The Sparrow Hawk

Coincidences are weird things. They happen all the time in real life, yet they don’t really work in fiction. The reason they don’t work in fiction is because the writer ultimately has the power to create said coincidences and are therefore not really coincidences, but rather a purposeful device to lead the character and thus the reader down a specific path.

In real life, coincidences are similar to gambling. A gambler sees only his wins and not his losses, no matter how glaring they might be. We see only the pattern we are pre-disposed to see while other patterns go unnoticed. Not only that, but these patterns can only be determined in hindsight. Interesting, but kind of useless.

In my life, one of these patterns is this German thing. I have never had a love of things German. Don’t really enjoy the country overly. Don’t find the people generally charming or kind or friendly. It’s pretty… when it’s not raining or overcast. The schnitzel is good. I like the beer, but none of those things would make me fall in love with all things German. The most interesting thing about Germany (before I met Sparky) was that my high school German teacher had always wanted to visit a leper colony. The class was awful, the language so unsexy, but my teacher had wanted to visit a leper colony and this is what I thought about every day. That and Germany seemed to be all seventies orange and brown.

I took German in high school because I thought Spanish was too low brow and French too high brow. My genius step-dad took German when he was in high school and it was thought that he could help me if I needed it. While he remembered (and still does) everything he learned, it turned out not to be such a good idea to have him tutor me. I held on for those two years because, well, I don’t know. I found it hellish and transferred to Spanish in my junior year having decided that Spanish was not too low brow, I was too low brow for German. I did much better in Spanish.

In college, after a series of majors (English, Biology, Political Science) I finally chose psychology. I know, I know. Psychology is the default major. I chose it after a course in Freudian theory. I loved it. It made sense to me. It followed my intrinsic logic. I won’t go into why this made so much sense to me. (An aside: there are two types of psych majors: those who are looking for self-discovery and therapy via lecture classes and those of us who love the theories. I liked the theories.)

This class lead me to another class in German thinkers. This is where I met Karl Marx and thus gave up my young republican lifestyle to become a Marxist.

I read Thomas Mann and Herman Hesse, Bertolt Brecht and Goethe, Freud and Jung and a whole lot of Nietzsche thrown in. I read countless short stories by German feminists which, like my therapy, changed my way of thinking. (Although, it did lead me to expect Germany to be more egalitarian than it is. I am continually shocked by how, if not outright misogynistic, then at least deeply patriarchal the German culture is.)

Max was named after a character in Herman Hesse’s Demian. In my narcissistic college years, that book spoke to me about me.  I knew then that I’d eventually have a kid named Max. It was one of those odd bits of knowledge. I was just waiting for him to show up, really.

Fast forward to meeting and mating with the good old Sparks. When we talked about kids, Max was always there. It was always Max.

It became Maximus because Max is too common, as is Maxilian. I’m a Jennifer, I know the curse of the common name. Maximus allows him to be different if he wants to be different or not if he doesn’t. It gives him a choice. And it’s a really cool comic book name – Maximus von Roder.  (It didn’t hurt that it is easily pronounced and spelled in both our languages or that it passed the backdoor test.)

I ended up in Germany with a Kraut husband and a half-breed kid named after a character in a book by a German author. Am I a unique snowflake following a plan laid out by the gods? Perhaps. Or perhaps it’s just a pattern I’m seeing.

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9 thoughts on “The Sparrow Hawk

  1. It’s nice! Maximus….. different, yet easy. Also works in both languages well, we’ve found that a challence, especially with boy names.

  2. i read demian in high school. didn’t make quite the impression on me but now i think i’m gonna look into reading it again. sounds interesting to find out more about you that way 😉

    oh btw, i never told you but a couple of friends down in nuernberg gave birth to a maximilian the same day maximus was born. good day that may 6th.

    also, we won’t move into the new place (+ guestroom) until september so we’ll have to postpone your visit until then. let me know a good time to chat sometime or just give me a call. xoxoxo

  3. @kim – You know, I think it is that bad but I love it in spite of itself. Was/is America any better? They’re like two women with different quirks. One bossy, grouchy, perfectionist, thinks her way is the best, a classical organized beauty. The other a little younger, less experienced, wilder, full of herself, trying to convince the world of her charm while she’s still trying to cultivate it, free-flowing hair to match her open arms.

    @jen – I see those patterns too. Germany showed up in my early life in many ways and I always internally rejected it. When I look back I can see the path clearer and wonder why I didn’t notice before. Is this coincidence? I think not. I can’t say the same for another country, like say, France, or Italy. Was the universe trying to prepare me for this life?

  4. Laura: Thanks, I like it too. Now my brother and sister are insisting that if i have another boy, i have to name him Optimus. Hopefully, IF we have another kid, it’ll be a girl so we don’t have to come up with an equally uh, i don’t know how to describe it, but something on par with Maximus.

    At the same time I was reading those german thinkers, i was also reading Scarlett, the sequal to Gone with the Wind. Scarlett was in the running – my list – for girl names, but sparky said he’d use his veto power for it.

    Kim: You know, as soon as I saw your comment, I handed Max off to Sparks so i could rephrase a bit.

    There are german people I love and adore. You and Tilman are examples. You are kind, generous of spirt, fun loving and so friendly. I didn’t want you to think i hate zee germans. I don’t.

    Having come from a culture so different, i miss it daily. I miss have shop keepers tell me to have a good day -regardless if they mean it. I miss being able to flip off other drivers without it becoming a MAJOR road rage insult. I miss the humor.

    Germany isn’t my heimat, but it has been good to me and I have met many wonderful people and for that I’m grateful.

    Lisa: See, I’m taking your post to heart. I’m not sure if I would call Germany a classical beauty, but perhaps. it’s got some really gorgeous and regal areas.

    This is where the deity thing comes into play. For me, perhaps it was my early exposure to all things kraut that lead me to be more open to it. As for Sparky, his being a deutscher had nothing to do with why i liked him. He had/has a fine ass and he is something of an ass. Both qualities I value in a dude. being German, no, not German. Not being American was a negative. We had/have so many problems that stem from cultural logic and language issues that it would have been so much easier if I had fallen in love with some bonehead American who was content with football and blow jobs.

    Tink: I never saw gladiator, but I’ve heard good things about those bods. I guess I’ll have to spend the time to watch it. Where are you these days?

  5. jen, i know you weren’t talking about german people per se and i know you love me 🙂 heh. ditto, btw ❤

    @you and lisa: i understand the differences. at least i really, really try to understand why/how germany can be tough for someone from the U.S. believe me, i do. every.single.day. i totally understand the cultural and language differences and know a lot (!) about problems stemming from them. i understand that you miss home. it'd be the same way for me if we lived in the states (although i know what i'd miss most would be my friends/family and not necessarily germany as a country/culture).

    what i do not understand (and i don't know in your case, lisa, how much of this is true) is the almost "refusal" to learn german. i know we did talk/argue/discuss this before, jen and my standpoint is still the same. i DO believe that you'd feel more comfortable here if you knew german better. it'd help getting to know germans and the culture better. of course i'm gonna feel uncomfortable in a country where it's difficult for me to simply call customer service about something and take care of it and things like that.

    i understand german is difficult to learn but it's not impossible and i personally think it's also somewhat a matter of respect for the heritage/home of your partner and parent to your kid(s). i still expect C to learn german better – especially while we're in germany – and i'm not gonna give up on that just because he's here in germany with me for now.

  6. kim – i have not refused to learn German. Don’t confuse me with C. I have taken courses and can communicate just fine when left to my own devices. I’m not going to sign legal documents or get into deep discussions, but i know enough to do what i want to do.

    my big problem with the language and what you can be upset with me for is when Sparky is around, I don’t even try. when with someone whose opinion means a lot to me, i shut my trap because I’m very self conscious about my German, but sweetness, I do understand German. I’m not like c in that i have refused to learn it. the fact that i haven’t learned it better is a function of my ability to memorize.

    Kim, i don’t want to get defensive, but my learning German will not make it easier for me to be here. Sorry. My brother isn’t here nor my sister nor my dad who is getting older. My GBF is living a new life and I’m not there to help him find his sweater the morning after like he did with me. Right now my kid has only an Oma and not the multiple grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins to play with. Every time I leave the bay area, I wonder if its the last time I’ll see MY grandma.

    I know plenty of expats that speak german fluently and they are still unhappy here.

    germany has given me many things – excellent health care for me and my animals, Sparky, good friends and now my kid. I am eternally grateful for all these things, but can i not still want to go home?

  7. i’m sorry if i came across a little “harsh” – it’s probably my frustration with C regarding that matter. he doesn’t “refuse” to learn it per se it’s just #2736 on his priority list and that’s what upsets and frustrates me. i totally understand the part where you miss your family/friends and of course (!) you are absolutely entitles to wanting to go home. who am i to tell you not to? i have only lived away from home for a year when i was 21. that’s it. and i had a great year. now, i don’t even wanna think about living in the U.S. because i know i’m gonna miss my friends so much. especially when we have kids. i just think knowing the language will make your life in another country much easier and i did get the impression that it’s really not very important to you to speak german. that could have just been you siding with C on the subject when we were down there to visit. again, i apologize for coming across a little harsh. you know i do hope for you to be able and move back home with your boys sooner or later but i’m also gonna “defend” my home country here and there 😉

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