- From Berlin to Miami, then a one day car rental (through Priceline) and a few hours drive north to where my family was staying (close to my brother and where my niece would be Bat Mitzvahed).
- Then a few hours south the next morning to visit a friend who I miss a lot. He's in prison and I am deeply sad that I don't live in the US and can't be a real support to him from out of the country. It took a lot of phone calls before I left to set up seeing him and the authorities were very kind to help me out and set up permission at relatively short notice.
- Up again for the rehearsal dinner before my niece's Bat Mitzvah. Got to chat with some folks I haven't seen since my brother's wedding and was happy to have the family down time.
- Bat Mitzvah and then the reception and then dinner/party. My niece did a wonderful job and I was completely impressed by her ability and maturity. I was terribly sorry to have missed my older niece's bat mitzvah and it was because we regretted that so deeply that we filed (six months ago!) for permission to take T1 out of school (not a thing lightly taken or easily allowed in Germany) so that we could be there for this. Beside the great work and care and study that V showed, it was really clear how well she and S are growing up and I was greatly moved by the depth of their affection for each other and their dad and by their dignity and maturity. It was a privilege to be able to share this moment and the other times we were able to spend with them while in Florida. I really hope to be able to spend some more time with them in the next year.
- Met up with V and S the next day to hang at the beach and chat and then drove down to meet my parents in the evening.
- Monday: Went down to visit B again. This time my parents and our friend L. watched the kids, which was a great relief as the visiting area at the prison was not kid/family friendly. We were not allowed to bring any games or books or toys or crayons or paper and pencil in for them to play with. I can understand that there are rules against contraband, but I spoke to the administration about whether it would be able to donate kids' books, toys or games for the visiting center (as shipments to inmates are allowed through Amazon and other on-line retailers) and was told: no. The multiple Bibles they had available were the only material they would allow. In a world where the goal is theoretically rehabilitation and that goal has been proven to be bettered when inmates retain family ties, when it takes so long to get to a prison (built in the backwoods) and so long to get through security to both enter and leave the prison (45 minutes to enter, 20+ to leave), how can making visiting untenable for families, children, mothers with small children (this was a man's prison, minimum security- what's it like at tougher prisons?) make any sense? I told the girls: no matter what, if you should ever be in a position where you might need to be imprisoned, take that term in Europe. Where the scale might be a bit to the light side, but the goal is not punitive, but what is best for society.
- And back to dinner at an interesting buffet with parents, friend and children: a super salad bar, with soups and pasta and desserts available as well. I spent my time at the salad bar, as I miss that so much here in Germany. Great prices for seniors and children.
- Tuesday was running about and doing chores, having a ring re-sized (arthritis took my wedding and engagement rings up a size and the price to enlarge them here- as well as the necessity of sending them away- made me instead just not wear them). A local store did the smything while I waited for one ring and I left the other- price was 1/3 what it was here. We also had our nails done (the kids started while I waited). The girls had their standard sparkling nail polish on fingers and toes and I tried out the new "gel" manicure: I wanted cobalt blue but the German recommended a sparkling white (to go with T1's sparkling pink and T2's sparkling purple). I was a bit hesitant, but it looked great in the Florida sunshine and in the sparkling pool water. Now that I'm back in grey, cold, drizzly Germany it looks a bit inappropriate. However, it's been 17 days and I still have a full manicure, without a crack or a chip. Since I usually chip them within 5 minutes, this is absolutely amazing. I'm not certain how I will be able to remove the lacquer, but I will look to see if I can find a place here in Berlin that does this (and use a more Berlin style dark and non-sparkly color). Though with my procrastinating ways, that could take a few more weeks.
- That evening we had an amazing dinner at a restaurant called Seasons 52. Charming seasonal menu, with no entree having a calorie count above 450. I certainly tasted noshort-cuts in the delicious meals: I had seared Ahi tuna and the German filet mignon (which we split between us). The children had mini-pizzas and my parents had trout and a chicken dish, all of which were wonderful.
Wednesday we left for Disney and that will be a new post.