No. 7 Ice Train to Frankfurt

And when, in the fields standing like broken teeth, the winter trees, rooted both in sky and earth, having bitten off too much summer, brace against the cold winds to come, I find myself, for the first time feeling the slightest weight of my fifty six years and sensing perhaps the faintest chill of the frost to come.

Our six-to-eight children, clumping here and there for a little while, spread unevenly across the globe from Sydney to Kunming, Melbourne to Frankfurt, like autumn leaves, sheltering from the north wind, provide transient loci for our remaining parental instincts.

We have grandchildren now, very welcome additions, simultaneously strengthening and weakening the bonds and duties of parenthood. Their boisterous new souls snatch the baton from our loosening grasp, thrusting it instead into the innocent, unprepared, hands of our children.

The deed is done, the die is cast, and we are set free to roam the earth like Kami, familial spirits, watching over the living from a distance, available at need, but separate now, distinct once again, from offspring.

It is in a small, zwei zimmer, apartment in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, that we plot our escape. It is here, amid the cobbled streets and coffee houses, that we fan the flickering flame of our lives, restoring finally, the saturnine embers, glowing in the dead of night, to full flame, licking at the accumulated detritus of a lifetime, the fuel load, into the beginnings of a raging bush fire that will, god willing, consume and sustain us for thirty years at least.

Germany, grey in late autumn overcast, slips silently by the train window. We are leaving Europe tomorrow. We fly half way around the globe to Sydney, and summer, and perhaps to one last family Christmas and a BBQ on the beach.

Will we gather our brood once more, before the final exodus, or will this be an altogether more modern affair, electronic and instant, implacable as the orange and black display of the Berlin Hauptbahnhof train time table?

One last goodbye in Frankfurt before we board the plane. This has been a good trip, albeit a whirlwind of social encounters. A lifetime of relationships have been honoured or reinstated. It has been, I now see, a kind of clearing of the decks, a profound and sincere act of atonement and preparation – for whatever comes next.

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