A Wedding in Germany or Lost in the Translation of Grief

Duffy told me that grief was like a crazy acid trip, and I have come to know that grief at a German wedding is like a crazy acid trip on a crazy acid trip!

I left Berlin in rain and made my way to the small town for the wedding with two train transfers, our train in Hamburg broke down (a real shame when you cant understand a single instruction on the loud speaker) and I missed my connection in Buxtehude, as luck would have it two other wedding guests were on the train and had called Astrid and she asked them to find me. As I looked on confused at the train schedule a strange German man said “are you Ramona I am Ron and my wife you come sit in train house with us until the new train to Bremevodre.” Well lucky me Astrid sent some people to rescue me and how bizarre it was (and this in comparison is nothing).

Friday night was the big party to welcome everyone and start the celebrate as they called it. It was like October fest in the groom’s mother’s back yard, a big tent filled with beer and wurst and some interesting fish. I was introduced around and quickly started to recognize people from mom’s stories of Astrid (the woman who did a documentary about her, the couple whose wedding her and Björn met at, a friend from the kibbutz) and I knew mom would have loved seeing all of their faces.

Astrid had moved me from the hotel to stay with the other friends my age at the church retreat center (I roomed with Karoline from Berlin who is the woman who introduced Astrid to Martin’s and has become a very good friend of mine). The retreat center (read youth hostel) looked out over the church for the wedding and a labyrinth I walked each day I was here.

The wedding was unbelievable in a church from 1578 small in the willage (that is how they call it here) of Oese. I have become know in the willage of Oese ‘as the American girl who veeps for her mother just dies’ (Camila I think we should have shirts made up that say this – ve are the girls who veep for our mother just dies). At the start of the wedding service they lit a candle for those who could not be with us Björns father who died 4 years ago and Astrid’s friend Barbara from San Francisco, they did not need to translate for me I just started to cry and cried for a long time with people’s arms around me and hands on my knee. the wedding was just as Astrid had hoped with so much joy and people, and music including ‘oh happy day’ on the organ and saxophone. And then came the real trip of the party!!!!

It is hard to capture this in a short message so let it be said much will be lost in the translation (as much has been lost on me in the translation here). We were ready for everyone to speak German but would have each other in mom’s absence everyone speaks German and I am becoming an expert at understanding but have trouble replying (Astrid has been amazed at how much I do understand, I attribute it to 7 years of Waldorf School German and half a life away but still can pull conversational phrases together). I should also explain that there were some things we were never ready for (a German wedding party can last in excess of 13 hours, ja I just said thirteen hours we started at 130 in the afternoon with coffee and cake before the ceremony and the dancing didn’t stop until close to 3 in the morning). It is ok they keep feeding you including the midnight meal (no joke a second meal served at midnight to soak up alcohol and allow you to keep dancing). And dancing we did – I was the hot ticket being from America with all of Björn’s friends from Hamburg wanting a dance and then squeaking by in English about coit tower and the grand canyon, and where do you like in Europe. But the best was dancing with everyone who sing as the dj calls it ‘mit english lyrics’ to ABBA and Michael Jackson and German techno.

Also, not mentioned before the wedding is the tradition of ‘performances’ yes you heard me right at the party. People get up and perform for the couple some tender some ridiculous but to an American all out of this planet (gospel choir from Hamburg singing all I have to give is love (say what), a sock puppet opera, traditional lip syncing in lederhosen (say what), and a slide show with naked baby pictures – Camila get ready you get married and and the naked photos and poop stories are out there. At times I feel I am having an out of body experience and am on another planet yelling back to Ramona at the wedding or maybe it is mom yelling to me from wherever she is what I know she would have said if she was sitting next to me ‘what the fuck is going on and isn’t this too fucking great’.

I have walked in woods and with cows and horses, I have sat with German families and shared meals as they find new ways to get along, I have made friends and have had deep connections. And then the moments come when someone will speak to me in broken English only once about my mother as Björns mother did at the party her ‘this is a photo of your mutter’ me ‘ja’ her ‘you miss your mutter and are very sad’ me ‘ja’ her ‘ my ousband died four years ago Sept 5, I still miss him and am sad. This candle they light today was for my ousband und your mutter.’ me ‘ja’ her ‘ it was shone ja? you are happy right now’ me’ja now I am happy for this is a special day’ her ‘come we dance more’ me’ its 2 in the morning what’

We have made it to Chemnitz and last night Astrid and I cooked dinner together and talked and this morning we had a long breakfast and I cried as we talked for hours. It feels very healing to be here with Astrid. She is so full of life hers and the baby’s and looks so wonderful as a pregnant woman. we say so many things together that sound like Barbara and talk of all of you.

I carry you all with me in my broken heart and see so much beauty still in this world,


PS – I am now known to everyone from the wedding as dancing queen, mom would have liked this title (and I debated if i should have told them all i was Jewish just for her)

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10 2009

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