Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Expire (08/01/13)
TITLE: Spreading Branches
By Arlene Showalter
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Three days ago, I learned, via Facebook, my mother had died. Mom lived life with zest and enthusiasm plus a dogged determination to remain in her own home until the end. Even though she recently celebrated her 85th birthday, her death came sudden, unexpected, and the Atlantic Ocean lies between us.
Now, I am the oldest generation in our family. And today, I met the husband of my 9th cousin, on this side of the Big Pond. He showed me the house my many-times-great grandfather built in the 1600s after he emigrated from Switzerland. The house stands, sturdy and strong, sheltering another family after 400 years of service.
We toured the city streets, wandered along the Kanzelbach, a narrow brook that provided energy for a local miller to convert grain for the people. We saw the ancient vineyards, rows and rows of ripening grapes stretching in perfect lines up the hill to the Stahlenburg Castle. Construction of the castle began in 1235 to offer protection to the city in times of war. After several conflicts, it was destroyed in 1485.
After our tour, I sat in the home of my cousin and listened to them speak my grandfather’s tongue. I watched their facial and body language because I know only a little German. Their home sits, clinging to the side of that mountain, and faces another.
A huge rain came, with rolling thunder and lightning flashes. We sat in the dining area, big doors thrown open wide to receive the cooling winds. Soon after the rain stopped, blue and black meisers (a small bird like a sparrow but with more color) came and flitted in and out of the large home built birdfeeder.
I met myself and my family. Although unable to follow conversation, I learned that people are people. My people live and love and laugh. They watch birds in their garden. They grow beautiful flowers, even several tall cacti brought back from New Mexico. They appreciate a good rain after many days of extreme heat.
My ancestor walked those same streets, worked in the vineyard, and viewed the same ruins as I, 400 years later. Branches of my family tree curl around Germany, France and, who-knows- where-else from my father; and around England from my mother.
Today, I feel big, but also small. I am but one small branch, attached to one gigantic tree.
Schriesheim, Germany 8/6/13
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