As we left the minivan, Meghan exclaimed, "No Grandma! I can do it." Meghan's 4-year old independent self wouldn't allow for Grandma to help her out of the van. I smiled at her indignant response, and so did Grandma Kathy.
As the girls found the side walk, they both asked for their lanterns. We reassured them that they would be able to carry them once we got inside the gym, where the singing program would take place. Suddenly, Meghan took off running down the sidewalk. The pom pons on her pink hat bounced in cadence with her steps.
"Meggie! Please don't get too far ahead. There are a lot of people and cars around here. We don't want to lose you," I shouted. Gracie ran after Meghan. As she skipped along, her long blond hair shook in the light of the street lamps.
It was Laternenacht at the girls' school, which is a politically correct version of Martinstag, a German holiday celebrating Saint Martin and his good deeds. Laternenacht is a big deal for these grade schoolers. They had been preparing with their teachers for weeks by making lanterns and practicing the traditional German songs such as Laterne, Laterne.
This year, we arrived early enough to find a spot near the front of the gym. We camped out, and gave each of the girls their lanterns. The folded accordion-style paper of the girls' lantern lights glowed. They were traditional style German lanterns in the shape of a ball. Two round metal wires held each ball together. (A big thank you goes to Zoe and Sam, who gave them to Grace and Meghan as gifts.)
Soon afterward, the singing program began. A few volunteers played guitars and a blurry overhead projector showed everyone the words to the songs. The children, very obviously, knew all of the words and melodies by heart. Grace and Meghan sang their little hearts out, and when the entirely auf Deutsch program was finished, they quickly stood up and put their coats on.
Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne!
Brenne auf, mein Licht! Brenne auf, mein Licht, aber nur meine liebe Laterne nicht.
After a short 20 minute sing along, we all went outside for the lantern procession. It was a crisp fall evening, and leaves crunched under our feet. I held Meghan's hand, and she would periodically whine that she wanted to be carried. Charlie eventually put her on his shoulders for a ride. Grace proudly carried her lantern, but eventually ended up skipping and hopping along. Her lantern fell off its perch a few times, but was no less for a little wear and tear.
It was our second Laternenacht but will be one of many we'll attend in the coming years. Time is speeding up as my girls go full speed into their school years. I soaked in the memories as I'm sure I'll eventually reflect on nights like Laternenacht as some of the best of my life.
We reached the end of the procession and piled back into the mini-van. We decided to get some ice cream as a treat and then put the kids to bed. Ah to be a kid again...