There are German exchange students at the Goose’s school this year. This news prompted a conversation on the subject. I told her that when I was in school you could always tell the exchange students by their shoes and the Germans by their pants. This confused her. The world was a lot bigger then, I explained. Germans could get denim but not American blue jeans. Their jeans looked like trousers. Her face was still contorted with confusion. I was a senior in high school when the Berlin Wall fell, I told her. Now a look of disbelief washed over her. She couldn’t believe it. Though she knew from a historical perspective when the wall fell, she hadn’t quite put it together that that meant it had happened in my lifetime. Suddenly I could see her make all of the pieces fit. How different the world must have been for me at her age. You had to work harder to find things that weren’t from this country. Music, literature, and clothes were not a keystroke away. Our kids seem smarter because Google makes them so. We got our information from our friends and they were usually wrong. The world seemed bigger and our town seemed smaller. I don’t know if things began to shift when the wall came down but it seems as good of a historical place as any to start. I caught a glimpse recently at an after school pick up of exchange students. I could tell that they were European, but I couldn’t pick out the Germans. Europeans still have better shoes.
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