Patrick, Calvin and I rode our bicycles to the hardware store to pick up a hose for our community garden. As we approached, we heard the sound of Jazz. We had totally forgotten about the Takoma Park Jazz Festival being held that weekend. Our town holds an annual jazz festival that brings out talented musicians from all over, while arts and craft vendors set up booths along the main street of our quaint little town. It is one of many events in the year that brings together our community. So we picked up our garden hose, sat on the grass and enjoyed the music.
Jazz music has a particular relevance to me because of my German father’s love of it. When I hear Jazz, I think of him. I was born in the early 1960’s, of an American mother and a German father. My birth mother went to Germany to study and met my birth father. After living a bohemian lifestyle, I came along. I like to joke that I was made in Germany, born in America. I met my birth parents when I was in my mid-20’s and now two decades later, it is if they were always part of my life. My German family also includes my two sisters who are twins, my brother, my step mother and an amazing group of aunts, uncles, cousins and nieces. I am so fortunate to not have just a family tree, but an entire family forest that spans from Germany to Seattle (where my birth mother, brothers, step father, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews live) to Nevada, California, Oregon and Hawaii (where my entire adopted and step family of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and mother live.) And then when you add in my in-laws, the forest expands even further.
My German father is “hipper” than I could ever hope of being. He introduced me to German Expressionist art, Jazz Music, and helped expand my “way–too–serious” orderly prosecutor (at the time) self’s view of the world and of myself. I learned to slowly let go of feeding my constant workaholic nature and instead learned to channel some of my energy into other creative endeavors.
Through my many trips over the years to Germany, these creative seeds have germinated and matured after long relaxing nights of listening to music, talking art, watching Jim Jamusch movies or documentaries about a musician or beatnik, drinking excellent European red wine and discussing life. Although I could never be as cool as he is, I am working on it.
It was also the simple things that transpired during my trips that planted seeds that I would find myself growing and cultivating as new habits when I was back in the United States. These things included the breakfast that my father prepared for us each morning. We would wake up and the table would be fully set with colorful plates and napkins, together with an assortment of cheeses, meat, rolls, jams, butter, perfectly cooked organic and flavorful soft boiled eggs and richly roasted dark coffee. I continue to love this morning breakfast ritual.
I also cherish the trips into Hamburg proper that entailed a walk to the bus stop by my father’s house, a bus ride to the ferry, a ferry trip across the Elbe River and then a subway ride to the Rat Haus stop (or wherever else that day’s destination may be.) Even trips to the town center of my father’s small fishing village are an adventure. We usually walk. One route takes us along the main road lined by houses and then shops as we grow closer to the center. This route involves a sometime stop at a restaurant for a coffee or maybe (more likely) a beer. The other route allows us to stop along the way at watch the tug boats bring in cargo ships along the Elbe.
It was actually one trip in particular to Germany that sparked my love of vegetable gardening. It was a few years back and my brother had acquired a community garden plot. The plot was much more elaborate (read: big and even had space for a tiny wooden structure that had a space to eat, cook and even nap) than what we have here. I was so inspired by his garden of vegetables and herbs, not to mention his joy of being there and his seeing his obvious love of the gardening process.
Then when I saw how my brother showed Calvin (who was then about 4 years old) how to till the soil, I was hooked. It was later that year when I planted some store bought tomato plants to get my “feet wet” and now the rest is history.