A rainy day greets us, the first cool day we’ve had for a while. It’s family day today, lunch with my Aunt Maria, her two sons, their families and a family friend. Quite excited and a little nervous at the same time. My language skills feel very lacking at this moment and I’m kicking myself for letting my native tongue slip through my fingers. Truth is that I remember more school girl German than Yugoslav.
Having met Norbert and his family last year, we meet Maria’s younger son, Dado and his family this year. Norbert’s three children have grown up so much since last year, and Dado has a cute new baby in tow. We struggle a little with language initially, but between German, English and Yugoslav, we stumble through.
Maria must have been cooking for days. She’s made chicken noodle soup, stuffed peppers, salads, vegetables and not one, but two cakes and biscuits. All Yugoslav specialities, all utterly delicious. It’s very thoughtful of her to have gone to so much trouble. We’ve been made very welcome.
Growing up in a small family it’s fascinating to realise that we extend far beyond our small tribe at home. It was wonderful to see my cousins, their wives and gorgeous families, and learn a little more about them. The photo albums and travel brochures come out and we swap stories for a while.
I’m very grateful for the wonderful language skills present today without which communications would have been very challenging. European schools teach and value language skills from the start, resulting in a broadly multilingual community; speaking more than two languages is common. English and German are widely spoken and indeed, we only came across one person in all of our Scandinavian travels who was not fluent in English. She had an excellent reason, being I think, a recent Vietnamese immigrant.
We spend the afternoon together. Late in the day, photos are taken and presents exchanged, then it’s time for goodbyes and hopes that we’ll catch up again, perhaps next year, in Croatia or Bosnia.
On our way out of Rendsburg the rain hits in a torrent – I was really lucky to get the photos I did. We had intended to travel via Cuxhaven but the heavy rain slows us down altering our plans.
I spend the evening reflecting on our day with my father’s family, thankful to be able to spend time with them, sad that I’ll never have the opportunity to tell him about it. My father’s family was everything to him and I know his biggest regret was not coming home to see them again. I think he’d be pleased and proud of today, measures which I’m happy to lead my life by.