The house I’ve known

Dear Kids,

I’ve been meaning to tell you about a house that I’ve considered a second home for most of my life. The house of my aunt and uncle in Germany. I’ve been coming to this house since I was a teenager. Once or twice a year. I’ve slept up in the loft, under the skylights and the wooden roof, although this past visit, I decided to sleep with you in the lower bedroom, on mattresses on the floor.

Who knows how much longer we will be able to do that.

Anyway, the house has a lovely garden which turns into a beautiful snow garden in winter, and where we eat breakfast barefoot in the summer. There’s an apple tree which my aunt and uncle collect apples and take them to be pressed for juice which lasts all year long. There’s a red currant bush which both of you have eaten from since you were small babies. I too have eaten from that bush for as long as I can remember, juicy sour red currants popped into your mouth, or a handful picked and thrown into some organic whole milk yogurt and sugar for dessert.

There are also raspberry bushes and blackberry bushes where we pick berries and get occasional thorns in our fingers.

The house is made of wood, has an aforementioned sleeping loft where I’ve been sleeping since I was allowed to climb the winding ladder that leads up to it. You can see snow drift down as you lay in bed, or rain sleeting down in summer thunderstorms. There is a fireplace and worn down green velvet couches that I have napped on since a young age. Sometimes when I’m restless, I picture myself napping on that green couch, with the fireplace crackling and the wool tartan throw that is stored underneath the couch for impromptu siestas.

My aunt uses a Provence woven basket to bring out the breakfast things to the side stone porch or the grassy back garden, depending on where we decide. There is always good black tea with milk, and homemade jams, always homemade jams: currant, plum, citrus, raspberry, cherry, etc.

The house has wood floors covered with antique rugs, and an antique writing desk in the living room, and a wooden table in the kitchen that I have enjoyed many relaxing moments at. My aunt took up sculpting full-time after retiring as a pharmacist and the house and garden are filled with her wood and stone sculptures. In summer she attaches a swing to one of her outside metal arch sculptures in the garden and you both swing on it.

There are tiles in the bathroom that have been there since the late 80s but still manage to look elegant. The bathtub is surrounded by river rocks collected over the years. The downstairs bathroom also has windows covered in coloured glass, and crystals and stones decorating the window sill.

There is a big park nearby with two playgrounds, one of them a wonderful eco-playground made out of natural materials: a wooden tree house, a climbing maze made of tree trunks, a double rope swing, a lion tunnel, etc. There’s a plum tree that drops sweet plums on you as you enter the park in summer.

My aunt and uncle both have their own rooms and then a sleeping room that they share. My aunt’s room is filled with books and artwork, much of it her own. She has her tarot cards, candles, art supplies, photos of family, paper, pens, and little toys for her grandkids. She also keeps a shelf of children’s books for her grandchildren.

They do all their shopping at the local bakery and the local organic supermarket. They always have wonderful cheeses, sweet butter, good quality milk, and many other basics in their small fridge. They also have a wine cellar and as the cellar is stone and therefore cool, they keep much of their food down there to stay fresh.

My aunt has an admirable “lebensfreude”, one that I strive for. At nearly 80 years old, both her and my uncle are very fit. They ski, they take week long bike trips across Germany and Austria. They go every spring to Greece and do a sculpting workshop in France in autumn. They walk and bike a lot, and swim in the summer.

My aunt has always been a role model for me for quality of life. The way she brings beauty into every moment of the day. For her, things don’t have to be perfect. Their house is very clean, but there are pockets that aren’t tidy, her room is an artistic clutter. They aren’t always on time. So things don’t have to be perfect, but for her, it’s important that things are beautiful. Beautiful outings, even a simple cup of tea. Importance is placed on beauty and this brings an oasis of calm to their house.

My aunt has an artistic yet classic sense of style. She wears earth tones and has a small collection of artisan jewelry, simple and tasteful. She gets her hair done every seven weeks and does it herself the rest of the time. She wears Camper shoes as they are comfortable and stylish. She takes pride in her appearance. She has a collection of perfume in the bathroom that I remember sampling from when I was a teenager.

She has been a great influence on me. When I was a teenager and would come to visit, she would always take me to the ballet, and to art museums in Munich. She also taught me about tarot. We started doing yearly tarot readings together when I was around 17 years old, and it is this influence that has helped me with my own self-reflection.

Now that my own mother is gone from this plane, I am grateful to have them, grateful that my own children are able to know them a little bit. I hope we have more time to spend with them in their lovely world.


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