I took a day trip with a friend of mine some years ago to a tiny village in the North Eastern part of Germany. I strutted through the town with my dark unruly curly hair waving in all possible directions and dark skin, completely oblivious to the shock I was creating in this sleepy homogenous town. My friend and I entered into a restaurant to have a meal, and it was then that I felt daggers of stares and glares from everywhere. My friend said that they had been staring at me from the minute we stepped in. She is a native and said that these people had simply never seen anyone like me before and so, I became an object of both great curiosity and scrutiny.
As I tried desperately to ignore the number of eyes that were observing my existence and every move, I noticed that one pair of those eyes belonged to a little girl. She was not glaring or whispering, making comments nor pointing. She was simply looking and had an open look of curiosity on her face.
Her bright blue eyes were glued to me, and I smiled at her. We spent minutes playing a game of stare and smile and look away, until she finally gained enough courage to confront me. She approached me with a timid smile and tugged at my arm, asking me why I look so different than she did.
I was slightly taken back and not certain as to how to respond until I recalled a story that my mother told me when I was a little girl about her age. There was a gorgeous bouquet of flowers on the counter and I pointed to them asking the little girl what she thought of them. They are beautiful, she said. “I love flowers and so does my mom” she proudly replied. I then asked her which flowers she likes, and she responded that she likes so many of them and could not possible choose just one.
Good answer! I thought to myself. I knew then that my mother’s story would come across very well and asked the little girl to think about how the world would be if all the flowers in the world were all exactly the same-the same color, the same shape and size, the same everything.
She made up her face immediately and said that would be “really boring” and not as beautiful.
Even better answer! I thought to myself. I was so incredibly relieved at her response, because had she responded differently, I would have been at a loss.
I told her (feeling very self-assured now), that the world is just like a garden-much like a flower garden but much much bigger. So people were created just like flowers with different colored hair, different colored eyes, shapes, skin and sizes to make the world garden just as beautiful and interesting as the flower garden.
The little girl looked somewhat confused and after a few second of ponder and big wide eyes, asked me if there were any purple people in the world with blue curly hair.
“Wrong question!” I thought! But I smiled at such an adorably innocent question. I replied in the negative, and although she was momentarily disappointed, she quickly looked up at me again-this time with more intensity than before. Does that mean that you are just a normal lady like my mom with curly black hair and dark skin? I asked her to tell me what she thought the answer to that question was.
She said yes, and gave me the biggest, tightest hug around my waist. Her parents then called out to her telling her that her “Kartoffelpuffer mit Apfel” were ready (potato pancakes wit apple sauce), and she ran off looking back at me smiling and waving.
I watched her and realised that I had a tear in my eye.
Each time I eat Kartoffelpuffer mit Apfel I remember that incidence and hope that she does as well!
I also ordered Kartoffelpuffer mit Apfel at the restaurant and finished it off with a most delicious apple cake with vanilla sauce.