May 2011


Mothers and Mobility

This past weekend was shockingly lazy: apparently I had a sleep deficit and I made up for it with a vengeance. Other than reading and taking four long naps, I did two significant things: I went to a park (where I read Straight Man, a delightful book), and I went to the gym.

It was while I was on my way to the gym Sunday morning that I bumped into my downstairs neighbor.

He’s actually the only neighbor I see vaguely regularly or recognize. By vaguely regularly I mean that I last saw him a month ago, and prior to that there was a three month gap.

After exchanging greetings, he noted that Sunday was, in fact, Mother’s Day.

He followed this up by asking me if the United States had Mother’s Day – to which I said yes, but that I wasn’t sure when it was. I am uncertain about these kinds of dates because they vary from country to country. A few weeks ago I called British friends to chat, failing to realize that that day was, in fact, Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom.

Mother’s Day was never a big holiday in my family – my father felt that it was a silly holiday (ditto Father’s Day), so its annual presence on the calendar always catches me off guard—I don’t have an internalized system to recognize that it’s Mother’s Day and that I should do something about it.

Standing there in the stairwell, I pondered whether or not it was Mother’s Day in the United States—I’d remembered seeing holidays stacked on Sunday on my Google Calendar (I have Dutch, German, British, and American holidays loaded onto my calendar). I decided to assume that one of the stacked holidays must be German Mother’s Day and that the other must be the US Mother’s Day. (And, for some reason, British Mother’s Day is missing from the Google Calendar!)

He then urged me to call my Mother—so I promised to do so.

Then he mentioned that he needed to buy flowers for his Mom, which is when I made the sort of mental leap that surely it was too late: mothers live far away and it was, at 11:00 in Germany surely too late to order flowers for delivery in time – especially given that it was Sunday, in Germany. I, on the other hand, had a fighting chance to get flowers delivered back in the States, given that it was only 3am in Denver – if I so desired.

However, before my imagination ran too far away, he pointed out that his Mother lived a mere two streets away (Germans do not talk in terms of blocks, rather streets).

I’m under the impression that the average German doesn’t actually move too far from home – one of the amazing things about the United States is how mobile the population is – people can, and do, move thousands of miles to take on a new job – versus that in Germany. Yes, there are people in Germany who’ve moved (relatively) vast distances, but not to the same extent as in the United States.

(By the way, I say impression because the vast majority of Germans that I know have moved some distance from home. In the field that I work in, one must go to where the jobs are because the jobs will not come to you – although it is possible to work remotely, from wherever home happens to be, unless you are on the frontlines, and even then you can probably arrange a schedule that lets you stay out of town for weeks at a time. The challenge for me is to meet Germans who aren’t somehow related to work.)

My neighbor then noted, with a smile, that his brother had probably already bought flowers and all that he would need to do is give his brother some money – all was actually already taken care of.

After that, I headed to the gym. Friday I’d met with my personal trainer who promptly increased the weights on 8 of my 10 machines, decreased one, and kept the other steady. Sunday was my first day with the new weights and it kicked my ass—or at least I assume it did because I ended up taking a two and a half hour long nap Sunday afternoon.

Before calling my Mom.

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