Today marks the beginning of an 8-day visit to Germany with my daughter Jessi. I intend tokeep a travelogue of our experiences, and for whatever reason I’m first setting pen to paper as we await our flight at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. I wistfully stare into my cup of espresso and ponder the passage of time after a weekend in Maryland. Family members had gathered in Annapolis this past weekend to watch Jessi’s ceremonious transition from midshipman to ensign on the football stadium of the U.S. Naval Academy—a graduation ceremony punctuated with a fly-over of the Blue Angels and commencement speech by Vice President Mike Pence. Before I go further with my inane musings, however, let me provide some context.
Keen reader that you are, you will have noticed my penchant for alliteration, a congenital defect I’m afraid: Jermany, Jessi, June. (Speaking of alliteration, hopefully upon our return from Berlin next week we will utter the words of the vainglorious Julius Caesar drunk with victory: Venimus, Vidimus, Vincimus.) This excursion has very much to do with a person, a place, and a time. Jessika Lynn is my middle daughter and a source of great pride, as it is no small feat to graduate from one of the world’s most prestigious and rigorous military institutions. I love her beyond words and am proud of her achievement; however, I take greatest solace as a father in knowing that she will grow up to be a person of kindness and decency who is concerned for those less fortunate than herself.
Jessi and I traveled to Japan back in 2009 when she was in high school. Near the end of our visit we missed the bus to Mount Fuji because I took a detour on our way back from Kyoto to Tokyo. You see, friend, I wanted to visit the museum and shrine of Chiune Sugihara, one of my heroes of history. As a Mensch, Jessi understood my pilgrimage despite missing out on a highly-anticipated part of our trip. I also learned during this sojourn in Japan that Jessi can keep up with me: my long stride and desire to forgo public transit and walk the length and breadth of a city. Now, I’m trying to keep up with her. As we’ve mentioned our trip to Japan from time to time over the years, I wanted to capture yet another special moment for us to bond and create and forge new memories together. Spending time together is ever more precious these days because we live in different parts of the States.
Jessi stands at one of the crossroads of her life, and I wanted to meet her there. She is transitioning from life at the academy to flight school in Pensacola, Florida. The midshipman has become an ensign, just as the adolescent has become an adult. I suspect there are other momentous changes currently going on her life. This month of June is a good time to reconnect, while I still have the chance. As an aging father, I’m just trying to flag a ride onto her life as she moves on with her career and someday raise a family.
Finally, why are we going to Germania? Specifically, we’ll be staying in Berlin for the entirety of our visit, with brief junkets to Potsdam and possibly Wittenberg. In a way, this trip is a homecoming for Jessi who lived basically the first year of her life there. Ever ingrained in my memory is Jessi as a toddler standing in a window sill of our rented house in Augsburg some two decades ago, with her big brown eyes and crop of chestnut brown hair, waving me goodbye as I leave for the train. At that time I was doing archival research for my dissertation. I also chose Berlin for our trip because I’m connecting with a few organizations and friends in the area. I’m planning a three-week global seminar for the spring of 2018. University students will study the integration of immigrants and refugees, or lack thereof, into German society.
So let’s see how this journey unfolds. Keeping Jessi happy requires a lot of movement and activities, which works fine with me. Key to success also requires supplying her with plenty of judiciously selected snacks, both sweet and salty, and dispensing them at strategic moments during the trip. What father-daughter possibilities may come when we have shuffled off our routines to travel abroad together must give us pause.