View of Hoboken from New York with the sun setting in the background

The epiphany

So last Thursday, Bill McCrain, a former Marine, paid us a visit. Not wanting to be late, he showed up 25 minutes early to our appointment. A fascinating character whom I would love to get to know better, he entered the U.S. Marines at age 17 and was selected to serve as a Marine Guard to President Eisenhower in the 1950s. Mid-October 1957, he had a chance to meet Queen Elizabeth, as he stood among those she inspected on her first official visit to the United States. Post-duty, he was given an administrative job at a moving company, after which he started his own. 60 years later, notebook and pen in hand, he showed up at our front door, took stock of our things, shared a few life stories, and went on his way.

Which is a long way of saying, we’re moving back to Munich! : ) We’re moving back to Munich. : ( We’re moving back to Munich. In two months. You can’t see it from where you’re sitting, but a whole slew of emotions flitted across my face just now.

I learned from a psychologist a long time ago, and it was repeated to me again by Bill, that besides death and divorce, moving is one of the most stressful events of one’s life. So who better to accompany the start of such an emotional journey than a trustworthy, steadfast 80+ year old man with a whole lifetime of experience behind him?

Sigh. The whole thing – the end of our ensconcement in the US – is bittersweet. First, dare I mention the word drumpf? Because that part of being here is definitely bitter. Simmering in the current political landscape is “like breathing toxic fumes,” said our new friend Phil. Indeed. Phil is a published poet, and his work-in-progress is about weapons. “I need to get the anger out,” he said. The sweet part is removing oneself from this toxicity – we can ‘escape’ from the US, as his wife Lynn phrased. “I’m jealous, because you get to get away from it,” she said. Being far away from the madness that is Das Weißes Haus will certainly be a blessing.

However, with this move, our Yankee adventures will also come to an end. Alex’s life dream – one he has chased after for almost two decades – to live and work near NY again, has been fulfilled. ‘What now?’ is not an insignificant question. If you hit the target that you’ve been aiming at, it might do you well to simply find another one. That’s my answer, at least. To move forward, you need to keep on on having dreams. Til the end.

For me, the time here has been priceless. A dream that I didn’t know I had came true too. This became my chance to rekindle old relationships, to reintegrate the friends and family that were cast aside when I left Orange County, to find closure. Our stay here is where all the pieces of my life – which have, up till now, been compartmentalized – have fallen into place. Indonesia, Japan, Austria, Germany, and the US – they now make sense. I reunited with the extended Southern California clan, old friends from Tokyo, college buddies from UCI. Friends and family have come here to visit, and in so doing, have shared in and helped shape our US experience.

Alex and I are grateful for this opportunity. We’ve seen and done so much that it’s sometimes overwhelming. How long will it take to digest all that we’ve experienced? I wonder.

My ASIJ friends and I have gone through this once before. And in all honesty, some of us are still processing our time in Tokyo. When we moved away, we all learned to cope and get on with our lives, but I’m not sure whether or not we gave ourselves the time, space and energy to heal. Forces seemingly beyond our control – graduation, college – meant that we had to give up some of the closest bonds we ever formed. At that time, there was neither Whatsapp nor Facebook. We sent letters by post or called each other once in a while (at exorbitant prices), meaning that at some point, communication ceased. I never realized, until February of this year – when we all gathered here for a much needed reunion – how much I had missed all of them.

It’s not the first delay in discernment I’ve experienced. It took until last year for me to understand what my first-ever boyfriend was all about. And we met when I was 15! A newbie from the Bronx, he was street smart, sensitive and beautiful, a far cry from the scholastic types I surrounded myself with at the time. The fact that he hailed from the corners of what was then quite an unruly NYC made him that much more attractive. He smoked, and not just cigarettes. He introduced me to Keith Haring and Virgin Records. He spoke like no one I had ever met. Sadly, a couple of his friends had died of drug overdose – the very reason he was shipped off to LA to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle. A real-life Fresh Prince of Bel Air, a few years before that became a hit series. Three decades later, as I drove through the Bronx and walked the streets of Queens and Manhattan, I finally got him. Wow.

Does that mean that this American chapter will only close for us sometime in…2038? Alex and I strolling along the shores of an Italian lake discussing, oh, gelato and the like, when I get an epiphany and all of the events of the past three years will make sense – as in, “Oohh!!! So that’s what that was all about!”?

Or, dare I hope that I’ve gained some wisdom and that the philosophical purpose of this extended sojourn will become clear to me a bit sooner rather than later? That remains to be seen…

In the meantime, below some impressions from the past couple of weeks. From a colleague’s wedding on the Jersey Shore, to a mini-reunion at a lakefront cabin in the Adirondacks, to the Caramoor Jazz Festival, and strolling around Pier 45 with the hubby – some beautiful East-Coast memories.


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