Living the life of an expat, non-resident alien or whatever I am here in America means that connections with family have to continue through various means: be it Skype to my parents in York, emails to my sister in London, or phone calls to my brother who now lives in Berlin.
Berlin featured prominently in my childhood due to my father’s role in the British Army resulting in multiple postings to Germany.
I can still remember driving through the city shortly after the Berlin Wall had come down in 1989 in the family’s indestructible BMW–the same one that had taken me to Germany from London as a two-week old–during the sweltering heat of a summer vacation.
I sat on the back seat next to my brother and sister, being rather anti-social as young boys are prone to do and listening to Madonna on my Walkman as images of the reunited city sped by the my car window.
With the wall no longer in existence, were we able to visit the previously isolated and inaccessible Bradenburg Gate which had been right next to the wall, and where we had a great time perusing all the stalls that had sprung up selling Russian uniforms and headpieces, military badges and bags filled with fragments from the wall.
Still to this day, dotted around the family’s home in York, secreted in various draws or on shelves are some of the bits of wall we bought that day.
I remember finding one such bag in my bedroom during a trip home and after experiencing one of those impulsive needs to rummage through and try to sort out the contents of my room–which never achieve any sorting out–and being rather distraught to find my chunk of wall had crumbled into unrecognizable dust.