Do you know your birthplace?

Birthplace. A drawing of the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt. ©Johanna Ringe 2022.

This may be an idiosyncratic question, because even if we know little about our past, there are usually papers where our birthplace is registered. It must be, to distinguish Lieschen Müller, who was born in Hamburg in June 1968, from Lieschen Müller, who saw the light of day in Heidelberg on the same day. Such coincidences are more common than you might think: I even know two Martinas who were born on the same day in the same city in the same hospital. Fortunately, with different surnames.

So, our place and date of birth make us unique?

Well, distinguishable on paper, yes. Our uniqueness is certainly due to many, many other things. Nevertheless, our place of birth can shape us, even if we did not grow up there, indeed may never have been there again.
I recently had a very interesting conversation with some friends about this. Born in different corners of Europe, at different times and by mothers of very different origins, we agreed:

We have a special bond with our birthplace.

This does not have to be material, it is not about relatives or friends there, but about the feeling. Even without ever having entered the city, without knowing its air and atmosphere, we have an emotional connection.
You may know this yourself: As soon as you read or hear the name of your birthplace, you feel something. It does not have to be positive, it does not have to be a feeling of happiness, although it can be. At first it is only an inner reaction, a recognition.

Do you live where you were born?

This is probably a bit different for you then. Maybe you know it from longer previous absences. But if your parents‘ lives (or your own) have taken you to a different place on earth, then you know what I mean. Regardless of the time you spent there, something connects you to your birthplace. I know quite a few people who were born very far away and have very different feelings about their birthplace. The personal and global history always resonates.

It becomes interesting when you separate the place from the memories.

Regardless of what life was like there, who lived there and for how long, what did or did not happen there – the place was there for you. It welcomed you into this world, gave you air to breathe and formed part of your identity.
Try it: think of the place without your personal history. Look at pictures from then and from now. Thanks to drones, there are fantastic aerial views of many places on our planet today. Just look at them as if you want to get to know the place out of sheer curiosity.

Is there an elevation, a body of water?

It could be a hill, a mountain, a tower. It could be a river, a stream, a lake, or a pond. Look more closely and try to build a conscious relationship with that real, tangible place. Regardless of your memories and history, this place, your birthplace, exists as a fixed point in your life. Perhaps it can give you strength, as various cultures around the world believe.

There are cultures that teach that the place of your birth is a source of power for you. Even without being there, only in the mental connection.

For me, this is true: I feel very connected to Darmstadt, even though I moved away as a small child. I am always happy when I somehow meet with Darmstadt’s Jugendstil or with the names Merck, Niebergall, Büchner or Gabriele Wohmann. Unexpected encounters with my birthplace give me a joyful burst of energy!
It may not be easy for you to look back so far. You do not have to. If you can see the place of your birth as yours, unclouded by memories and family stories dragged along, then that is empowering.

It is definitely worth a try – and the internet is a wonderful tool to take an IMAGINARY JOURNEY….

I hope you enjoy it!

Heartfelt, wherever you are,

Unterschrift Johanna (c) Johanna Ringe 2014 ff.