Geburtstag Wien

Happy 15th Birthday, Jake and Eli! I haven’t made you a cake yet, but here is a nice slice of oberscremeschnitte :).

It could not have been a colder or windier day to be in Vienna. The sleet drove sideways and blew our umbrellas inside out, so much that we had to retreat to our hotel for card games and go to a movie one afternoon. But the movie theatre brought back memories, “the best popcorn, just like I remember,” and the grey clouds eventually gave way to sunshine. Raindrops transitioned to snowflakes that dusted our skylight windows, and the Steigenberger Herrenhof, right next to Cafe Central, had a sauna and a giant bathtub. Even bad weather can’t ruin Vienna.

Coming back to a place you love is always more sweet than bitter. I think I used to avoid beautiful memories, falsely believing that the nostalgia was too overwhelming. Now I understand there is strength in nostalgia, and braving that first swell of sadness allows you to remember the joy, and wallow in it. How much worse would it be if we’d never done this? How lucky are we, that we get to live with these amazing memories for all these years yet to come?

The secret is not avoiding. It’s going back.

For the boys’ 15th birthday, they wanted to go ice-skating in Vienna. Flickering with lights and warm with the scent of sugared crepes, it was a dream to be at the Rathaus listening to Radio Wien, as gentle snowflakes fell from the sky. We skated for miles through the paths of the Eistraum, stopping to wave at the jumbotron and gape at the professional skaters, who showed up with their girlfriends to grace the rest of us with a show. We had lunch at Kolar’s, dinner at Giuliano’s, breakfast at Telegraph, cake from Demel, and remembered just how great schnitzel, spaetzle, pizza, melange, and grilled calamari can be. There really is a reason why Vienna is one of the best cities on earth!

We may not have a “home” in the normal sense, but we know what Home is. It is knowing which tram to take, how to find the movie theatre, having a favorite restaurant where the staff greet you with a smile, and visiting friends on Friday night. It’s going to the same church to light a candle and say a prayer, using the local grocery bags, knowing that everything is always closed on Sundays, and understanding how a “pfand” works. It’s being able to say “please” and “thank you” in the right language, knowing a store with your favorite clothes, and remembering all the precious everyday things you used to do with your little boys. As a family, Vienna is Home. No matter how many years pass, we will always have that.

February is never a slow or dreary month for us. The Aquarius-Pisces connection is strong, and for some reason it feels like 75% of our friends (and 75% of this family!) has birthdays around this time. This February was busy with school play rehearsals, skiing, ice-skating, Valentine cookies, swim meets, a few medical emergencies, not to mention trying to find time to use my new doughnut pan. Thank goodness for our life, even when it’s busy! And thank goodness for Gus, who is always waiting at the end of the day to remind us that life should include a little peace, too.