A German Sense of Order Restored

As I’ve recently blogged, I’ve been pregnant for the last nine months in America. It was a miserable pregnancy. While I was fortunate to not have any complications such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, I was debilitated by the discomforts of being so large and being stretched and pulled and swollen and from a significant decrease of energy. With two little ones who require a lot of attention, it was necessary for me to bring in some extra help in the way of assorted non-German babysitters and grandparents.

While I’ve been extremely grateful for the help and couldn’t have survived the pregnancy without it, it resulted in some new influences infiltrating our attempts at maintaining a sense of German order.

We used to have all of our toys stored with all of their pieces. And those toys would go back to the same place every night. I would mostly tidy up, but my kids would too to some degree. Occasionally we would lose a few of the pieces, but often, they would turn up again. They would be stored like with like: wooden puzzles with puzzles, bowls and cups in the play kitchen cupboard, gauze and stethescope in the doctor’s kit, and I could always tell you where something was. Once I was decommissioned by this pregnancy, missing pieces and toys with no pieces became the norm and nothing seemed to have its place since everything was everywhere. Wooden discs depicting pepperoni and mushroom pizza toppings were getting mixed with the jelly bean and strawberry toppings of the cake set. Duplo pieces were now mingling with train tracks, and dress up clothes – well, they were on the floor. Chaos had crept in. When I had asked one of these babysitters to please spend some time every evening to tidy up the play area, she responded with uncertainty saying that she didn’t know where everything went. Even when I labeled the bins and shelves, that didn’t seem to help. The concept of like goes with like remained opaque.

The fine art of folding clothes also remains elusive here in America. When I entered my marriage five years ago, there was much more than the German language to learn. My husband patiently taught me how to fold shirts so that they became a neat rectangle or square stacked with its twins and no longer a lump of cloth shoved in a drawer. Folding laundry was transformed into a much more satisfying activity and my standards rose. I observed with awe at the precision of how my friend Tine’s clothes were folded that could rival Prada’s shelves. Our babysitters in Aalen all made quick work of the baskets I would leave for them while my babies slept and my husband and I stepped out for the evening. Gap Girls, eat your hearts out.

Unfortunately, these raised standards were not being met since our departure from Germany. Those lumps I had since abandoned when I entered my marital domestic bliss were now reappearing in laundry baskets and landing in our dresser drawers. After a few disappointments, I took laundry folding duties away.

In comes Steffi, the new German babysitter. During her first afternoon at our house, she and I sat in the playroom while my daughter Vera was playing with the aforementioned wooden pizza and cake sets. Out of a bags spilled out some of those wooden discs. Steffi quietly sorted the wooden pepperoni, mushrooms, birthday candles, and jelly beans along with a few Korean language flash cards into neat piles and asked Vera to put them away in their proper place. Away they went.

The other day, Steffi took the mountains of laundry away. I couldn’t find them. Everything was put away in our drawers with corners that could cut you like a butter knife.

Once again, everything has its own place, and I feel better already.

– Jane