Well: I’m going to Vienna next October to scratter my grandmother’s ashes in her home country. It is, I guess, a final ritual to be performed by my little sister and I. I am flying into Paris and going to Vienna from there, and then we’ll spend two or three days in the city, rent a car and head towards the country to return our grandmother to the place where she was born . . . then go back to Vienna and spend a few more days there. On the way back to California I have a long-ass layover in Stockholm. Well, there you go.
I have not been back to Vienna since I was 15 years old. My grandmother and my cousins and my aunt and uncle and I flew all the way there to spend Christmas. Initially I did not want to go because I was In Love With A Girl at the time, and the thought of being away from her for the entirety of my winter break hurt me deeply! This girl, who didn’t love me—she had given me a letter before I left to be opened once I got on the plane. It said something to the effect of: Baby, relax. I’ll be here when you get back. Go with your family, you fool, and see the home of your ancient fathers. So I went, and it was very good. I only missed her a few times. I was so cold most of the time, having only brought a hoodie and a leather jacket, that I couldn’t really think about anything else outside of finding a warm place to die. I was 15, god for’s sake, and so such thoughts were commonplace to me at the time. (What’s my excuse now? I wonder.)
Anyway: Austria is a beautiful place. We went all over the place: from Vienna to Salzburg to Innsbruck. I met my extended Austrian family, who were kinda weird, and saw Mozart’s birth house, and the little chapel where ‘Silent Night’ was written, and on and on. I could tell it meant a lot to my grandmother that I got to see her home. She knew everything about it, and would hold my arm and point to things and explain the history of it all while my teeth clattered and my breath froze midair. Somewhere in my closet is a box of mini-DV tapes, which I have hauled around with me all over this godforsaken country for the last 15 years of my life, and two of these little tapes have three or four unbroken, shaky, probably insufferable hours from that trip. I have never watched them. For years I told my grandmother I would splice it up and make a 20-minute thing for The Whole Family. I never did this because of the insane amount of hard drive space it would take . . . and also because I was missing a cord for my old-ass camera, or whatever. At any rate there were a lot of excuses. I regret that I was never able to do this for her, but maybe it’s for the best.
She would say to me every Christmas: “Wasn’t that the best Christmas you ever had? It’s my favorite Christmas memory. I think about it from time to time.” To which I would say, sincerely, that it was my favorite one too. Yes, and now that she is gone, I suppose it will stay that way forever.
Auf wiedersehen, Omie. You’ll be back in good ol Austria here soon . . . ninety-two years after you were born there. You just took the long way home, that’s all. Hey, that’s no so bad.