Anthrea Kreston, an American violinist in a Berlin-based string quartet, is contemplating the effects of dislocation on her two small children, the first of whom has just started school. It’s every parent’s dilemma: are my kids growing up different from me? Read on…
I am sitting alone, the morning sun warming me on the deck as I eat my cold oatmeal and drink the dregs of my coffee, rescued from the table hours after they were first placed, so optimistically, on the kitchen table. Today, we sent our younger daughter to her first day of kindergarten (here called Entrance Class). Jason was off early – dropping our elder daughter at second grade before heading out for a rehearsal – a two hour drive north of Berlin at a unique and friendly festival (Bebersee) held at a former secret Russian military base (our concerts are in a reclaimed hangar).
Here I sat with our 5 year old – doing our final checks on her materials for school (she switched out several pencils for a slightly different color, and changed her clothes twice), and packing her lunch.
These past weeks she has flipped back and forth between jumping up and down with excitement and waking in the middle of the night in tears – Jason and I have brought her many times to school to scout around, meet her teacher, find her new room. On the back of my bike on the way to school today she again ran over her long list of questions – her “what-ifs”, and as we hugged goodbye, her lips trembled and tears breached the lids of her eyes.
Her walk to the building with her new classmates seemed endless, as I watched her holding hands with another little girl, her huge backpack reaching to her thighs – and when the door finally closed behind them, there was a rush of sadness – the end of a time which had afternoon snuggles, sleepless nights, hours of endless (who even knows what we used to do to fill our days) meandering and making crafts. I was supposed to see a student for a two-hour lesson now, but just cancelled – I need to feel this day, to feel this quiet and aloneness.
She has spent more than a third of her life here in Germany – I was struck by this during our recent trip to the States. She asked at one point, “Mom – why aren’t there any castles on top of the mountains here?” – her new normal has a fortress on each hill.
We all have a new normal – and I am so happy to have this quartet semi-Sabbatical which goes until November. Jason will be working every day in his orchestra (Konzerthaus), and although I still have many quartet concerts (5 this past week) and other obligations (substituting as Associate Concertmaster of Deutsche Opera, Beethoven Sonata Cycle, my teaching at the University of the Arts and in Brussels, intensive German school and a light schedule of quartet concerts), I am once again the lead parent – and I am so ready for this.