I forget what day it was. I forget a lot of things. Sometime this past summer, we returned to Neuanlage. It’s an unusual sort of park, located along a dusty gravel road, somewhere between Mitchell and Blumenort. Access is public, but I get the sense that ownership is private… and generous.
There are graves at Neuanlage. Very old graves. Mostly of children, though my great-great-great-grandfather, Peter Baerg, also lies there. So, this place means something to me.
When we arrived on this Sunday mid afternoon in late summer, a family was picnicking under the trees.
I’d considered the possibility that one day I might encounter people — living people — at this site.
The implication would be, we’re related.
And thus begins a war inside, between wonder, and exhaustion.
Exhaustion, because, in a land where roughly 75% of the population is some kind of relative, there’s not much capacity left to care when one more turns up.
And yet, there is also wonder.
Wonder at this place, this moment in time.
I’m standing at the cairn, reading the names, absorbing the feel of this place that had been the home of my ancestors and their families 100 years ago.
An elderly gentleman leaves the picnic and ventures forth to make an introduction. I appreciate this. He tells me that his wife “had been a Koop”. This makes me think she has passed on, and I experience a fleeting stab of regret at missing an opportunity to meet his precious wife; born a Koop, like me. With connections to this place, like me.
We talk about the care that has gone into maintaining this beautiful, fascinating place. And then we are joined by an elderly woman, familiar in appearance. Familial in appearance. This is his wife! Ah! She has not passed on; she simply had ceased to be a Koop when she took her husband’s name.
I’m flooded with relief.
And then I’m flooded with feelings of significance. No, urgency. No, concern that this is a beautiful important moment and I’m letting it slip through my fingers. I’m not taking notes, I’m not taking pictures. I may not remember her face or her name… but I’ll remember she had been a Koop and she looked like one too. There was something about her that reminded me of my great-aunt Elizabeth Koop.
I’m overwhelmed and I’m dropping that ball but I don’t want to give into this feeling of sheer panic, that I must cling to and grasp at every little hint of the past.
But what if I’m not doing the moment justice? There are questions I should’ve asking. Why oh why did I come to this place without my genealogy binder? I silently berate myself.
”I must go.” I step away. Her hand reaches out. I take it.
She smiles; my heart stops.
Time is frozen.
Other posts about Neuanlage: