Last night we went to our first beer keller in 2020. Beer keller season typically kicks off at the end of April. This year obviously it was postponed.
We chose a keller that sits at the edge of the woods, with paths and a creek and everything that makes the woods grand– in addition to a playground visible from most of the tables so that if your kids are old enough to play on their own, you could arguably sit and enjoy a beer (or a Russ’n in my case) while the kids play.
We haven’t been to this beer keller since Little Bean was still in a baby carriage, so it was really something to witness the girls, running off to play, hand-in-hand, into the setting glow of the sun.
As a result of Corona there were new rules: To order there were three different lines divided by plastic fencing (drinks, hot food and cold food). People were instructed and expected to don a mask and to stay six feet away from each other while they waited in line. Masks were not required at the table or really on the play ground. Some of the tables had one or both of the benches removed, allowing for more space between groups. Previously we might have shared a table with another family and now that’s not an option.
Once we had chosen our table and set some things there to reserve it, I went in search of the girls (who had disappeared as soon as they had seen the swings.) That alone was something new. I found them on the merry-go-round, Big Sister pushing them both with one leg as she checked to be sure that Little Bean was holding on tight. I stood there admiring them. What an independent unit they’d become. When did that happen?
There they were together without us. It was in stark contrast to the life we’ve been living for the past few years where we must oversee every breath. It was freeing and yet the growth so obvious that it hurt a little. I ran over there, and stood as if to ask are you sure you don’t need me to stand here and watch you? It was as if I was part of an old sequence that they’d suddenly outgrown.
The playground that once seemed so large, looked smaller. And if by chance they were to run off the playground they’d only end up in a meadow or a farmer’s field. It was a moment of stillness when they very likely could not injure themselves or disappear.
They were still themselves: they didn’t want to stop playing, then they didn’t want the food, then wanted it, then traded, then were too excited to eat.
Big Sister looked over to me and said Can I go play? Knowing she’d eaten plenty I said, Yes. Then I noticed that she stood there waiting on her sister, who hadn’t eaten much yet. Go, I reminded her quietly, you said you wanted to play on your own. She smiled, a twinkle in her eye, remembering that she had said she wanted a few minutes free from watching over Little Bean and ran off to the high climbing area.
Little Bean finished up a few minutes later and just as we were instructing her to play where we could see her, Big Sis came back. I’m taking her with me, she said matter-of-factly. It’s ok, I won’t leave her alone. And off they went. I shrugged.
Who are these kids? I felt like rejoicing. I felt so proud. I felt so excited. I felt kind of lost. What do we do at a table at a beer keller without kids whining and carrying-on? I had no idea.
And that’s when I noticed that all of life, this whole human experience—It’s holding on and it’s letting go. It’s life. It’s love. It’s relationships and jobs and failure and success. It’s not just for those of us with kids. This letting-go and holding-on is a life-long challenge, a never-ending journey, a balancing-act for every human.
To see the ephemeral nature of this existence, to embrace it in spite of that and then to loosen the strings and open your hands so that you can keep what you cherish and let it fly away at the same time–This is the leap into the deep.
The Beer Keller really isn’t such a serious, profound place. But there is something profoundly special about it. And it hasn’t lost its gemutlichkeit in spite of the social distancing.
In other news, if you are interested in more info on Franconian Beer Kellers, a website called I am Expat is publishing an article of mine tomorrow (Friday) on the topic!! I’ll post the link once it’s published.