My winter clothes are going home. Coat, gloves, scarf, and hat are on a plane to California where they will no doubt gather dust in the back of a closet. It wasn’t hard to say good-bye to winter coats at the Frankfurt Airport this morning, but knowing that my husband was leaving with them was a different story. As I took the familiar train back from Frankfurt to Braunschweig and the 420 bus to Wolfenbüttel and stepped into our apartment, I felt a growing emptiness, even knowing that he will be back in May with plenty of suitcase space for us to go home together this summer.
The last time I was alone in Wolfenbüttel was in January, when I came back after the kind of joyously hectic Christmas holiday that our four children and eight grandchildren create just by being themselves. Returning to solitary research was lonely, yes, but oh so peaceful. Bundled against the January cold I walked the wet cobblestone streets between rows of fachwerk houses feeling a need for structure and order. Resolutions involving healthy food, exercise, a revised research plan, intensive German study feature prominently in my journal entries for the New Year. Of course the novelty soon wore off, but I was rescued by a kind of miracle that Wolfenbüttel seems to produce regularly. A new group of scholars arrived in early February, excited and friendly and eager to get together for lunch, share research strategies at coffee, organize pizza nights, and restart the stammtisch, a regular Thursday-night get-together at the Augusta, which had somehow died out over the holidays. They came from all over—Melbourne, Budapest, Naples, Munich—and even a friend from Tokyo whom I had enjoyed getting to know last November. I discovered, not for the first time, that when you really want to talk, you stop thinking about speaking perfect German and just let it flow. By the time Chuck came in February I was eager to introduce him to all my new friends. I know when he comes again in May it will happen again.
In spite of the light snowfall on Easter morning, I am not the only one making a commitment to spring. The corner ice cream shop has set out tables, chairs, and couches for sun-loving clientele. Daffodils have been planted in front of the Zeughaus. Crows are noisily refurbishing last year’s nests in the still-bare trees. Spring brings a renewal that is more energizing and more lighthearted than New Year’s resolutions can ever be. Good-bye winter coats. It’s 9 degrees in Wolfenbüttel and I’m ready for ice cream in the sun.