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Empty Nesting for Culture

I fell off the radar temporarily last week. Lost all communication. It was a combination of the end of school, huge trip, and finishing my WIP, Pelorus Jack.

Most of all, though, I was an emotional wreck. My kids left on Friday with my husband for Germany. I stayed at home in the empty nest.

My husband grew up and lived most of his live in Germany until I "imported" him to the U.S. after we got married. Since the girls are a blend of two cultures, we try really hard to get them over to Germany once a year to visit family and friends. This year, we decided they were old enough for a deeper "cultural immersion" program. We're sending them to school there. Which means, I won't see them for 2 and 1/2 weeks. A lifetime.

I was scared and nervous. They were scared and nervous. I'm pretty sure I sprouted countless new gray hairs within those last hours leading up to their flight. The closer it got, the more I asked myself, Why am I doing this? Is it that important for them to be able to speak and understand German?

After I had a good cry, a glass of wine, and a serious portion of Jane Austen, I came to the same conclusion I'd been coming to all year. Sometimes doing what is best in the long run means surmounting some steep short run costs.

My motivation is all experiential. My family is a big, Hungarian family. My generation, however, is the first that didn't learn to speak Hungarian. My grandfather (1st generation American) speaks, writes and reads it. My father (2nd generation) learned only to speak it, and gradually lost it when he grew up. I (3rd generation) only learned to curse in it. Not very useful when trying to communicate in Budapest at age 19, let me tell you.

More than that, though, my whole life I've always felt like there was this big part of my family, my culture, my own history that was lost to me. Moving to America was definitely a step up for us, but we left behind family and traditions in Hungary. Ones I will never really get to know because linguistically, I've lost the tying thread.

I don't want my kids to feel like that. I want them to feel a part of both of their cultures. I also feel like tolerance grows from a more organic and personal relationship to various cultures. One begins to see that things can be done differently and it's still great. Diversity is the spice of life.

So, they start school on Thursday in Germany. Our friends with whom the girls are staying have two boys the same age. They live in a small town. My kids will be the star guests at their school. I'm so excited for them. It's going to be the experience of a lifetime.

If only I could miss them a little less....