I was sitting on a train bound for Stuttgart, Germany to meet Sebastian’s family. We had met during our first few weeks of college at Creighton University and detecting an accent, I asked where he was from. I was a French major and always interested when I met people from other countries. After taking a course in France that summer, we made plans for me to come to his hometown to meet his family. Everything I read about Stuttgart made me imagine that it would be a motor city; it is the home of both Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that he grew up in a lovely wine village on the outskirts of the city. Nearly two decades later, Untertuerkheim has become my home away from home.
From the balcony of the upstairs guest room, there is a thrilling view of soaring vineyards and perched on their highest point is a beautiful mausoleum that is visible for miles around. Sebastian packed a picnic lunch and we hiked those steep vineyards for an hour to reach the top. Etched on the façade of the masoleum were the words “Die Liebe hoeret nimmer auf”—“Love never ends”. These very words were etched into our wedding rings when we were married a few years later.
Untertuerkheim is a place we have come back to time and time again. School breaks and vacations would bring us here almost every year. During a hike through the vineyards, I noticed a broom placed above a vintner’s door. That meant they were opening their homes and serving simple fare and new wines to the public that evening. The mother of a good friend let me live with her for the summer while I took German classes. Even world events took place in this little corner of Stuttgart. Sebastian and I watched Spain play Tunisia in a World Cup game at the soccer stadium only a stone’s throw from his childhood home. One summer, we came home to Untertuerkheim, now with a little stroller in tow. We found ourselves out walking the vineyards again this year but it felt different since we were also proudly showing off our little boy to all of Sebastian’s neighbors and childhood friends.
A few years ago, my husband was offered a job in Germany and we moved our young family to a town only a few hours away from Untertuerkheim. Seeing our sons enjoy the place of his childhood while visiting their Oma and Opa made me love this village even more. In the late summer, our sons would sneak a couple of grapes as we hiked up to the mausoleum. A few weeks after the harvest, we would admire the vibrant red, yellow and orange leaves on the vines. Our sons would hunt for Easter eggs in the backyard of Oma and Opa’s house with a view of these beautiful vineyards behind them. On a recent weekend trip to Stuttgart, I was surprised by all the new children playing at the playground of the local Biergarten. After asking who these children were, I was informed that a small settlement was created in Untertuerkheim to house refugees displaced by the war in Syria.
When our next baby was born, there was no question in my mind as to where we would baptize him. During the offeratory, the priest whispered these words: “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink”. Sitting in that simple little church, surrounded by the vineyards so lovingly cultivated by the members of this congregation, these words feel even more sacred. Those vines produce a wine that has sustained this village for centuries. During my son’s baptism, I looked over at my husband and felt a fleeting pang of envy, knowing that he grew up in such a place. But I quickly conquered that feeling at the realization that part of me has grown up here, too.
Where do you feel at home in the world? For a remarkable story about this question, read Tsh Oxenreider’s new book, “At Home in the World”, available at https://www.amazon.com/Home-World-Reflections-Belonging-Wandering/dp/140020559X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492693959&sr=8-1&keywords=Tsh+oxenreider