  Worry over where I could possibly be buried should I die.  Anxiety.  The bottomline? I have no birth certificate. The Dutch government now requires a birth certificate with passport renewal. I was born at home in the late sixties.  Soon after my parents bundled me up, walked to the Gemeentehuis (government house) and careful wrote my name in The Big Book.  Done.

Except now, 40+ years later, I don’t exist. I stared at the passport agent with big deer-in-the-headlights eyes.  She tried to get my hometown on the phone, login to their database over the internet, but they weren’t on line yet.  They weren’t answering the phone. I continued to not exist and I left Amsterdam with no passport in hand.

Yesterday, a week and a half later, she called me. Joy in her voice:

“Mevrouw? Ik heb uw geboorteakte in my hand.” or; “DUDE! YOU EXIST!”

Amsterdam

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The Amazing, Invisible, Sheep!

by Toiny Westberry 23 July 2014
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A couple of weeks (months?) ago I read, on the front page of our local paper, that the Schäferbier was brewed, bottled & ready for the Schäferlauf.  Now, Schäfer = sheep.  Bier is obvious & lauf = walk.  I quickly deduced that the sheep beer was ready for the sheep walk, but what was a […]

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My Fancy Futuristic Car

by Toiny Westberry 24 May 2014

Ever have a week, really a month, where everything goes wrong?  Yep.  That was me the last several weeks.  Thankfully it was not people-wrong, but mechanical-wrong. It started with the The Big, Red, Intimating, not-out-of-order Machine, it went out-of-order. Our hot water supply went to nil, our showers came to an end and the house […]

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My Bestest Friend

by Toiny Westberry 8 January 2014
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At the end of 3rd grade, we moved to America.  To California, to be precise.  Before that I had spend only 6 months in America, and I knew little-to-no English.  My memories of those first months are all visual. I wonder if that is what my kids remember from our first year in Germany? I did […]

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Weihnachts Circus

by Toiny Westberry 21 December 2013
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Last week, while I was still sulking over our friends PCS’ing (Permanent Change of Station) back to the states, a new friend (Tricia) called & asked if we wanted to go to the Weihnachts Circus with them.  It was sponsored by the local big box furniture store, and only €2 each.  I need a pick-me-up and the […]

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My Oma

by Toiny Westberry 9 October 2013
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Every time I see my Oma again, I burst into tears.  I steel myself before. I tell myself to be brave. I tell myself to be strong, none of it works.  I see her and I melt. It is just love.  It is my guilt at being so far. It is my sadness at how […]

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Zwiebelkuchen

by Toiny Westberry 21 September 2013
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Exploring our town one day, we ran into the Mayor.  An ebullient, extroverted kind of guy.  After half an hour of talking, I found myself drafted into the town choir.  Hysterical because I can’t carry a tune. I can’t even carry a note!  Since then I’ve gone to several Tuesday night practices.  Everyone tolerates me, […]

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Pièces de Monnaie

by Toiny Westberry 4 September 2013

Road trips in Europe are not the same as in the states. There’s the obvious differences, new languages, new monies (not all countries in Europe are using the Euro.  See: Chufs), new customs, and there’s the not-so-obvious. We’d done our homework, and we knew to expect toll roads.  What we didn’t know is how different […]

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