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Return to Berlin

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

My daughter Helen and I were able to return to Berlin in May of 2008.  This time the trip was private and personal, no radio of television interviews, no performances.  We were free to see more of the city and to spend more time with family: my lovely cousin Barbara who had been a child in Germany during the the war years, her daugher Julia, Julia’s husband Michael, their two boys, eleven-year-old Anton and three-year-old Moritz, and about-to-be-born baby girl Magdalena (who was actually born the day after we returned home).

On our first evening, Helen and I had a quiet dinner at our hotel.  I asked her why she wanted to come back to Berlin.  “Mostly for the family connection,” she said. “But also there’s so much more to see than we had time for last year.”  Then she asked, “What about you?”

“I’m puzzling about that myself.  Why would I feel connected to this place where I never lived?  My parents did, but why would that matter to me?”

“That really isn’t unusual for the second generation.  I know that Lou’s father feels that way about Italy and he never lived there.”

I nodded, accepting the truth of what she said.  But later that night I wondered how it made me feel.  Discouraged at having my unformed enterprise seem so typical?  Encouraged that the theme might be universal?  Both, I think.