We were captured by “falafel man”.
Isabel and I – our German momma – were walking a little ways behind two boys clothed in bright red t-shirts and lugging big bags with the symbol of the Mainz football team. The practice stadium soared high to our right and to the left was a short pathway and then the distant glimpse of green fields marked with white lines. We were just about to continue our way when a shout came from behind us and I turned to see a familiar face. In my previous trip I met this man as he was picking up his son – the most adorable little boy, with doe-like brown eyes and curls that made my heart melt. I dubbed him falafel man as the first thing I heard from his mouth was about his falafel and how amazing it was. He pulled out his iPhone, almost dropping it in excitement, to show us pictures of racks and racks of the small balls. At a later point I had the chance to try one and I will admit they were delicious, especially after the seventh. But having fled the war in Iraq around the age of sixteen his heavy Arabic accent was hard to understand in German, let alone his English, yet he was the kind of man who’s soul you could feel felt nothing but kindness for others. He was so expressive, every inch of his body was thrust into his words. Passionate. That’s it. And so as he came running about to us, or more bouncing, I still couldn’t understand him but I could only smile as he practically dragged us in the opposite direction of where we had intended to go with the suggestion of some coffee. And so we were thus kidnapped. But I personally was in need of endless amounts of caffeine as it was still the day of arrival and I didn’t mind. We entered a small bistro and he said hello to everyone. He quickly proceeded to purchase both our drinks and set them before us, went to sit, then saw another person he knew and dashed off to say hello. This continued to be the way the conversation was interrupted for the rest of our abduction. Isabel would speak, or sometimes only begin to open her mouth, and in would come another person he knew or perhaps didn’t but greeted anyway. This is a hint of Germany, this is kindness, and maybe he’s tad bit insane, but it is sweet, and it brings a smile to my face even now. I asked Isabel to remind me of his name but it slipped away the second she said it, foreign as it was, so now I shall keep my amusing memories simply titled “falafel man”.
How old do these boys look? Well I’ll tell you that they are indeed around the age of ten, and perhaps you might have guessed correctly if I let you.
But if you’d been here you would have seen them play
And you would not have guessed right.
They walk to the field laughing and shoving at each other like any boys would and then the moment the whistle blows or the trainer assigns a task a look of intensity descends upon all of their faces. They practice with the discipline and rigor of professionals, and indeed I’m pretty sure they are mini professionals in the making. Then the little boy with curls – who hasn’t grown an inch since I was last here – attempts what looks to me like a ridiculously difficult shot…and he misses…then a smile blooms across his face and he’s a little boy again. They may be on their way to professionals, but they are also simply a joy to watch. These boys who love this game so much.
Despite the puffy swell under my eyes and the way the world tilts around me I feel a sense of calm looking out from the deck. The wood beneath my fingers is hot to the touch, my eyes squint and beads of sweat start to creep along my hairline. The sky is so blue. I’m pretty sure it’s not any different than the one at home, but somehow I can’t believe its the same either. Even the clouds seem larger, whiter, as they drift lazily up up and away. Here is where I spent the majority of my second morning in Germany. With my scottie sweat pants tugged up around my thighs – me being too lazy to leave the sun and find some shorts, the result was an interesting tan line – and spread around me a novel, a laptop, and a worn out journal. I keep using my thumb to push the pen in and out, in and out. An unceasing clicking in rhythm with the timing of my haphazard thoughts. Stop. I was hemming and hawing. Write poetry? Blog? Read? Scream? I am aching to create something.
The page before me is completely blank, not even lines interrupt the stark canvas. It’s a little daunting, and the glare of the sun makes my eyes hurt. I nearly push the paper away. Maybe I’ll write later.
I realize then haven’t written a poem in six months, since I came home from Germany.
And how could I not create something surrounded by places such as these? Whether the world is shadows and the bruised color of a haunting sky, or enormous bubbles that threaten to swallow us as we walk through the cobbled streets of Mainz. Along the Rhine – even while my feet were crying for mercy from big nasty blisters – following behind two boys in white, or tiptoeing as quietly as possible (not so quiet from Emmie since she was wearing flip flops…the noise was a comical contrast to the majestic structure) through the Dome.
Oh the Dome.
The doors swell before us and I wonder how many walked this threshold before I. Behind us is the market. A woman stands to the side tooting – tooting? that sounds bad…- upon a recorder which suddenly makes me feel like I’ve been time warped into someplace where knights charge on great destriers and women sashay in the same place as I do now, but bedecked in long, embroidered skirts.
The candles. Bright, but small. The clink of coin as a euro falls into the box beside the light and a woman moves to ignite a candle for her son. For luck, a prayer. The old couple I see explores the church with excitement that almost reminds me of children, they point and incline their heads towards each other, hands interlaced, and I wonder at such beauty they share. Surely they have spent many a decade at each others side, but the way the man looks at her is as if it was the day they first met. Entranced, besotted, and this brings a wry smile to my lips, a shake of the head and hope…hope for someday the same.
I remember the first time I entered this place. It was cold, my hands were freezing, and I was hoping the “small stop inside” suggested by my friends would really be just that. But the moment my booted feet entered the magnificent church an enormous feeling descended upon me and I could barely speak. I looked up to ceilings high and far away, brushed with the colors that depicted the journey of Jesus. I felt his despair in the statue that suddenly rose in front of me. I looked behind to find a hundred candles lit in prayer and an alter that took my breath away. I did not feel peace…I felt something…huge (oh look at my fabulous choice of vocabulary right there folks) that threatened to overwhelm me. It was so quiet, but I wished for it to be even more so, for my thoughts to find ease and time to process the place I had entered. The statues that surrounded us, the history that was written in every faded painting, or broken limb from a statue so intricate I found it impossible. The faith. The feeling.
And as I returned for a second time (the first time I didn’t even pause to pull out my camera) I did feel peace. In a way that swelled inside of me while I looked upon the statue of Mary, her son swaddled in her arms, and as I walked through the pews, brushing my hand over wood that was worn from a thousand, a million hands.
I am not a preacher.
I am not a perfect Christian.
But to deny that something bigger enfolds us after seeing a place like the Dome seems near impossible to me. Faith is not simple or clear, but neither are the dreams and wishes of human beings. Were we to dissect and analyze every feeling or desire that entered our hearts we would find ourselves trying to understand them and then losing them in the process. I think that one can spend all their life asking question after question and never finding the answer that curbs the hunger. But when does a person turn to the answers that hide in the open sky?
But the sky is endless and the questions too. And as I bring this to a close (but never an end because I will always, ALWAYS have something more to say…duh) there is the smell of fresh crepes twisting through the air. A mother slaps her enormous son’s hand away as he reaches to snatch a bite, a smaller boy dances around the table singing loudly and badly, but sweet all the same. The minute the towering plate touches the table both boys hands reach at the same time, their smiles and quick mutters of thanks are muffled the moment they begin stuffing their faces. And questions of faith and what is right or wrong disappear in the warm blanket of this scene, where children are happy and I can try to create a picture with words, to capture a moment that is already slipping away. These moments are so precious.
I hope you have enjoyed all the ones I have stolen and put here to share.
Until next time!