December 6th is St. Nikolaus Tag in Germany.
…and a day my husband and I will remember forever.
I have two reasons to celebrate today.
The first reason is the celebrating of this tradition. Traditions give me guidance in how to support Sarina in her quest to connect with her roots.
Like never before, this year and these last few weeks especially I feel an almost urgent drive to go on the treasure hunt of my past. It’s an exciting feeling like I am going on a journey that has been sitting on my bucket list forever. A gentle voice is knocking itself into my consciousness every morning saying: “remember this? Go write it down!”
It’s the stories we share with each other that help us to get to know ourselves better. We laugh and cry and argue and heal almost all at the same time. All while hearing someones story.
I have the best time ever when I can share my stories with Sarina. Last night she came to my bedroom: “Mschen can you read Oma Aloisias story again to me?” Of course. I shared it on my FB page yesterday because it was Oma’s 140 Birthday! Well after I pushed publish my older sister reminded me to do the math again. Mhhh, she would have been 130☺️.
I did read the story to her and ended up with a heated discussion of why Oma did not understand that a woman’s right to speak her truth is a human right. “Did she die believing that we women should not raise our voice?” Unfortunately, I had to say: “yes she did. You have to understand her in the context of the time she lived.” A too big of a concept for Sarina at midnight.
🎅🏼 TODAY is Nikolaustag in Germany and the German-speaking part of Europe.
It was a big day for me as a child.
Our Santa Claus does not come through the chimney on Christmas Day. His prime time in Germany is today. Christmas is the day for the Christkindl in my tradition. It secretly shows up and drops the gifts under the tree on Christmas Eve.
Nikolaustag was holding the hope for praise and small gifts from St. Nikolaus but also the fear of being called out by his nasty companion Knecht Rupprecht. He is some lousy and fearsome character, intimidating to a small child. Dressed in a dark robe with a hood covering most of his face he scared the shit out of us.
I checked with Wikipedia, and his role supposedly survived the Middle Ages. A period that saw parents employing fear as a means of scaring kids into good behavior. He would secretly arrive at the homes of children and ask parents about their kids performance. Depending on the response he would give switches to the ones that needed it. I am a witness of this; it was very scary to watch.
The opposite character graced St. Nikolaus. He was sweet, looked like a beautiful Santa Claus, kind and forgiving. He handed small gifts to the “good” children.
I mostly lucked out; I remember being mentioned ones. Knecht Rupprecht told me to start listening better to my parents. But – he didn’t spank me. I was surprised because they put me in time out most of the time. At least that’s how it felt to me. But I remember my brother crying when Knecht Rupprecht called him out. He did get spanked.
As I sit here, I am amazed how my body is holding this memory of not being good enough in his bones. We spend a lifetime to get rid of the punishments we should never have received in the first place.
In later years and up until today we put our freshly polished boots, let’s highlight “freshly polished boots” outside the front door. Dirty boots have no chance! When the sky turns dark, it will get quiet in the homes. A loud knock will announce a surprise.
I already run an argument with Sarina today. Her boots are not in a shiny shape, and when I pointed it out, I got to hear: “Mschen, you are so old-fashioned. Nobody is polishing their shoes anymore.” But she does look forward to tonight!
If the shoes shine and stand outside, we find nuts and small sweets and treats inside of them.
As I type this, it’s starting to get dark outside. I have a few moments left to finish here.
A different memory is 27 years old! December 6, 1990
I remember it like yesterday. A grey and snowy day in Cincinnati, OH. I was driving home from the grocery store at 3:30 pm. I remember what car I drove and which street I was on. Pam called me: “All is well, but come to the hospital fast.” Pam was Sarina’s primary nurse in the NICU. (Hello Pam, we still love you!)
Sarina was almost four months old when she finally extubated herself and was able to breathe on her own. And that on St. Nikolas Day! I was harboring this tremendous hope that she would be home for Christmas. Getting rid of the respirator was the first necessary step! It did not work out that way. She didn’t come home until February of 1991.
She had tried three times before to pull the nasal cannula out but never made it. Her lungs would not support her desperate wish to get rid of that scratching thing in her nose. Right there in these months when she fought for her life she showed that “I can do it and I can do it alone” attitude, which makes her the extraordinary young woman she is.
The “I can do it alone,” is killing me on a daily basis while at the same time makes me extremely happy. None of what Sarina has accomplished would ever happen without this strong will to survive. Today it puts her in the position to keep reaching for her dreams. She is a fighter.
I know I need to be her parachute for a little longer so she can fly!
When I look at this picture, I not only see this moment come alive. I feel the same soul touching excitement and tremendous hope I felt that day. “My daughter will survive!”
Let me dry up my happy tears now and help to fill those boots and
Happy Nikolaus Day!
Love always, Manuela