Norbert and his family

Jil* came came to a lecture of mine in another city together with her new partner, Norbert*. We hadn’t seen or heard from each other for years. However, I knew that she had separated from the father of her two children. She told me that Norbert would soon be moving in with her with his family and I was taken aback: with the mother of his two children too? No, laughed Jil, he with his two children! Nice, I thought to myself silently, a refreshingly contemporary concept of family!

»Töchter« (daughters), a novel by Lucy Fricke

A road-movie-like story of two friends, Betty and Martha. Betty has had many fathers in her life, only one of whom was really a father to her. She has finally decided to visit his grave. Martha has only this one father, who was mostly absent and now, in the final stage of his life, addresses an outrageous wish, rather a demand, to her. Thus, at the beginning of the book Betty and Martha have good reason to set off on a journey on which I, as a reader, enjoyed accompanying them. I laughed often and was also touched again and again.

Arturs girlfriend

In the Admiralspalast, a mid-twenty-year-old in the row in front of me is typing a message before the show begins. She frowns and stops. She asks the person next to her, »If Artur has a girlfriend now, that’s my sister-in-law, isn’t it?« Shrug. She continues typing.


»Glutsbrüder« is the headline of the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag on the subject of barbecuing and male bonding. The nice word creation is hard to translate as the German »Blut« = blood and »Glut« = ember are so close. Ember brethren or glowing brothers are not nearly as elegant. 


»Gezwister« as a newly coined word on this title of the national German political magazine »Spiegel«, meaning siblings who fight and compete, roughly translated as spatlings … I feel confirmed in bringing and luring such expressive new terms into the world.

the most mother

My friend A., who is over 80, recently confided in me: »My mother-in-law was the most mother to me. And I had several. My biological one died when I was 1, the second one when I was 7. That one was very loving. The next one was a beast who abused and let us children starve. I experienced my father’s 4th and 5th wives as adults and felt a great distance. Nevertheless, my father insisted that I call her mum. My mother-in-law was so kind and warm-hearted, I felt more secure with her than ever before.«

Mami ngorok

The fabulous »Handwörterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens« (Dictionary of German Superstition) lists the following: »Among the Australian Kurnai, the High God is known only by the name Mungan ngaua’ = Our Father; God Bunil uses this title as an epithet (Mami ngorok = Our Father’)«.

no semi-orphan

At the next table, I caught snippets of conversation as I was leaving the restaurant. Apparently it was about someone the age of those sitting there, who had recently lost her father: “… a 57-year-old is surely no longer a semi-orphan!” (indignant undertone)

grandmother by marriage and the third wife of her first father

I met Margit* at Amanda’s* party. Margit is married to the father of Amanda’s ex-husband Thomas*. Margit refers to Thomas as her son by marriage – jokingly, as she says. In general, she finds it wonderful how so much family fell to her so late in life, »without having to lift a finger«, as she says with a fine smile. »My husband’s children« is her official term. Someone once used it in her yoga class. It made sense to her. »Stepchild« had already been a terrible term for her and she didn’t like to use it. 

A granddaughter by marriage, Manja*, initially suspected that Margit wanted to replace her deceased grandmother. Manja was 14 at the time and it took a while for them to develop their own very warm, friendly relationship when Manja understood that Margit had no demands or expectations.

Margit thinks she was very lucky anyway and surprised me with how things went on. Her parents had divorced, at that time with the question of guilt still to be answered. Her mother was to blame and Margit and her sister came to live with their father. Her »first father«, as she says later in the conversation, because her mother had married two more times. Again later Margit mentions the »third wife of my first father«. That was the moment when I told her that my brain was slowly overflowing and that I had to write all this down now.

When we said goodbye, I thanked her and told the hosts to bring her to my book reading one day. »Hurry up.« says Margit, flashing me a canny look from below, »I’m 86. I don’t have that much time left.«