Wordless Wednesday: Fasnacht Edition (Carnival)

February 29th, 2012

My Swiss Life (post 3)

February 24th, 2012

Today was Kinderfasnacht in Bern (Carnival for children; tomorrow is Carnival for the grown-ups); I took the boys for the children’s parade, and in a crowd estimated at nearly five thousand we ran into people we know twice and saw several more families with whom we’re on nodding terms. It happens more and more – I see people I know when the boys and I go skating in our free time, I run into people in the city or in the near-by shopping center.

It never ceases to amaze me how long it has taken me to feel like I have a life here; a Swiss life; a life of my own. I thought it last night when I was on the ice for the hockey school, in charge of the pick-up hockey end of the rink for the first time. (All the little ones can skate now, and I got a chance to see some of the older kids in action.) I love being on the ice at hockey school – all my hand-wringing seems so ridiculous to me now – and I am comfortable in the role of Trainerin and I genuinely enjoy my fellow trainers. After the Saturday hockey school – which runs right over lunchtime – we all go to the restaurant after the practice and eat something and have some beer (there’s more beer associated with hockey school than I expected; it’s fun) and it’s nice.

Some of it is the boys – people kept telling me that as the Small Boy got older he would be the wedge opening the door to Swiss life and certainly I’ve seen the truth in that. A lot of it is the hockey, and I think the reason the hockey is working so well for me is that, yes, it’s an activity that I’m involved in because of the boys but I got the boys involved in hockey because it was an activity that had been, for a long time, a big part of my life. So I don’t feel as though I’m being dragged hither and yon by my kids’ interests but that I’m being reintroduced to something I had forgotten that I missed.

And a lot of it is the job, and although the job is hockey related I suspect it would be much the same with any job, because here is something I have learned: friends are important, friends are essential, but I have come to the conclusion that colleagues are just as important. Having work colleagues I see twice a week has added to my life enormously in ways I would never have guessed. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had work colleagues, and I didn’t even realize I was missing it until I started working at the hockey school and suddenly there it was: “Oh. Wait. So this is what it’s like to ¬†really feel like I fit in here.” Before, I’d always figured I was integrated, and I was in all the surface ways, but this feels different. This is past integrated, this is enmeshed. This is having Swiss-speaking friends who did not come through my husband. This is being expected to show up at places, and being missed when I don’t.

It took so little – yet so much – and I feel like life here has finally settled into place. It amazes me how long it took. It amazes me more that it is only in retrospect that I see that I was never really settled in the first place. That this, with these small changes, feels like a different life. A real life. My real Swiss life. Finally.

(Previous Swiss life posts can be found here and here)

New Poem Up

February 23rd, 2012

A bit of shameless self-promotion: my poem “The Changing of the Flowers” is up in the ever-gorgeous Literary Bohemian. You expats of all stripes might especially appreciate it.

“Everybody was expecting you” (My Swiss Life, post 2)

February 6th, 2012

(These “My Swiss Life” post are not, strictly speaking, chronological, but for anybody interested, post one can be found here.)

SB had a hockey tournament yesterday, in the blinding cold, that I had to miss. I was at the Geneva Writers’ Conference (more about that in another post). It’s only the second match I’ve ever had to miss – the only other one I missed was when SB got his concussionso I was feeling a bit superstitious about missing this, but the conference ran most of the day on Sunday; it’s only held every two years and is far too good an opportunity for an English-language writer in Switzerland to pass up, so there I was in Geneva while SB was playing in Bern.

Earlier in the week, it looked like the tournament might have to be cancelled. We, as the home team for this set of games, were responsible for coming up with two time-keepers and two referees and as of Thursday evening we were short one referee (or Schiri in Swiss – pronounced “she-ree” and short for Schiedsrichter and one of my favorite Swiss words). Thursday night we parents received a scathing e-mail from the program head – not SB’s coach, who stayed diplomatically above the fray, but the head of the program, whose job it is to make a fray when a fray must be made – that somebody better step up and volunteer to be the second Schiri or the tournament would have to be cancelled and that would be a shame for the kids and a true embarrassment for the prestigious SCB Future program. Surely not all of you have some other obligation on Sunday, right??

I would have stepped up – I teach in the hockey school, after all, and can certainly handle reffing a Bambini match and I really do want to do my part – but I had the conference and I headed off to Geneva hoping somebody would volunteer. I didn’t receive any angry emails canceling the tournament for Sunday, so I assumed the match was on – in spite of temperatures hovering at minus 15 Celcius – but on Sunday I sent off a quick SMS to R asking “So SB’s tourney is on? Tell him mama says good luck” and received this in reply:

“They are doing warmup now and will start soon. Having coffee with the others. Everybody was expecting you.”

I smiled – everybody had been expecting me. That’s where I’ve finally gotten to in my Swiss life. I have people expecting me.¬†I’ve written before about how most of these people probably will not become friends outside of the hockey context – though possibly two or three families might – but that’s also okay. I remember my mother and the other hockey moms, winter friends, stadium friends, the way they sat together and drank their bad coffee from styrofoam cups and I think: this is good too, this locational fellowship, this contextual friendship. When I show up at SB’s practices and games, I’m welcomed, I have people to sit with and chat with, I am part of the crowd – no longer hovering around the edges – and when I don’t show up, people ask where I am. That feels like a huge thing. It’s a good thing in my life, and if it is bound my the time and space of hockey seasons and ice stadiums that’s fine. I think we all have contextual friends – work colleagues we enjoy but somehow never socialize with outside of the office, the people in our yoga or boxing classes we see every week but rarely if ever meet for lunch. And those people occupy important places in our lives, they anchor us, they make us feel as though we belong. They add texture and dimension to our lives and I’d been missing that for a long time and now, thanks to the Small Boy and his love of all things hockey (which is, at heart, thanks to me for enrolling him in the first place all those years ago), I’ve got it. And when I’m not there, people notice.

It’s a little thing, being expected. Except that it’s not really so little at all is it?

(And if you’re wondering, SB’s team won all three games and SB scored three goals.)

Words in the night

February 3rd, 2012

Sunday nights I lie in bed with SB until he falls asleep. Most nights I climb into bed next to him for a while – ten minutes or so – but Sunday is “snuggle night” and I stay in bed with him until he’s asleep. Last Sunday night, I had been in bed with him about five minutes when a line of poetry came to me – not just a line, but a way into a persona I’ve been wondering if I can possibly write convincingly. I sat straight up and whispered “Sorry, I’ll be right back,” and grabbed a piece of blank paper and a pencil (a colored pencil, it turned out, dark red) from SB’s desk and jotted down the line. I climbed back into bed and SB asked me if I had thought of an idea for a poem.

I love that he knows this about me.

“Yes, I thought of something that I had to write before I forgot.”

“What did you write?” he asked, and I told him. It’s a line in the third person, about a “he” figure, and SB asked who “he” was.

“I don’t know yet, I’m still figuring that out. Sometimes things come to me in pieces and I have to put them together like a puzzle.”

“Is the he me?” he asked.

“No, I don’t think so. I think it’s a grown man remembering being a boy.”

“Okay,” he said and we curled up again.

Five minutes later, another line. The closing line, probably; it felt like a closing line. I jumped out of bed again.

“Another idea?”

“Yeah, I’m sorry. I’ll be right back.”

I jotted down the line and climbed back into bed. Then SB sat up.

“Wait, sorry, I forgot something,” he said and climbed out of bed. He went to his desk, found a pencil and a scrap of paper, and jotted down some letters. He got back into bed, then said “Oh, wait,” and did it again. Then he came to bed and curled up and slowly fell asleep, my son who seems to understand, a little bit, what it is that I do.

New Poems Up

February 2nd, 2012

My poems “Trampoline” and “Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusettes” are up at Shot Glass Journal.