Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Switzerland 2012 ~ Memories and Reflections

Five years ago, when my sister Sara married the love of her life and they moved to Switzerland, I wondered what the future would hold.  I wasn't expecting her to ever live more than a few hours drive from me. Being geographically close is essential for spontaneous visits filled with thrift shopping, bread baking, flower planting, home design planning, baby smooching and Jane Austen movie marathons.  

The distance between us has not been easy, but it has also not been impossible.  Thanks be to God, Sara and her family have been able to fly home at least once a year for a visit.  She even surprised me with a short trip last spring for Charlie's baptism!
With the help of extended family, I have been able to visit Sara, Johannes and their growing family as well. Last week I was blessed to make my fourth trip to Switzerland.  Steve was able to come with me which multiplied the blessings and fun of the trip exponentially! Laughter, teasing and adventure is our best source of R & R. Every trip begins with gathering our stash of magazines and snacks for the plane ride, then hitting the airport pubs to chat with fellow travelers who patiently listen to me ramble on about my kids while I sob over my brew, because missing them is the hardest part of traveling anywhere away from home.  
Sara and Johannes welcomed into the world their newest little miracle, Dominic John, just a few short weeks ago. He is wonderfully blessed to have two older siblings, Elisabeth and Matthieu, who are amazingly adorable, silly, smart and sweetly attentive to their new little brother. 
Sara and Johannes asked Steve to be Dominic's Godfather.  We were thrilled when they shared with us the news that the baptism would take place during our visit!  
The baptism was beautiful.  The priest, Father Dominic, is from the States, so while the Mass was celebrated in French, the baptismal rite was recited in English (Woo-Hoo!).
Dominic is absolutely precious in this picture - perfect comfort is a mother's arms!.  He wore Charlie's baptismal garment, which was especially meaningful to Steve and me.
After Holy Mass, we all went back to the Sara and Johannes' new home for a celebratory lunch with family and friends.
I know that this is such a random photo.  Who takes a picture of a buffet of food?? The one who loves pretty dishes, cooking and sampling the goodies the most at the party! (That would be moi.) Do you see that huge bowl of homemade guacamole sitting beside the neat little tray of veggies?  That guac was talking to me the entire afternoon.  I put about 30 modest little portions on my plate so as not to be too obvious that it was my favorite thing ever to eat that day.  But, enough about the food...
I love my sister more than the buffet, really I do!  And, everyone I know loves her almost as much as I do! She has always been a model of feminine beauty to me - modest, sincere, strong, intelligent, hospitable, warm, generous, thoughtful and pious.  I look up to her in so many ways.  Watching her gently rock Dominic in the peaceful warmth of the afternoon sun was an endearing moment for me.  Motherhood has deepened our friendship and sisterhood in many beautiful ways.
What a joy it was to spend time with Sara and Johannes' friends and family.  Everyone had a different story to tell, wisdom to share, and I soaked in the love - missing the sound of my boys' voices, the feeling of their arms around me, the smell of the outdoors that clings to their blonde locks after an afternoon of play on the farm.
His parents didn't know it, but baby Thomas was standing in for my boys that day.  I think in this shot you can see that he's just a wee bit tired of me following him around telling him how cute he is and picking him up every seven seconds.  Dang those blue eyes!  I couldn't resist!
The remaining days were packed full of everything we love -  skiing, hiking, jogging, naps, story time with the kids, quality sister time, good wine, yummy food, and great conversation. First, Steve and Johannes took on the Alps!
Skiing the Alps is much different than the usual experiences we've had in the Rocky Mountains according to my brave mountain warrior husband.  Johannes grew up skiing these slopes, so he was a great guide for Steve.
Just a few minutes drive outside Fribourg the countryside is beautiful! Before our visit, Elisabeth remembered how much I love to jog and informed everyone that she would be running with me.  As a surprise, I brought her a brand new pair of kicks for jogging, and together we hit the trails!  Her strong sense of determination and endurance was amazing!  I see a marathon in our future!
Little legs require a few rests along the way.  Since nature is my favorite "classroom" we paused to pick up some seeds that had scattered from open pods that had fallen from the trees along the path and tucked them into our pockets.
She's the best running buddy ever!  We are kindred spirits, she and I.  We love a scenic run followed by a healthy dose of chocolate!
The first time I visited Switzerland, one of the sights that impressed me the most was the local farms.  Because Switzerland is such a small country, their land resources are precious and pricey.  Many of the farms have their barns built adjacent to the house.  It is literally one large structure.  
Here you can see the machine storage connected to the barn which is connected to the house (not pictured).  Steve couldn't get over it.  Agriculture across the pond so vastly different from our farm in Kansas!
And, the paths that we were jogging on ran right along side the fields and very close to the barns.  Some of the paths literally ran right through people's property.  I felt like I was trespassing!  This does not happen in the States.  We value the idea of personal space, especially when it comes to our property.  
To demonstrate my point, I went right up to the farm pictured above and took some pics of their lovely restored home and their fancy feathered friends!  Nope, no one came to their porch with a rifle and growling dog on point.  I probably could have stuck a few eggs in my pocket, but that might have been a bit much.
All of our outdoor activity, food fests and jet-lag combined (Switzerland is seven hours ahead of Kansas.), triggered an insatiable desire for afternoon siesta.  But, resting isn't so easy when adorable little curly-haired girls sneak up and tickle your feet with their game pieces!

I loved watching Steve bond with Elisabeth. They are mutually attracted to silliness, so friendship was inevitable for the two of them.
Seeing him with a little girl sent me over the moon.  Fatherhood comes so naturally to him, and often times throughout the trip he would have us all in stitches, including the kids!
Is there anything better than morning hair? Why yes! Two boys with morning hair reading Martha Stewart Living! This pic is priceless.  The man whose go-to reads include Popular Mechanics, Field and Stream and anything from our Theology library has been caught red-handed with something domestic!  He's clearly not awake yet!
Here she is again, my little kindred spirit, wielding the butter knife shamelessly over those 'shrooms.  Sometimes the best memories are made in the ordinary moments, the girls in the kitchen doin' what we do best (after jogging, of course!) cookin' up some loveliness and singing as we go along.

Needless to say, I may have mentioned to Steve the possibility of adopting twin girls on the flight home just a few hundred times.  A girl has to let her man know what's on her mind.  It's only fair!
The trip to Switzerland ended all too fast. To say that I miss my sister, is such a narrow, inadequate summation of how I really feel.  Not a day goes by that I don't think of her, pray for her, imagine myself walking beside her through her days of motherhood wondering when I might see her again.  The sure pathway between our hearts is Christ - He keeps us connected, more deeply and firmly than phone calls and Skype and letters.  And, I count on that connection....hoping He will bring us all together again very soon.

1 comment:

  1. As I read your blog today, I imagined being there on the pathways, looking at the beauty of nature along the way. The houses are so different than the ones in the States. The reader can feel the love and bond between two sisters. Thanks for sharing your trip with us. May God richly bless you and if its His will you two adopt twin girls.. may His will be done.