Mike and I took the train to Dresden....BY OURSELVES. What struck me as strange throughout this whole trip was the magnitude with which seemingly small accomplishments struck me. I am aware that some people live jet-setting, global lives which include things like flying halfway across the country and back in the same day just for a business meeting, or actually ordering from those SkyMall catalogs, but I am not one of them. Traveling to Georgia is a big deal for me, much less EUROPE! But one comfort I found in traveling so far outside my comfort zone was the fact that we had our hosts, the Hampe family, to keep us out of trouble. So as you can imagine, traveling on a train by ourselves in a foreign country was a big deal for me. Thankfully, we had family waiting for us on the other side, but in order to explain this to you, I need to dig out the Wolfe family tree....hang on a sec....
Okay, ready? Mike's grandmother, Gertrude Ludwig Wolfe ("Oma" to pretty much everyone) was born in Germany. She moved with her family to America when she was a teenager in the early 1930s. She left behind her extended family, including a cousin with whom she was very close, whose name is Kathe.
Oma lived with Mike's family for most of Mike's life, and Kathe (who speaks no English) kept in close contact with Oma through letters and phone calls. Mike's mom once told me that when she answered the phone to a string of words she couldn't identify (German), she would just go get Oma :)
Kathe has a daughter, Elke, who married a man named Mattias, whom I love dearly for 2 reasons:
- He is the ONLY one on this side of the family who speaks English.
- He loves country music.
Mike with Kathe, Mattias, and Elke
So now that you have your Wolfe family history lesson, , it's time for a pop quiz!! Just kidding - I'm still learning myself!
Elke and Mattias met us at the train station and took us to Kathe's home. She is now in her 90s and lives in an assisted living facility. And lemme tell ya, stepping into her place was like stepping into the twilight zone. Oma lived in a "mother-in-law suite" that was attached to the main house by way of the porch, and it was about the same size as Kathe's place. But what was really eerie was how they had decorated their respective homes EXACTLY the same - full of handmade crafts, family pictures, and lace. They really are two peas in a pod, from their mannerisms to their looks.
I can't begin to describe how special meeting Kathe was. Oma passed away in May, and everyone misses her dearly. She welcomed me into the Wolfe family without a moment's hesitation, and did the same for Nils. She greatly enjoyed speaking German with him! Kathe shared pictures that Oma had sent her over the decades, from baby pictures of Mike's dad to pictures from our wedding. Their bond was evident. She also asked us (through Mattias) for more information about how Oma passed away and what her final months were like. I feel proud to have met that side of our family, like we somehow brought the circle of our family, which spans an ocean and many generations, a little closer.