My family and I arrived in Leipzig in the summer of 2017, having left the U.S. with sixteen suitcases and a plan to stay in Germany for a couple years. The kids settled in at LIS quite quickly, and John and I began to find a community at the school as well: parents who met Friday mornings for coffee, teachers who reached out to us as the newcomers from far away. Still, it didn’t feel quite like home.
Then, one day, I was biking through the woods behind the school and saw two LIS mothers drinking coffee at a picnic table in a garden I’d never before noticed. I adore coffee, especially when I can drink it with friends. So I stopped my bike to see what was going on. And that was the beginning of my involvement with the LIS School Garden. We met each Tuesday for hard work followed by coffee and conversation. At the beginning, there were just a few of us, but as the months passed, the group grew. Parents who’d been at the school for years without meeting now became friends. Then those same parents welcomed parents who had just moved to town. And soon enough, the new parents were welcoming even newer parents. All with shovels, hoes, and rakes in hand. Over the next months, the garden was transformed from a wilderness (no wonder I’d never noticed it before!) into a space that is both beautiful and useful. I am not a talented gardener, and so my contributions weren’t very skillful. But under the expert guidance of our fearless leader, Gitte, and my new gardening friends, I moved buckets of dirt from one place to another, raked leaves, dug up flowerbeds, planted new flowers, and did whatever else I was told. Always followed by a coffee and a chat.
Our two years in Leipzig passed far too quickly, and we are now back in the U.S. Yet I am still connected to my garden friends online. Each time I get a message with a photo of the newest flowers or an update on the week’s progress, I am filled with a mixture of pride and sadness. I am sad, because the garden is now an ocean away. But I am proud to have been part of a group of LIS parents and teachers, who created an unparalleled resource for our children—a place where they have planted and harvested vegetables, where they have learned to make pesto and lavender oil, and where they can simply be outdoors surrounded by the sights and sounds of a garden on a beautiful day.
But the garden is far more than just a garden. It doesn’t only connect the kids to nature. And it doesn’t only bring together a few parents with rakes each Tuesday morning. It is a space that can bring together the larger school community in new and inspiring ways. It has already done so at the Open School Garden Day last spring and at the Farmers Markets that took place at the end of last year and again during the Back to School Party this year. And I can’t wait to hear about the successes of the currently planned Garden Academy. The opportunities are endless.
So I am certain about one thing: Next time I visit Leipzig, I will make sure to be in town on a Tuesday. And you will know where you can find me, shovel in one hand, coffee mug in the other!
Tamar (Former LIS Parent)
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