In late September 2022, I followed my best friend and her two children through the streets of Möhringen in Stuttgart on a bicycle. As I struggled to stay straight and round corners, I was cognizant of the two children before me weaving in and out of those same street with an adeptness I did not feel.
You see, memory is an interesting thing. Sometimes you know exactly where you first learned a lesson, and it feels like it should be settled in your mind, something that you retain forever. After all, something that is easy to remember is “just like riding a bike.”
They neglect to say that even though you remember the lesson, there remains a level of vulnerability, where the fear of falling that first held you back returns to trip you up.
This vacation was a year in the making. Preceded by a week in Greece with one of my oldest friends, I decided to take an additional seven days to explore Germany, visit her family, attend an Ed Sheeran concert, and close it out by experiencing Oktoberfest.
From the start of the trip, however, things did not go as planned. I had hoped for some serendipity along with some solo traveling, but unexpected news on my second day from home left me uncertain. By the time I reached Germany (with its fall-like temperatures so very different from the warmth of Greece) I resisted all adventure and chose to stay close, attending soccer practice for the kids, and watching Ted Lasso as a distraction.
However, even with all the changes, there was one thing I wanted to make sure to do. Something that I considered foundational to my work as a public historian and how I first began thinking about how we memorialize the past.Continue reading “Stumbling Stones”