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April 14, 2002
Impressions (from our American friend Jayne)

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Jayne, reluctantly utilizing a non-Apple Microsoft product

Just back from watching people on the sidewalks of Bonn bang pots and pans, pound on drums, clap and yell... while sweaty, exhausted people ran by. But what made the Bonn Marathon particularly enjoyable was watching it with Gail, who was on the verge at several points of running back to the hotel to get her own pot and wooden spoon so she could better join in. Instead, we clapped, yelled, and took pictures.

This is what I miss most about living abroad -- being able to turn to a friend next to me and say, "Holy cow, look at that!" when some wonderful, non-American thing happens.

Seeing Cameron and Joss again after seven years is still stunning to me. Cameron has the same serene exterior, with that ever-moving mind, as he did when he was a toddler. My most vivid memory of Cameron is from back in the early 90s, when I went to see The Lion King with him, and during the drive, he directed me to "shoot" at the "attacking aliens" (the water towers). Many years later, on the second trip the Lee Family made to see me here in Bonn in April, I watched Cameron devour my "Worst Case Scenario" book, and listened to him do an amazing imitation of the result of merging Yoda and Gollum with an American accent speaking French.

I could have picked Joss out of a crowd as well, but the last I saw him he wasn't speaking yet -- so hearing him talk was a shock. I told Joss that my most vivid memory of him was coming over to baby sit once upon a time and him being asleep on Gail's lap. She transferred him to me, and she and Russell left. Joss woke up, smiled until he saw me, and then burst into tears and cried as though his whole world was shattered. Now, seven years later, he's turned out to be as in love with chocolate as I am, and his sensitivity to what is happening around him is rare in a child of his age, I think. I expect him to be a rope-jumping champion some day, at the rate he's going. I just wish I could do upside-down sit-ups the way he does.

Gail and Russell have not aged, nor changed in any way, since I saw them last. I want to know where they are keeping the special anti-aging medication and/or special sleeping chamber that keeps them looking and acting this way…

The boys were so quiet when they first came in on that first visit in Bonn, speaking their own secret language that only they can understand -- I think my brothers had a similar language. It wasn't until I went out with the boys later, to walk my dogs in the snow, that I really got to talk to them and hear some of their own insights into their trip. What I found wonderful was hearing Cameron patiently answer Joss's many questions, never talking down to him, never with any frustration. I also liked how they touch each other -- a hand or an arm gently pushing or pulling, never to be mean, playful but also a kind of assurance that each other is there, the way I think all brothers walk together at that age. I asked which country had been their favorite and, in unison, they said, "Tanzania." Stefan, my boyfriend, didn't say much, but could not resist joining in a snowball fight when the boys started one among themselves. It's a boy thing. The dogs would have joined in, but there's that whole lack-of-opposable-thumbs issue…

I had forgotten how intensely and completely children sleep until we tried to wake the boys up to go out for fireworks on New Year's Eve. We could have thrown them over our shoulders like sacks of flour, walked down to the river, and then walked back, and I don't think either of them would have ever woken up. I'm still taken aback at just how much Gail enjoyed "Dinner For One", a 30-minute stage play, in black and white, that is a German tradition to watch every NYE -- she is, most definitely, part German.

This second visit is going to be more memorable for me because I got to see a lot more of the boys' personality. My friend Barb came with us all to supper and I got to eat with the boys while Gail and Russell got to get to know the woman whose apartment they had stayed in at NYE. The boys were particularly interested in the concept of dubbing movies from one language into another, rather than subtitling such, and they seemed to enjoy the idea of watching "The Empire Strikes Back" with everyone speaking German (which I had done just a few nights before). It's so easy to talk to the boys, because I have some of the same pastimes as they do: Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and living outside the U.S. for the last year…

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Jayne and Barb in deep discussion with the Lee Brothers about film theory

After we all ate at the Turkish restaurant (and I just want to note that Russell had TWO döners, plus part of Joss's), Barb and I enjoyed a show by the boys that involved introducing each of Joss's animals by Cameron dangling each, one-at-a-time, on the end of a home-made rope from the upstairs loft. And as Barb and I walked home, she said, "You know, I have never met a family that is more in sync." And I totally know what she means. She's not saying they are perfectly harmonious and get along at all moments. She's saying that they each understand each other, and maneuver both as individuals and to accommodate each other. Even their conflicts are fluid. Or maybe she was saying something completely different and I didn't understand. Certainly been known to happen…

I'll cherish so many memories from this weekend, particularly hearing the guys all play the Lord of the Rings game ("Cameron, can't you help me kill Joss?"  "No, but I do have the power to seriously hurt him.").

Having the Lee Family visit is, truly, like having my family come and visit. I just can't believe we waited seven years to meet up again… and in Germany, no less. I'm predicting we meet up next in South America, while I'm working for the CIA and they are being filmed by the BBC for some documentary on how to travel long-term with two teen-aged boys. Okay, maybe not….

I just never expected, so many years ago, when Russell was beating me up in his garage, that we'd all end up here… but then, who would? (okay, he was teaching me martial arts at the time and, truth be told, I cracked his ribs once…)

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Gail, Russell, and Jayne -- watch those ribs!


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