Let’s begin with a bit of ancestry and history.
In 1969, my mother’s nephew, Dieter, visited us in Berkeley. My mother had been fairly close to Dieter, her sister’s child, as he grew up. Now he was all grown up with a wife, Elke and young daughter, Annette. Nine months after their trip the US, they had a second daughter, and asked me to be her godmother. Dieter and Elke named her Sonja Carolin.
I visited Sonja and her family every time I went to Germany in my youth, so had a chance to watch her grow up.
In 1990, I was a young mother with four kids under the age of six and Sonja was 20. We invited her to live with us and be our au pair.
Fast-forward 15 years and Sonja has three children of her own, Elisabeth is wanting a break from the intensity of Cal, and the idea of au pairing for Sonja’s family looks intriguing. So when Elisabeth is the age Sonja was when au pairing for us, Elisabeth goes to Germany to be an au pair for a few months for all-grown-up Sonja and her three kids, Justus, 8, Emma, 6, and Marleen, 2. (Simon came along a year later, giving Sonja two boys and two girls, just like us!)
Fast-forward another 10 years or so and Emma is all grown up!
A redhead! Yes, Emma is the redheaded daughter I never got.
Are you wondering how Emma and I are related? We did – so we looked it up on Ancestry. Although the relationship feels much closer, Emma is my grand niece twice removed.
Last January, Sonja asked whether Emma might come visit us in the US this summer. Of course she can! So for the past month, Emma has been living with us, practicing her English, babysitting for some local families, and being our youngest, red-headedest daughter… twice-removed, of course.
Emma arrived on June 6th – coincidentally her mother’s birthday. Yes, for her mother’s birthday, I got her daughter! Emma said good-bye to her parents at the Frankfurt airport…
and winged her way across the ocean, just as her mom had done 25 years earlier.
Sonja and I texted madly over WhatsApp as I stood in the Seattle-Tacoma airport, awaiting Emma’s arrival. There we were, two mother hens, pecking away at technology, wondering where our chicklet was. Did she get lost? Ah, THERE she is!
We took a quick photo and told Sonja to finally go to bed. I have it from here!
For the first few days, Emma spoke very little. Not only is she much more shy than her mother, she also hadn’t travelled to Canada, having a chance to practice her English for months before coming to the US, as her mother had.
But Emma settled in quickly, making friends with those in our home who understood the most important language of all – the language of “pet me, I’m yours, I love you!”
Before Emma had even had a chance to recover from jetlag, I took her to Snoqualmie Falls. It was a short trip, giving her a quick flavor of the Pacific Northwest.
We grabbed lunch at The Attic, looking straight down onto the falls.
(Disclaimer: From Google Images, to show our view.)
We haven’t had kids living at home for quite a few years and I was worried that Emma would be bored stiff with just us ol’ foggies, so we were able to line up a few local babysitting jobs for her and during the following week I came to realize that Emma is as good with kids as her mom was. Er, IS!
On her first weekend in Seattle, Emma finally got to actually see Seattle – and meet three of its residents, Peter, Alex, and Kat. (Elisabeth, Emma’s former au pair, had taken – and passed! -- her oral anesthesia boards the same day Emma arrived, and would fly home to see her next weekend.)
During Emma’s stay Tom, who simply can’t not build stuff, started a landscaping project that includes a small deck outside Emma’s room, earning the deck its own name, “Emma’s deck,” which Tom actually burned into the wood!
Now Emma’s presence will always be felt at our home, even after she heads back to Germany . And when she comes back with her own children someday, she can remind them, as they jump off the towering (not) platform that it is rightly her deck!
Two weeks after Emma arrived in Seattle, we picked Elisabeth up from the airport for a three day stay to visit Emma – who was six the last time they had been together – and to spend Father’s Day with her family. The two of them picked up right where they left off – well, except that this time they’re both adults! Emma reminded Elisabeth that tradition holds that Emma should now be Elisabeth’s au pair, representing generation number three of our families’ au pair-ish connections, but it’ll be a few years still before Elisabeth has kids – and you better believe that Emma is ready to come back to Seattle and step in when that happens!
Our first order of business was ceramic painting!
They actually turned out pretty nicely. Elisabeth made a soup bowl for Danny, I made a ladybug mug (of course), and Emma made a gorgeous vase!
The next day, Emma and Elisabeth joined Kat and Ian for the Solstice Festival in Seattle. They had a blast – as you can see.
The weather wasn’t warm at all, but they sure didn’t care and swimming in Lake Washington did happen. Brrrrr!
Father’s Day began with a hike to Annette Lake in the Cascades, including everyone except Shasta and me, old
redheaded bitches ladies that we are!
Peter and Alex didn’t hike either, but they did come home to celebrate Father’s Day. How nice for Tom to have all his kids home!
The next week was fairly quiet. A card game with Kat…
…and more babysitting.
We couldn’t very well have Emma visit from Germany and not go camping, right?! So we packed up the trailer and headed to Ohanapecosh at Mt. Rainier, where I had reservations for the BEST campsite, directly next to the river. (I had made the reservation exactly six months before, on the first day one could reserve a site, which was Christmas Eve! I checked the system a few hours later and all river sites had been scooped up! We were lucky!)
Emma had her own tent, giving her a true feeling of Northwest camping.
I’ll be reserving this site again first thing in the morning next Christmas Eve!
I reminded Emma that she could say that she climbed Mt. Rainier. She might not have climbed to the top, but she was there and some climbing was involved.
In the evening, Emma discovered S’MORES! It was a happy discovery.
Tonight we’ll have a “Verabschied’s Abendessen” (farewell dinner) with Kat and tomorrow morning I’ll bring Emma back to SeaTac for her flight to Santa Barbara (where Tom and I met forty years ago, coincidentally), where she’ll attend EF English Language School for two weeks before flying home to her family in Germany.
We’ll miss her! But she’ll be back; she promised!
Addendum: I’ve been lightheartedly hounding Emma to drink some coffee while she’s in Seattle. Not a coffee drinker at home, she resisted for four entire weeks – UNTL…! Just before she disappeared into the security line at SeaTac we stopped at Starbucks and, miracle of miracles, THIS happened!
Who doesn’t love a caramel macchiato? NOT Emma, that’s who! (Re-visit this sentence after two weeks at English language school, Emma. We’ll just call this your lesson on double negatives.)