Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Friend or Family Feature...

Today's Feature is...


When we moved to California in 1996, we rented an apartment that was two blocks from the beach. Petra was one of the first people that I met in Venice. She had come to California as a German tourist. She fell in love with a Rastafarian, and decided not to go home.

She and D had a very alternative living situation. (Let's just say that their home had wheels). Every day I would walk my dog Lummi on the boardwalk. I would speak to D, and once in awhile I would see Petra's eyes peeking out of their Big Blue van. She was very shy and quiet.

Petra was very free. She spent her days on the beach. D would make drums, and sell them on the boardwalk. There was a little group of people who would sit on that bench every morning. They would sit, chat, have a cup of coffee, and then go on with their day. You could always find Petra there.

One day I noticed that Petra was pregnant. I found a copy of "What to Expect When You are Expecting." I gave it to her and we began to talk more often. She started coming by my house for tea in the afternoons. She is smart, funny, and has a great outlook on life. Sure, it was a little odd. Who, on impulse, moves across the world to live with a strange man? Oh right, ME ! I guess we had that in common.

When Papa (his nickname) was born, Petra and D moved into a hotel temporarily. I really wondered how on earth they were going to be able to care for a baby while living in the Big Blue van.

It worked. I don't know how, but it worked. Petra had a YMCA membership, and would go there to exercise and shower. Little Papa spent idyllic days on the beach with both of his parents. They had lots of friends, and a slew of daily visitors. They had no mortgage payment, and no electricity bills. They rose with the sun, and retired when it set. They chased seagulls, and built sandcastles. They came by for tea, and dinners.

Steven and I moved to a new place. It was a duplex with a large garden. It was still in Venice, and just a short walk from the Big Blue van and D's bench.

For a few glorious weeks, Petra and Papa moved in with us. It was so much fun having a baby in the house.

We had added Moses to our family by then, and he was in love with the little Papa. Did I mention it was fun? Steven and I had not yet begun our futile family building attempts. I think, at the time, I was still trying to convince Steven to marry me. There was none of that, 'If only we could have kids', or 'Why not us?' nonsense. It was just enjoyment, free of longing. Papa was the first child to ever live with us.

D would come by in the evenings to whip up a fantastic, vegetarian, pasta dinner for all of us. Total cost $3.99.

Petra and D had another child, Mausy (her nickname).

They lived in Big Blue, and later moved into an apartment. They eventually moved to Germany.

They broke up.

Petra and D both work as teachers in two, very small, German towns. Their break-up was very volatile. I believe they are now on civil terms. They continue to be good parents.

Look at the little Papa now...

And the beautiful Mausy...

How will my adoption impact Petra?

Did you ever have a friend whose first language was not your own? Isn't it beautiful when some of your communicating is not necessarily overly verbal? I don't know if I am explaining it properly. Sometimes complicated thoughts are expressed in words that have nuances and can be taken the wrong way. As someone who tends to be over-sensitive (did I mention that one of Steven's nicknames for me is MS. OVERSENSITIVO?) it is refreshing to spend time with someone who uses thrift in their word choice; who breaks down a question into its simplest form. It has nothing to do with her intelligence, and I am sure that if I were more intelligent I could come up with the word that describes this nice quality that Petra has.

It is simplicity without being simple. It is thrifty, but not cheap. It is quiet, but not boring. It is stillness, without stagnation. It is motherhood without Bugaboo, Penelope Picklebottom (or whatever the hell that brand is), and all the other material accoutrements. It is warmth, humor, and friendship. That is Petra.

Petra, as a white woman with mixed kids, has already faced a shitload of racism.(Did I mention that they live in a very small town in Germany?) Petra handles it very well. I am sure I could learn a lot from her in that area.

I also learned from Petra that not everyone who lives in a 'Van down by the Ocean' (my Chris Farley imitation if you didn't get it) is a zonked out whack job. Most are, but a few are not.(Think about the joys of no credit cards, mortgage payments, or daycare!)

I hope that maybe, if and when we do go to Ethiopia, we are able to make a stop in Frankfurt. I would love to grab a cup of tea with Petra, my kids, and her kids. I have a feeling we would just start up, right where we left off.

Or maybe, if I am really lucky, she will come back here for a visit. We can stroll along the beach, chase a seagull, and visit some of the old denizens of D's bench.

I can't wait.

p.s Alles Gute zum Geburtstag Petra and Papa! (I'm quite hopeful that I just said Happy Birthday Petra and Papa!)


  1. I love this particular tribute because of the language mention. What a wonderful friend; the kind you learn new things from. The kind you have tea with. Petra just sounds so awesome.

    One thing about language barriers that I find really unfortunate is that I see that some Americans (and perhaps this is true elsewhere) will look at someone stumbling or struggling with English and ridiculously assume that individual is dumb. But, if that American could only be transported to a zone where they could see the way this person from another country can express themselves in their first language, how articulate they are....

    I just mention this thought as it popped into my head while reading your post.

    Oh and btw, I am very overly sensitive as well, just ask Craig. I am always getting my feelings hurt over something...I'm trying to improve upon this.


  2. Just to add, I hope you know in my comment I certainly wasn't referring to you as far as the language bit, but quite the opposite.

    I didn't earlier mention how beautiful their kids are too. Gorgeous. :)


  3. I have so enjoyed your Friday Features! I am new to your blog so I have had fun going back to read your previous Features. They are such a joy to read and remind me of how precious our relationships with dear ones can be.

  4. Wow, this is such an interesting post. I really like it, and it so illustrates the joy and the hardship of life. The kids are beautiful, of course. Too bad they don't live closer to you, it sounds like it would be so good for everyone.

  5. I love how you know all of these amazing/interesting people. Down here in the south it is difficult to get to know people like that. I often feel a bit out of place.

    I love their story and wish sometimes I was that brave to just follow your heart completely!

    I hope that Petra gets to read what you wrote about her :)

  6. Great post. I loved meeting Petra. The "simplicity without being simple" is so beautiful!

    OBTW...when can I come for tea?