It’s been ages since I’ve done a holiday list, but I thought it might be fun to put one together this year with a few things I’d love to get under the tree this year. Little and big gifts for someone like me (book and travel loving, with curly hair and an affinity for shiny objects). All images above were sourced from the links provided below.
Let’s start with a few things that I’ve gotten over the past year or so, things I love and use all the time. First up is my silk pillowcase from Lilysilk (1). I got one of these last year for Christmas, and it’s fantastic. It keeps my curls from tangling as much, and I swear my skin has cleared up since I started using it. I love it so much that I even packed it with me for our month-long trip to the US in August. I didn’t bring it on my two week trip in June, and whined to my husband about it more than once. I want to get another one for home, plus a large (80x80cm) one that will fit all the German pillows when we travel. Germany store linked above, US link here. Europeans with US pillows: I have the 50x70cm ones and they fit my US pillows quite well.
A few months ago, someone I follow on Instagram posted about these delightful nap earrings (2) from Maison Miru. I immediately put them on my birthday wish, and now own a pair of the lightening bolt ones. I love that their flat backs mean they don’t catch on my hair. I usually wear them for a few days at a time, and they’re comfortable to sleep with and to wear headphone. Shipping only to the US, sadly. I’m thinking of adding these tiny crystal ones or maybe these heart ones to my collection on my next US trip.
One little thing that has changed my life: a waterproof Bluetooth speaker. I love having music in the shower, and a little one of these has changed my life. I can’t find one that looks like mine, but if I was going to splurge on one, I might go for this fun one from Bang & Olufsen (3) in Green. Shipping worldwide, since you can buy from any brand that fits your needs.
So, what’s on my Christmas list for this year? I love putting jewelry on my list because I don’t often splurge on little pretty things, but it’s so fun to get them from friends and family. I stumbled across this European brand, Murandum, earlier this year, and I adore their Birthflower collection. As a proud August baby, I love the little poppy necklace (4), but then I started thinking about how fun it would be to wear my daughter’s birth flower as a bracelet too. Shipping to Europe, US.
I’ve been hunting all year long for a hoodie that doesn’t make me look like a college freshman. Something I can casually slip on for dog walks, but will still look polished enough that I won’t get disgruntled looks from the German grannies in my neighborhood. Germans, after all, don’t share the same love for athleisure as Americans do. This cropped hoodie (5), from Vuori, might just be the winner. It’s slip, but still slouchy, and a cropped fit means it won’t hit me at my knees. The joy of being petite! (US link here)
We are heading to Scandinavia this winter, and that means I’ve been rethinking all my winter gear. While I’ve got amazing wool base layers from my fave Canadian small shop, Simply Merino, I need some warm gloves too. I’ve been eyeing these merino gloves (6) from Smartwool. I can wear them under my ski gloves for our trip, and I think they’ll be perfect for city living (and all the dog walks) here in Munich. (DE link here)
If you’ve talked to me for more than a handful of minutes – or stepped into my home – you’re well aware that I’ve a voracious reader. Books are always always a great idea for a bookworm. In addition to a few of my favorite books, one thing I’d love is a Plus membership (7) for The StoryGraph. I made the switch over to StoryGraph last year, and I’ve been endlessly impressed by all the put out, and how much easier it is to use than Goodreads. As a bonus, it’s a small company that was founded by a woman of color.
Now, for a splurge worthy item that has been on my shopping list for a while. Back in high school and college, I had this amazing, red, moto leather jacket. I wore it all the time and eventually, got rid of it. I’m kicking myself for it now. I’ve had my eye on a black one for a while, but haven’t yet taken the plunge. The Dalby leather jacket from All Saints caught my eye recently, and I can’t get this beautiful black and gold Dalby jacket (8) out of my mind. (UK link here) There’s a store here in Munich, and I might have to pop in next week and try one on.
If I have time, next week, I’ll make a list of books recs for everyone on your shopping list!
The music reaches me in the next room, and I step away from my desk. Quietly, I creep down the hall in my bare feet and poke my head around the corner. Unseen, I watch my five year old daughter as she strums and plucks a too-large guitar. Draped across her lap, she curls her body around it, embracing the instrument like an old friend.
Her love of music comes as no surprise to me, she’s been alternately soothed and energized by music since the blurry newborn days. What does surprise me is the rush of emotions that flood me as I watch her play her first guitar. An instrument she’d requested on her own. Joy and sorrow wage a war inside me. Joy, because I too, have embraced a guitar like an old friend. Sorrow, because the one who gave me my first guitar, who taught me my first lessons, is no longer around to share in this moment.
I was older than her when I first learned to play, but like her, I felt drawn to the guitar. The heft of the body snugged up against mine was comfortable and safe. The guitar was a shelter in the storm of my teenage years in a way that the piano hadn’t been in those years. My music gave me a space to be free, to feel at peace, and I want that for her too.
But this moment doesn’t come free. Because laid across the vision of my daughter playing guitar, is another living room, another guitarist. A guitarist who shared his love of the instrument with me. Who breezed into my life in a flurry of stocking feet and guitar riffs. He shared his instruments and his love of the guitar with me. Someone who believed in my talents as a musician, when no one else – not even I – believed I could or would stick with it. His faith in me gave me the strength and courage to push past my need for perfection. And when he abruptly left my life, the music, the guitar he gave me, was the thing that pulled me through the darkest days of my teens and early 20s.
I pull out my phone and record a short video of my daughter. She never notices me standing there. I slip the phone back in my pocket and return to my desk, the emails in front of me abandoned as I stare with glassy eyes at the cursor blinking on the screen. I think of the theory of the multiverse. In another reality, I’ve opened WhatsApp and sent that video to Eric, perhaps with a cute message about her love of the guitar starting young. Or a note about how excited we are to see him on our next visit to the US.
In this universe, the only one I’ll occupy, I feel the waves of loss sweep through me. I feel an ache in my heart that never goes away. I feel the ache of missing someone coupled with the joy of knowing that they’re never far away from me, because I know he’s always been right there, in the strum of the guitar.
My reverie is broken when the music stops and little feet pound down the hall, my daughter skidding to a stop next to my desk. She beams up at me. “Did you hear me mama? I played so good!”
I swallow the lump in my throat and smile at her. “Every note, baby girl. You played so well, and I loved hearing it.” I slip my arms around her shoulders, and give her a hug. Someday soon, I’ll teach her to play. And someday later, I’ll tell her about Eric, and how he taught me to play. And he’ll live on in my heart and in the music that ties us all together.
I wrote this months ago, and it’s been languishing in my drafts. I dashed it off in the moments after this event occurred, and over the months, I’ve thought about expanding it or submitting it to a publication, but I don’t think I’m brave enough to submit it. So here’s a little piece of my heart, and I hope that, if you too find that your sorrow is mixed with joy, you know you’re not alone. xo, E.
Due to the pandemic measures that hung over our first year in Germany, we’re strangely experiencing a lot of “firsts” in our second year here. Today, N’s Kita (Kindergarten, but here it’s preschool) had their end of year field trip for her group. There was an email last week to tell us when the kids would be gone (most of the day) and a reminder to pack additional snacks, water, and sturdy shoes. There was no permission slip. There were also no parent chaperones. All five teachers went with the 25 kids, according to N. They took a long walk to a Bach (a small stream) “a ways away” from Kita. Then they played in the water, ate their lunch, and walked back.
It was a long walk, and fun, and hot, she reported to me as I biked us home. When I told her that I needed to go get groceries for dinner, N informed me that she didn’t want to go to the grocery store with me, because she was tired. H was home in the office, so I was more than happy to deliver her home. But no, she didn’t need me to go all the way upstairs with her. She asked me to walk with her from the garage to the main floor, where she then walked up three flights of stairs and rang the doorbell. I left to walk to the store. I also called my husband while she was walking up the stairs to let him know what was happening. You can take the American and move her to Germany, but she’s still going to panic a bit when her kid does stuff for the first time.
If I sound like this field trip is surprising, it’s not. This isn’t the first trip she’s taken with Kita. Nearly weekly, they take walks to nearby parks to “look at the nature” and learn things about plants, or so she tells me at dinner time. We never hear about these trips. Once, with Kita, they walked to a park over a kilometer away, and we only learned about it when H took her there for the first time. He was informed that she’d already been there before, with her school. She’s gone to the theater – we knew about that one, since we had to pay for the ticket – and “taken the bus to the forest” – we didn’t know about that one.
N just finished her second year of Kita, she’s a “midi”. Next year is her last year, she’ll be a “maxi” at school. German kids start school later, Kindergarten – what we call Kita for short – is all preschool here. They don’t start elementary school until they’re six. I am proud of her independence, and yet, a part of me aches for the days when she needed me. Oh sure, she still needs me sometimes. But more and more, it’s “don’t walk too close” and “I can do it on my own” and “watch me do this all by myself”. German preschools foster this independence from a young age, in fact, I know that in some areas, the kids go on overnight camping trips in their Kindergarten. Again, without parents and only with teachers. Strange to think that less than 6 years ago, she was fully dependent on me for everything, and now, she’s off on adventures I only hear about hours or days later.