I want you to see this. More than that, I want all your senses to experience this.
It’s those long lingering afternoons, where the sun seems to eke out more time in the sky for what feels like hours. I’ve been at the old man’s side all day, and I’m tired, so I get up and kiss him goodbye, say ‘I love you.’
Exit from the back door and turn right and skirt that tree clustered with thin petals like a trillion silk tassels that drip nectar over the pavement. Through the carpark where the families allotment garden once stood and turn left onto MohrStraße, where my Oma lived. And I cross under the little tunnel directly under what was once her apartment – so close!
A trio of new apartments were built upon the Hart, the common public space where Dad taught me to drive our old Citróen 2CV one winters evening. The grass is brittle from the long summer.
To the intersection, to the left is Gasthof Grasl, and how different it looked that first time in the snow and the gathering dark, like a fairytale woodcut, like a dream of a long slumbering land.
Opposite the little forest that skirts the Piesting river and marks the edge of the village. I can see it in the snow, in the fog and rain, in the half light of the morning, even the glimmer of candlelight.
Keep walking and leave the village. Across the little arched bridge I go, and on the other side is the Gasthaus where my mother and father held their wedding reception nearly forty years ago. I’ve never gone inside. Why haven’t I done that?
The white horse at the roundabout. The church by the lane where we stood that Christmas Eve, the meadow where we would watch the hedgehogs amble by. I reach the forest where we first picked wild strawberries, and sit in that same place where we parked that little blue car.
Every step is a story, every place is a memory. I can turn a thousand ways and find more stories curated from myself, my family, my friends. My connection to this place grows ever more acute, but only because of those I loved and the imprints they have left behind in my heart. I am never more than a days journey away from here, but time separates us irrevocably. I could throw caution to the winds, buy a plane ticket and return and nothing would be the same. Time has given us everything and then taken it away. There is no anger, there is no real regret. Just a deep insatiable longing for one more glimpse of those day before I had to learn to be a man.