I wrote these sketches from 2002-2004 in Switzerland and Germany. Many of the characters in them are still a huge part of my life, although not always a constant one :)
Johanna is one I will miss dearly. Though younger, I feel as if she is sometimes an older sister, wise in some areas of life in ways I am not. Sure of herself in a manner I hope to learn, she is scared of my living and her being along, not realizing, I think, that she comforts. Ours was a slow-blooming friendship but the resulting flower is many petaled and an ezquisite huge--not a fading color, not a frail plant, this creations of ours.
Maria, this petite, shiny girl, hides a deep, sweet soul behind her young smile. She, like myself, is a searcher, not entirely sure for what she is looking but certain that there is more to life than this and determined not to miss any of it. Her smile lights up the faces of those around her and we are all captivated, wondering how so much personality is housed in such a tiny body. I have known her longer than anyone here and yet feel that in some ways we are very far apart. We have sporadic connections and when we are apart I sometimes forget how easy our company is and how much we actually have in common....
And Maria's letter to met at the very end of my stay....
Erin, Erin, Erin....
I am going to miss you so much. Our first party (beach-party without the beach!), first trains in mornings, cardrives at night (again), lots of parties and meeting new people und so weiter... We've had a lot of fun. You are a part of my Switzerland. You were the first person that I met and I was so lucky!
I am missing the words to describe your personality so I'm just going to do it in Finnish :) ; Tammia, sosiaalines, hirminkiva, hassu, ihaz, pikkivikkisen, hullu ja ystavallinen ku mika! I'm missing the words even in finnish, so you must be special!!! And you know it (I hope)!
Happily, you're not going to be that far away and I really wish that you'll visit Finnland someday--there's people waiting for you! We have a special link.
I have to warn you that I'm the world's worst person to keep in contact, but it's not going to disappear--connection, I mean. I wish you all the best my dearest friend. See ya :) Maria
Baas, who continues to fascinate me, is a surprise. Once over the initial wondering (on his part) whether I had designs on him he accepted my affection wholeheartedly and enthusiastically and is spontaneous and generous with his hugs and his time. We enjoy occasional quiet evenings over tea and though I do not know him well we are quietly close. I love that his relationship does not get in the way in the manner it normally does--though he understandably has less time he will still call me and want to visit rather than spending a night out in Zurich and I am grateful. We have a very surface relationship but one that will hopefully grow, there is a sweet soul underneath whom I am keen to get to know better!
Baas' letter to me later the same year:
Ope een mooi nazonmerse dag in de maand oktober kwam een dame met een ongeloofelyk intrigerende persoonlykheid zomaar opeens mijn leven binne gewandeld. Na een kort introduche klikke het gelyk en zee orrdal zelf wat ervan terecht gekomen is. Ondants de interesses die wy voon andera ontwikheld hebben in anze toeneiging tot elhaar blyven beskaan.
Ik reken erop dat wy elkaar blyven ziin en wanneer je ook naar wilt, kan me opzoeken. De deur staat vor je open. Bas.
Fred is friendly--no two ways about it. Underneath the coolness that is initially apparent he is a dear, sweet boy who enjoys people. He exudes buoyancy and it is impossible to stop him floating. I believe he takes every moment for what it is and makes as much of it as he can. One of the "centres" of the group, he pretends to be grown up but smiles like a little boy when people laugh at his jokes. He is sharp and, I think, innately kind and ultimately a dear soul.
N.B: Fred read the above and wrote something about me in my book--here it is, complete with original spelling and punctuation :)
Erin, is the one who no matter what always shows up to our gatherings. there is just no fun without her. Besides the fact that she brings so many new friends, I can speak dutch to her and of course also make fun of her--although she most of the time shoots back at me. Now that she is leaving us in a few weeks for Germany it just isn't going to be the same. I am going to miss her appearances, her happiness, her company. Damn, Damn, Damn, It won't be the same and who is going to keep me in line now? Fred.
Irene: The world is right when Irene is here. I can put it no other way! She is the heart and soul of the Krone--friend and confidante to all who pass through. She listens quietly and rarely offers advice and I always feel that nothing surprises her. She sees more, much more, than anyone realizes and I sometimes wonder if it is not a burden, to know so much about the people who come here and share it with no-one (because she does not gossip and, I think, has never betrayed a confidence, never told a secret given to her in trust). She has a quiet strength which shines through in everything she does and says. She is capable of giggling like a little girl and laughs with pure joy when someone or something truly amuses her. She is content to live her life day by day, though I sometimes catch a glimpse of a girl who has bigger dreams than any of us would ever imagine. We are often companionable in silence and tend to smile to ourselves over the comings and goings of those around us, amused by the way they scurry in and out. I cannot imagine my life here without her in it--more often than not I think of something crazy or funny and my next thought is "I have to tell Irene!" We have known eachother before, I think, in much the same way as Jurg and I have, because it is always right--whether we talk or not at all, read in silence or don't see one another for weeks, the comfort is always there. I have learned a great lesson from her: what it means to accept someone wholly, not expect a thing but take what comes without judging. What a wonderful spirit lives within this tall, slim, hidden Goddess!
I am sometimes so full of joy that I can hardly breathe. Lately I have found such a simple joy in loving those around me that it colors my world a rainbow. The more I reach out, it seems, the more happiness comes back to me.
The reactions of the people who have read my "sketches" in this book have been overwhelmingly positive, everyone surprised that I would take the time to think of them, that they look so through the eyes of another, that their good qualities shine through so clearly. Perhaps I have been lucky enough to meet those whose qualities shine the brightest, but I think it is rather that human nature is bright, that people shine, jewel-like: glinting quietly unless they have a bright light shone on them, then erupting into brilliance in an instant.
Viktor always laughs the loudest. No matter who makes the joke, no matter if it is about him or someone else, his laugh is the first to come and the last to die. His good humor is contagious, no-one can help smiling when he is around. He is the life of the party and loves to be surrounded by people, especially those he knows well. He is friendly and will talk to anyone about anything-he, more than anyone, has done a wonderful job of making me feel at home here. It is a joy to see him sitting here with his beer when I come in, to hear him suddenly break into song. That he loves music is obvious--he is always tapping, humming, or singing--it simply is part of him, natural, like the seasons or the weather. No matter where I go, I will remember his smile and love for life....
Danny: At first glance he is utterly normal--moody, funny, temperamental. The more we talk, however, and the longer I know him, the more personality comes bubbling to the surface. He has a heart that is much too big for his body and I sometimes wonder that his entire being doesn't beat in time with it, visibly. He can be sharp-tongued and quick witted and knows so much more than people realize, being content to step behind his facade of player, coach, bartender, salesman. The capacity he has to give and to love those dearest to his heart is astounding--there are no bad intentions, ever, where they are concerned. Sometimes I believe he would cut off his own legs rather than let harm come to the ones he loves. Our evenings of laughs, 20 questions, and people watching are precious to me and proof that it is the people you least expect to teach you are the ones that teach you the most.
Jon: an enigma, he defines himself. One of the more fascinating individuals I have met, he puts paid to the idea that individuals are a direct product of their surroundings because he is entirely unwilling to be a product at all. So sure of himself in some ways--and so utterly unsure in the others, I see in him the capability to be so many things--but only if he sees them in himself. He is careful to a fault, sometimes absentminded, and often completely thoughtless, but never in a calculating way. He often bounces around in an entirely random manner, and then suddenly stops in med-bounce and utters a sentence that makes me totally incapable of answering because it strikes so close to home. He is capable of an infuriating logic and, at the same time, is incurably romantic by nature and always, always searching for those truths which speak to him. When he finds them and learns to live them the last barriers will crack and I am eager to see where this boyish young man will take himself during the course of this particular incarnation. It can only be good! Up! And I will always be grateful for the time I have had to get to know this gentle, questioning soul....
Ryan: I could devote pages to you and still feel there was more to say. Your brightness and capability to laugh astounds me--where did you come from, you wild, fey thing? Sometimes I think you are a sprite or a fairy--wicked and cunning, but only ever in fun. You are a sunny spot in my life, always willing to listen and turn my frown upside down! Is it possible that we were sisters in a previous life, making mischief and weaving our magic, mysterious veils drawn over our faces as we laughed together in secret? I believe it. I also believe that we are kindred spirits in a way that creates unbreakable bonds and memories that will last forever and beyond. I am very much looking forward to our later days, when we will sit together in our rocking chairs, self-knit, multi-colored blankets and calico cats in our laps, and make fun of the other old people. Love you forever! I'll miss you terribly when I go :(
Franze: oh boy, oh boy! He epitomizes the definition...cheeky and funny, he is much more, in and of himself, than anyone realizes. He has the wonderful gift of making people smile just by opening his mouth. He is always surprising me by saying or doing things that I don't expect and is easy to be around because he simply is, just him, nobody else. He assumes comfort and familiarity easily and is bewildered when those who don't know him don't reciprocate. I think of him as the Gentle Giant--there is no malice in him, and he is often underestimated!
Lexi's character sketch of me!
You are a hidden wealth of talent. Not hidden is your charm, energy, generosity, warmth and genius. Well, I say genius now, but that is what is partly hidden. And as it should be. Genius in friendship--on the sleeve. Genius in bringing completely different kinds of people together, and making them LOVE eachother--not hidden. But genius in Scrabble, under the radar! And genius in perogie making--who knew? Genius in getting to the very bottom of a person, in getting to know them to their very element, in understanding and accepting and embracing the very thing that makes someone SOMEONE, you have it. And you can communicate it! Here in this gorgeous book. Even better, you let each of us know that you KNOW us...and you do it with the simplest look. Thank you. You are amazing! I'll miss you :)
Nicky's quick note to me:
Erin means: reading books, best song ever, karaoke, broken brooms, fun, Teletubby beers, Tequila, B52 with cream, songwriter, babysitter, Crazy Chips, Taxi to Lug, Scrabble, Jalapenos, John, Bad Taste Party, cleaning the bar, Gauloises red, 400 Euro Italian dress, Ryan, Mark and all the others, long, long nights at Danny's, big Water but above all that: A friend forever :)
I can't translate this--but it belongs here :) Claudine's last words to me....
Ich hoffe du verstosch uberhaupt es wort. Ich wuensche dir fur dini Ziit Ztuttgard. Ich finds extrem cool, dass ich dich noch minere Ziit in Baldingen no beeser ha Choene kenne-lere. Du besch e Person wo mich total beidrockt het. So erfreschend, erlech und offe fuer alles was dir gegaegnet. Ich werde dich vermesse. Wennd Luscht hesch eimol weder Schwiizerluft s'schnoppere, chasch jeder Ziit zo ois cho, mer hend eimer es Bett Fuer dich parat. Und ergend einisch mached wir vellecht werklech ein Pischamaparty Z'Stuttgard.
Alles, alles guti
don't forget me
And from Johanna:
My dear Erin,
So, the day has come. The day which I never longed for. I'll miss you so much. So far you've always been there. Even if I've been down and been talking about depressing things you've always smiled. You wrote that I comfort people but it has been you comforting me most of the time.
I've decided to see the positive things about your departure. It was hard but I realized that I now at least for one year have a friend in Stuttgart who I always can visit. And instead of having deep talks in the car I've to learn how to write it down so I can send it to you. Like a long-distance thing.
I've learned a lot of things from you. How to give everyone you meet a chance. I hope that I'm improving. So you have my address in the back of this book. Feel free to come and visit whenever you want for how long you want.
I don't for a second doubt that you're going to have an amazing time in Stuttgart. Just don't get too European. Erin is from the other side of the Atlantic and I hope you will always stay the way you are.
So anyway, good lucky with your "people hunt," you're one of the best.
You will always have a place in my heart,