Friday, January 8, 2010

Berlin Pt.5: Beneficiaries

This is where it ends, we will be leaving shortly to return to the US. I walk a few steps ahead of Mila and Gregor, they are chatting and I imagining. I imagine what my father saw when he was here over 30 years earlier. I see the US Embassy on the now symbolic East side and look down to see the line of cobblestones. Just two deep, that nondescript trace of the former location of the Wall as it cut through the city. We walked from the Berliner Dom along the famous Unter den Linden Street to the Brandenberg Gate. There are people mulling about as the sun retreats and the gate is lit with bright yellow lights. Memories of pictures and newsreels are matched up with what my eyes are seeing. When I was born I would have only been able to see this gate from the back side, the West side. It seems very arbitrary now. I couldn't tell a difference from one side to the other. Only the kitschy DDR souvenir stores and ampel menschen would signify you were in the former East. I start to think about the previous five days spent with the family, meeting over coffee and tea with a subdued and pragmatic attitude of mourning. Her family had warmly accepted me as well as been patient with my slower and southern German.

As I met family members, specifically her grandfathers, I couldn't help but think of what they had seen the last fifty years. When I was younger, even being overseas and immersed in German culture, I always felt a potent awareness that I was an American, which could meant different things to many Germans. Although I have not affected the events of history in any way, I am still proud in a small way that I am the beneficiary of borders opening, people learning each others languages and the venture and relationship that has been facilitated by what sets us apart.