We moved to Germany when I was ten. As a side-note, a few of my children have been ten years-old, so I know how young that is. But I didn't think so at the time. In fact, I felt very urbane and suave and independent.
Sometime during our first month or so there I decided to have myself a little adventure. So I left our street in the village of Katzenbach to walk to the next village, Spesbach, which frankly was just a few blocks away.
I trotted along, fingering the silver two-Deutschmark coin in my pocket, feeling all rich and international. I walked past a little copse of trees with some sort of cemetery tucked inside. Moseyed past tiny white stuccoed houses with window boxes filled with perky flowers. Crossed the street and peeked through the lace-curtained windows of houses which were right up against the sidewalk making it hard not to be nosey.
And then I arrived at the bäckerei (bakery). I had practiced a German phrase which would allow me to purchase some to-die-for chocolate, which could be bought by the smooth, slightly coconutty square. I felt ready to face the stern-faced proprietress who came out and stared down at me like if I said one word out of place she would string me up next to her happy little sign outside. My mouth went dry. Her eyebrow went up. Then I pointed and said:
"Drei stuck das, bitte."
Which, roughly translated, means (and I'm proud, proud I tell you): "Three piece that, please."
The woman grunted, wrapped three pieces of heaven in thin waxy paper, handed them to me, and took my money. Then she turned to the cash-drawer, made some noise, tossed my change onto the counter (pfennigs, which looked like play-money), and said something to me I didn't understand. I stared. She said it again. I stared harder. She said it harder. Then we both stared. Finally she sort of rolled her eyes, waved me off, and went back to her living quarters leaving me standing there clutching chocolate in one hand, play money in the other, and wondering if I'd landed on another planet, because everything suddenly felt weird and alien.
This is often what marriage feels like to me.
(Yes. I am queen of the segue.)
The other day I left home for an adventure. I drove from our little town to another little town to run some errands in which were involved certain amounts of chocolate (because chocolate is always involved.) As I left it was understood that my husband would cut a few branches from the flowering pear tree that stands in our front yard. It was understood through words. Words in English. English being both of our primary language–although in all fairness my husband's English comes from Idaho, so it often sounds like potatoes.
Anyway, I left, secure in the thought that my husband would do some chopping, and our tree would no longer decapitate unwary walkers/runners/tall children. Because this man is a dude who Gets Things Done. Right Away. And With Great Purpose. I knew I had no need to fear.
Sometime during the day I received from my son a text containing of photo of all the branches they had cut off that morning. It was a LOT of branches. More than I had ordered. I didn't understand. But I knew I would when I got home. Perhaps our Tree of Leafiness had contained hidden numbers of branches. A volume of tree-ness that could not fully be appreciated until you got right in there and started sawing. It would make sense when I got up close and personal, I was certain.
That afternoon I drove up to our house and found a brand new five-foot wall bordering one side of our property along the sidewalk. A wall made of branches, trunks, roots, leaves, more roots, plus some roots. And the line of foliage stretched for most of a city block. Or at least a small-town block. I did not understand.
My husband came around the corner carrying a shovel and waved gleefully to me. Then I pulled around and into my driveway and got an eyeful of what my boys had done.
My tree was pruned. All nice and neat.
And every. single. bush. that lined the front and side of our house–whether laurel, yew, or cotoneaster–had been sawed off, dragged across the yard, and stacked in the fat pile I had seen on the eastern perimeter of our property. Every. one.
I felt all of the oxygen suck out of my brain.
And this is the part where I was pretty sure I was standing in that bakery back in the village of Spesbach and my husband was the German lady, except cheerful.
"Hey!" he said, looking as pleased as pork in a pie (I have no idea what that means. I just made it up. Because I figure pie is so wonderful that any pork would be pleased to be in it), "What do you think of what we've done?"
I stared. Then I said, "That's . . . a LOT of . . . pruning."
My hub's smile got wider, he laughed, and then he said, "A;lskn e voijsldn eoirj f! Right? So we thought a;sdoiih aek lkv jeoiv asd. And then the neighbor came over and advised asldfkj a;kdlf eiuaeo;i jesk, and I said, why the heck not? You know? Because as;ldkf alksa jope j;srlkj fs;l faopweu a;eij ;skjf ;lkj and a;ldkj a;ld jfwojafwifj aeljfa!"
Dude. I had no idea what he was saying. All I could hear was a ringing in my ears. MY BUSHES WERE GONE! AND SO WAS THE MONEY TO REPAIR THE STUPID KEY THINGIE IN MY CAR WHICH WAS BUSTED IN SUCH A WAY THAT I HAD TO WHACK THE KEY WITH THE HEEL OF MY HAND TO GET IT TO TURN IN THE IGNITION EVERY FREAKING TIME I DROVE THE CAR–BECAUSE NOW I HAD TO BUY NEW z;lafafjksjs BUSHES!
But my hub was so proud of himself, he reminded me of me when I figured out how to get a German woman to sell me chocolate. So I didn't have the heart to yell at him. I just smiled, with a whole lot of effort, and asked if I got to pick out the new bushes.
Yeah. Sometimes dealing with the opposite sex is like trying to order chocolate without speaking the local language. In the end I'll get what I want–because that's what girls do. But I won't have any idea how. And I won't know how to say anything else should the need arise..
Ah well. You learn. You adjust, right? But just in case, I am going to learn more than a few perfunctory phrases from my husband's home planet.