Yesterday my friend Ingrid decided to mark her birthday by inviting a small group of friends round for breakfast.
To me, this is somewhat bizarre, breakfast for me is the breaking of the fast - i.e. something to go into a ravenously hungry stomach at the break of my day (typically 6.30am) but of course breakfast is different here as I've commented before, often people will have a small something when they get up and then a proper German breakfast anytime before lunch. Also, why, on your birthday would you want the hassle of preparing a lovely breakfast and then having to clear away all the detritus later? The last time she did this at least her husband was at home playing at being the egg chef and so hopefully he did all the tidying up afterwards too...
We were invited for 9.30, although it was maybe 10 before we were all there and seated and eating (good job I'd had a small bowl of cereal when I got up, otherwise I'd have fainted from hunger). The food was good as was the company, all moms with at least 1 kid in high school, consequently much of the conversation was about school/teachers/grades/up coming half year reports blah blah blah.
Then one mom started on the subject of the kids being shown films at school that are inappropriate for their age (she has a daughter, who I think had nightmares after watching a certain film) which led onto Harry Potter being 'too scary' for many kids and besides which there are many other films, real stories that aren't so scary.
Which led onto Ingrid remembering her daughter being upset when at the age of 7 they read a book in school about the Kristallnacht where it was clear to her from the pictures that if a little girl's teddy bear was all that was left of a family then the little girl must be in terrible trouble herself.
This then led onto the war...it wasn't me OK, I didn't even mention it once, they started it (in more ways than one) and I just sat there thinking to myself, "are we really talking about the war? During a birthday breakfast?"
It was on the tip of my tongue to make a "what a happy subject for a birthday" type comment, but then I decided not to, seeing as this was the first time I've had a group discussing the war like this. The conversation wound itself up when they started talking about a TV show this week (it's Holocaust week you see as it's the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by Soviet troops on January 27, 1945, which Germany has marked since 1996 with official memorial ceremonies for Holocaust victims) the programme had made the point that the companies that had made the ovens for the death camps had put their company name on said ovens...again I bit my tongue whilst thinking to myself that of course they would do such a thing, they knew what they were doing, they just never thought they would be prevented from continuing, so why shouldn't they promote their companies?
I forget now what subject diverted us from more war chatter but soon attention was turned to me - probably because I mentioned I would need to leave soon as I had a German lesson to get to...so they needed to know what I learnt in my lessons - grammar? Yes, I happily confirmed, grammar and translation and chat.
But who was my German teacher they asked, a German?
And that's when I expanded the truth somewhat.
She's half Arabic I told them. You could have heard a pin drop.
You can't learn proper a German from someone who isn't German they declared. So I had to tell them the whole truth, how it's only the father who isn't actually Aryan, but how my teacher is a 'proper German'...didn't tell them that she spent her formative years living and loving London and that while her German is as good as, if not better than theirs, her English is as good as mine.
* word for the day: Frühstück - breakfast