We went back as a family and it was heaven again.
Originally posted August 2007.
I have just returned to England after five years away, four in Maryland, one in Austria. The last year in Vienna was particularly splendid. I have an obsessive love for that place, so much so that my wife suspects that I have Vienna for a mistress. I suppose I cannot deny it. But here’s the thing:
“Vienna” (and substitute “New York”, “New Dehli”, or “Preston, Idaho” for personal effect) is not so much a place for me as it is a place with people, friends, memories. In other words, it’s not so much Vienna, Austria that I love, but Vienna where-I-served-my mission, Vienna where-my-son-went-to-German-school, Vienna where-my-wife-and-I-went-to-the-opera.
I recently went back to Vienna for a conference. It was sunny and warm, free concerts were being played at the Rathaus, and the cheese and bread were as good as ever…
…but I was on my own and I was miserable!
I walked past our old apartment and thought of my daughter playing with her dolls on the balcony; I swam in the Danube and thought of my sons jumping off the pier; I stood at Schwedenplatz and thought of my wife valiantly taking the tram to church to teach piano. As I flew away from Vienna I saw the “bomb-tower” in the park next to where we lived (“bomb tower” being my boys’ description for the old WWII flak towers) and almost choked on my stale peanuts. You see, Vienna ohne Familie sucked. Old Vienna in all its imperial and cultural glory could not stop me from feeling like a lone man in the Garden of Eden.
Dramatic and sentimental, yes. But still true.
Heaven without family could never be heaven. Which is not simply to say that families can be “together forever”, but that families (and friends) must be “together forever”, or the whole sh’bang is not worth a bean.