My children are creating different summer memories in Germany
‘They long for Grandad’s garden, to boil up Kelly kettle and climb the tree I climbed’
Fionnuala Zinnecker and family enjoy the great outdoors of Germany
Summer family fun at the lake
Fionnuala Zinnecker: “My children are growing up as the kind of children I only ever encountered at campsites on holidays in France.”
It is not quite 7am and the flashing display on the main street bank in Maximiliansau in Germany reads 23 degrees as I stroll past. I’m on my way back from the bakery with a baguette in my hand. Still sleepy from the muggy nighttime heat, I try as best I can not to scratch the mosquito bites that tingle on my neck and legs. I’m getting good at it, at last, admiring instead the light tan on my arms. About time too, for this is not a holiday. This is my life, this summer so strange to me.
Ferocious heat and intense humidity, thunderstorms and dinners outdoors. Mosquito bites, the whirring of fans, school closing because it is too hot to teach or be taught. Outdoor pools, swimming in lakes and the scratchy feel of dried grass underfoot. These are the memories my children will have of summer. A summer so strange to me.
My childhood summers – in my memory at least – were endless days playing in the garden, trips to the beach on the sunny days and believing that if the temperature rose above 20 degrees you could fry an egg on the footpath. Choc Ices, 99s, the tropical smell of suncream and the pain of sunburn. The unexplainable excitement when the tar on the road would melt from the heat.
My children are growing up as the kind of children I only ever encountered at campsites on holidays in France. The kind that have a slight tan all year round, speak two languages and run round in the nip without a thought as to why they should wear swimming togs. The kind of children who aren’t at all bothered by temperatures above 25 degrees and take sunshine for granted. They’ll leap into a lake and swim, leaving me knee deep at the edge, wondering whether that was algae that brushed my leg, or was it possibly a fish?
Life is lived outdoors under a blue sky, while indoors, behind closed and shuttered windows, the house is kept in darkness. The habit of flinging open doors and curtains, letting in fresh air and sunlight, has to be repressed. I’m learning, but these foreign children of mine know instinctively to keep out the heat, and with it the mosquitoes and flies.
As a child I looked forward to two weeks of water slides, the shade of parasols and eating scoops of pistachio ice-cream, but my children’s lives are just that, every day of summer from May to September.
Yet still they look forward for months to their couple of weeks in Ireland every year. There will be the annual shyness with their cousins, and jealousy over shared grandparents. They plan trips to the beach where, regardless of weather, equal amounts of fun will be had in wellies and raincoats as in shorts or togs. They save their birthday money for kites to build and fly on windy days. They hope to see horses gallop in the waves again. They want to visit Lough Conn , after which one of them is named. They long to camp in Grandad’s garden, boil up the Kelly kettle and climb the gnarled old tree I climbed as a child. They want to munch cheese and onion crisps, lick 99s and eat Nana’s fried potatoes. They ask if we can go back to the Viking exhibition and “Potato Park”, as they call it. All requests end in “like last time”. All requests so easy to approve.
“How many sleeps Mammy?”, they ask every evening, impatient for their Irish summer, a summer so strange to them.