Saturday was pretty much the nadir for her, and I could feel the gray hairs on my head bursting through their coating of L'oreal Ash Blonde. The day started out well, as the girls and I went out to choose some flowers to bring to Kareen, Joerg's sister, for our visit that day. Joerg's father was also coming in on the train for the day, his one and only day with us. Anni was in a yellow daisy mood, and she was quite proud of her selection. After dropping the flowers off at home, we went down to deliver a package of cookies for Rachel's birthday (the middle daughter of our new American friends here at the apartment building). Norma, the mother and a former medical student, greeted us at the door with a stern, "Don't come in!" Poor Rachel had somehow contracted a horrible tummy bug that kept her up all night vomiting, and on her birthday of all days. Norma was well aware that Anni's main vulnerability is to intestinal illness (always, always requring hospitalization), and so she kindly stopped Anni right at the doorstep. We delivered the cookies, and Anni resolved to make Rachel a get-well-card as soon as she got back home.
I mentioned Rachel's illness to Joerg, and he (mildly put) freaked out. He was already thinking ahead to missing our flight due to Anni's hospitalization ("You do realize that German hospitals never release you in just a few days??"), and the possibly serious dehydration consequences if Anni had diarrhea during an already dehydrating airplane flight. Joerg is always 3 steps ahead of the game, but those 3 steps are not always the happiest ones. Having given Joerg the relatively unimpressive assurance that there's not much we can do about it if Anni comes down with a tummy bug, we headed for Kareen and Lutz's house.
Kareen and Lutz gave us a warm welcome (Lutz actually volunteered to donate a piece of his liver to Anni and they had already bought tickets to the US when Anni's original surgeon changed his mind about living donor surgery), and the girls, always responsive to a loving welcome, were their typically affectionately amusing selves. We headed the girls outside, and away from the many fragile glass knick-knacks in the dining room. A neighbor kindly provided some toys for the girls, and Annika was delighted to discover several spider webs on the ping-pong table. Joerg's father arrived, as well as Kareen and Lutz's son and daughter-in-law.
Lunch went well, although my plans for a post-lunch nap for the girls were soon quashed by the girls' eagerness to get back downstairs and into the action. Now, getting down the stairs was a trick every time. Their house was one of the older German row houses - I think that's what they're called. The houses that are connected to one another and go up several floors, but each floor is extremely narrow and long, like walking through a ship. Thus, the stairs were almost vertical, and they spiralled around. It felt almost more like climbing a ladder than walking up the stairs. Coming down could almost induce vertigo. Since the bathroom was upstairs, and Anni loves being in other people's bathrooms (she even insisted I take a photo of the cool toilet in Maja and Schaefer's apartment), we went up and down those stairs several times, always with me behind her on the way up and in front of her on the way down.
Despite my worries about the stairs, the problems all started when Anni locked herself in the bathroom. She has done this before (again, at Schaefer and Maja's), but she's always been able to unlock on her own, or we've always been able to talk her through the unlocking process very easily. This time, though, it turned out that Kareen and Lutz had not used the bathroom lock in over 10 years, and really couldn't remember exactly what it looked like or how it worked. So we were relying on Anni's description of the mechanism, and perhaps you have already noted that Anni's descriptions of things tend to be peppered with her own flights of fancy. Eventually, we were reduced to instructing her to try "making the little guy go to sleep," and, when that didn't work, to try "waking him up." Needless to say, this didn't really work. Eventually Dirk, Kareen and Lutz's son, got out a hammer and chisel and attempted to remove the door's hinges, which had clearly not been tampered with in decades. Once the hinges were off, the door still would not budge. Somehow the locking mechanism was still holding it closed. We all looked skeptically at the colored glass window in the door, and wondered how we were going to get Anni out of the way of the flying glass should we have to knock it out. Annika remained remarkably calm throughout the whole process, even after being locked in there for nearly an hour. Still, the loud noises of Dirk hammering on the door outside had made her fairly nervous. Finally, I told her to go wait in the bathtub so at least she wasn't directly behind the door. Just when we were all completely exasperated, Dirk took a chisel and managed to pry out the lock from the door jamb.
Anni rushed out, relieved, and threw her arms around me, "You did it, mommy! You saved me!" "No," I told her sternly, "Dirk saved you. Please say you're sorry for locking yourself in and thank you for getting you out. Plus, you are no longer allowed to go into bathrooms by yourself." Anni looked stricken, evidently expecting a hero's welcome for surviving her imprisonment. She mumbled, "I'm sorry," and "Thank you." Then she took off down the stairs, too quickly, and fell down, hitting every stair with her head and tummy on the way down. Joerg had a front row seat, and rushed after her, but gravity proved faster than he. I was in the other room, collecting Frankie, but I heard every horrible bump and scream on the way down.
I hurried down the stairs with Frankie to find Joerg holding a screaming Anni in his lap. Looking at them, I didn't know who to be more concerned about: Anni, who clearly had broken no bones, but might have caused some serious internal injury due to her very swollen spleen and increased bleeding time, or Joerg, whose face was drained of all color and didn't seem to be breathing quite right. Soon it was apparent that Anni was screaming more in fright than pain, and so I focused on Joerg, who claimed to be fine, but looked as if heart failure might be imminent.
We decided it was time to head home, especially as anxiety had turned Anni into a bit of a banshee. Brave souls, we decided to go ahead and stick to our plan of visiting Joerg's friend Karin and her family (Michael, Milena, and Tim) on our way home. It was our last chance for Annika and Frankie to see their new German friends before Milena and Tim left for a week-long trip with their school, so we decided not to cancel. On our way there, Annika asked us, "Will Milena and Tim still speak German?" Despite evidently hoping that they had magically become English-speakers in the week since we had last seen them, Annika was very well-behaved until it was time to go, but it was clear that she was running on fumes by that point.
(Hmmmm. I'll have to continue detailing our past few days later. Joerg needs to get going to the University.)