The Winds of Change

by Anna

“Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are”.
Bertolt Brecht

Change is highly inevitable, and it is up to us to learn to move on and adapt to the new. Six years ago, I left my home country of Germany and moved to England. The initial six months have now turned into six years. And I am truly happy where I am. It was my decision after all.

The first Christmas I couldn’t spend with my family in Germany due to work commitments was strange. Now, it is just yet another day of the year. So many changes have taken place over the years and I have naturally adapted. Some things took longer, some seemingly molded themselves around me.

Presently, I am beginning to look into finding a joint home for my partner and me. Committment fears aside, this is a lovely new event. Back home, however, my mom is pondering the thought of leaving her parent’s home for good, which to me (selfishly) means that my last anchor point which holds all my roots in Germany will be gone.

When I expressed these feelings to her, with the full understanding that it is time to let go, she told me the story that changed her grandparent’s life.

My great-grandparents worked hard and saved every penny to be able to build a joint home for themselves. They built their house from scratch and then my great-grandmother, like me an Anna, gave birth  to twin girls. One of the girls didn’t survive, the other became my grandmother. They carried on regardless until a few years later the second world war broke out. My great-grandfather was held prison in Russia while my great-grandmother was waving the white flag from the window of their house to signal peace in hope that their house wouldn’t be destroyed. My grandmother was about nine years old when the war began and later on answered my eager questions with a very factual and down-to-earth manner when I was that age myself. It showed me that it really is just a way of adapting and making the best of the situation. Basic survival is the key here.

The house survived the war, but my great-grandfather got himself a lover and ultimately a divorce. My grandmother had to give up her musical studies because she had to work as a cheap workforce in her parent’s butcher shop and also care for her mother. She married a young pastry chef, who converted to butcher to help his wife. What a change! Together, they not only managed the shop but also raised two boys and one girl, which today is my mother. Even when my grandmother had to have an operation on her uterus, she still carried on as if nothing had happened. The shop was their main income. There were no holidays, no days off. All the while my great-grandfather was living with his new wife in the garden annex of the estate.

My mother left her parent’s house when she was just sixteen. She basically fled up north  because she was fed up with being commanded to help in the shop which also meant that her parents were never really available and also caused many an argument. She began working with disabled children and it was about then years later that she decided to move back into her home town. I was two years of age at that point. The shop was now an “all sorts of things on offer shop” with a strange-looking man who went to school with my mom and wore exclusively leather and smoked non-stop. I vaguely remember sitting on my great-grandfather’s lap. The next memory is of his funeral. His second wife remained the right to live in the garden annex. She was like the typical old women living in the little house, hissing at the noise caused by young children.

Despite my grandfather and his mother-in-law not getting along, my grandmother still lovingly cared for her mother in their joint home until she  passed away about five years on. Another five years past when my grandfather died unexpectedly in his sleep having suffered a third heart attack. A year later, my grandmother moved into a warden controlled flat because the estate was just too big for her on her own. My mother decided to move back  into her old home, mainly because she couldn’t bear the thought of anyone else living in it. By now I had an eight year old brother. His father was already married to another woman and aimed to see my brother on a once weekly basis, more or less. This marked the time that I began adolescence, or being old enough to create my own life and follow my own ideas. Hallelujah!

My great-grandfather’s second wife passed away little less than a further decade later. The annex was thoroughly redecorated and we, my mom, brother and me, moved in. Ironically, I only spent three months there after which I left my mother’s home for the first time aged 21 to move south to study. This was a very important change for me. I remember vividly standing in the hallway with my last bag thinking, that once I step out of the door, life will never be the same again. This was true. But I have moved on. I can only begin to imagine what it would feel like for a mother to see her children move out and leave. In the meantime, our old flat in the main house was occupied by a new family with two children.  I returned a year and a half later for another month before I moved to England.

My grandmother moved into a nursing home a couple of years ago, and so did the old couple that has been living in the flat below us in the main house for as long as I can think. In moved an italian family with three children, two dogs and around 30 canary birds. They have been given access to my old part of the garden. For me, this is heartbreaking. This little part of the garden had been lovingly brought to life by my six-year-old self. I had created colourful flower beds and a strawberry patch and even built a small fence around it. It was my pride and place of peace. I buried many hamsters and a cat there and although I have not actively tended to it over the past six years, every time I had been to visit I felt drawn back to it and simply spent time standing in it and remembering my past, nurturing my roots.

My brother finally moved out at the beginning of the year and found himself a place to live with his girlfriend, while my mother has been in a relationship with another woman for a few years. The reason why my mother has made the decision to move out is the huge rift between her and her brothers that had been opened over my grandmother’s finances. While one of my uncles had been taking care of the financial side of the estate for many, many years he was now unwilling to lay open the financial situation when it came to the decision for my grandmother to move into a nursing home. He stopped communicating information and when he does talk to my mother it resembles more a horrendous insult and humiliation. She sincerely wanted the best for my grandmother. For her to be able to have a peaceful rest of her life after having worked so hard to sustain her life. But somehow, my uncle turns it around saying that my mother just wants the money to her self. One word against another’s…

If the house had a voice, what would it say? It appears to be the only thing in this story that hasn’t changed much. Ok, it changed colour a few years ago, and individual parts have been amended and redecorated. But the main structure remains the same. It just stands there, so solemnly, for nearly a hundred years. There will be a time when it will be gone for good. And it will leave only a few memories, which will also fade with time. I wonder if it caused uproar among the neighbouring people when it was built. Like the supermarket down the road, which has now turned into a shop offering kitchen appliances. I actually remember there being a meadow with cows on it… I have seen many meadows disappear over the years.

This is part of life. Life is change, and there is nothing we can do about it. Just accept it, acknowledge the emotions that arise and give them a loving smile. They are our dearest treasures.