Monday, November 9, 2009

Twenty Years Later

Today the world celebrates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Twenty years ago, K and I were living in Germany. We didn’t live in Berlin. We lived almost 300 miles from where the action was happening that day. As I recall, that was about a five-hour train ride. I don’t think we had a television at that time but we listened to the news on radio. We knew we were missing an historic event. It seemed like a shame to miss it. We wanted to be there. Not for any good reason other than just to be there - to later say we were there. We thought about getting on the overnight train.

We didn’t get on the train. We heard the trains that night were packed. We’d heard there were no seats. We’d have to stand through the whole 5-hour trip. We’d have no place to stay once we arrived. We’d likely have to sleep in the train stations or on the sidewalks as we heard so many others were doing. This would all be for the thrill of “being there.”

That night, at about 4 a.m. for us, a friend called from California to ask if we were seeing any of the action. He wasn’t any more clear about our location than our time zone. “No,” we answered. “We’re not even close to it.”

Not boarding the overcrowded trains was a practical decision. Staying home that night was the right thing to do. I hate crowded trains and I knew there was no way I was going to sleep on a sidewalk. Even in my youth I was fussy and a little germaphobic.

We let it go and 8 months later traveled to Berlin for a concert at the site of the downed wall. We collected our own little chunk of it from the rubble that still remained.

While our choice made sense at the time, I’ve always felt a little regretful about that decision - the practical decision – for choosing physical comfort over witnessing history.

Twenty years later, it’s easy to regret not having been there.

In a lifetime, our regrets are probably more often about the choices we didn’t make or the things we didn’t do than about the things we did do. I don’t know if anyone regrets having attended Woodstock. We all know what a muddy, uncomfortable mess that was. But you never hear anyone say, “I wish I’d stayed home.”

It would have been cool to be there. But we weren’t there.

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What does this have to do with my house blog? Maybe nothing. Or maybe it’s about those who choose the physical comforts of a large house located in an area of cultural deprivation. Or maybe it’s about those who don’t opt for the turnkey condo, choosing instead the more adventurous path of fixing up an old but interesting home, located in an interesting but perhaps dicey neighborhood.

I often wonder what fun and creative things K and I would have done over the past seven years had we stayed in our apartment.

But hey, twenty years from now, we won’t wonder if we could have made something livable of that fixer upper we passed on.

2 comments:

brismod said...

Living 5 hours away from Berlin when the wall fell is not a bad thing. Just living in Germany would have been amazing and your experiences particularly during that time makes you part of living history. That's pretty cool. I also think the best stories often occur away from the main action anyway...

NV said...

Well, you'll never have to wonder about that house!