Hänschen klein

On this Mother’s Day, my third without my mother, I thought it appropriate to share this excerpt from the Epilogue to Ordinary Magic:

Now in Silke’s living room she’s alive and she’s singing “Hänschen Klein,” as she had on the Camino. It’s like one of those dreams. I’m watching my mother sing, among the people she loves, and she’s happy. She mimes the story, beginning with Little Hans’ declaration that he’s leaving home to get some peace. In the modern version of the song, the mother protests so much that Hans never actually leaves, never becomes Big Hans. This is not the version my mother has committed to memory. In the original version, the mother lets Hans go in spite of her grief. Out into the world he goes, with stick and hat. When he returns seven years later, his own sister and brother walk by him, not recognizing him. Only his mother recognizes the Big Hans he has become, and Mom delivers the mother’s recognition of her always forgiven son with a triumphant flourish. “Hans, mein Sohn! Grüß dich Gott, mein Sohn!”

This is what love is, or rather, strives to be: ever-forgiving. Seventy times seven times we should forgive, and then more. Always, though it may be a thoroughly human struggle. Now we also take off our shirts, hand them over, to the least among us. This is the mother, unique, for all we know, in all the universe.

Hänschen klein
Ging allein
In die weite Welt hinein.
Stock und Hut
Steht ihm gut,
Ist gar wohlgemut.
Aber Mutter weinet sehr,
Hat ja nun kein Hänschen mehr!
“Wünsch dir Glück!”
Sagt ihr Blick,
“Kehr’ nur bald zurück!”

Sieben Jahr
Trüb und klar
Hänschen in der Fremde war.
Da besinnt
Sich das Kind,
Eilt nach Haus geschwind.
Doch nun ist’s kein Hänschen mehr.
Nein, ein großer Hans ist er.
Braun gebrannt
Stirn und Hand.
Wird er wohl erkannt?

Eins, zwei, drei
Geh’n vorbei,
Wissen nicht, wer das wohl sei.
Schwester spricht:
“Welch Gesicht?”
Kennt den Bruder nicht.
Kommt daher die Mutter sein,
Schaut ihm kaum ins Aug hinein,
Ruft sie schon:
“Hans, mein Sohn!
Grüß dich Gott, mein Sohn!”

Little Hans [also “little dog”]
Went alone
To the wide world.
Stick and hat
He is fine,
Is very well.
But the mother weeps very much,
No more bitching!
“Wish you luck!”
Says her gaze,
“Come back soon!”

Seven years
Cloudy and clear
Hänschen was in a foreign country.
Because mindful
The child,
Quickly goes home.
But now it is no longer a dog.
No, he is a great Hans.
Forehead and hand.
Is he recognized?

One two Three
Go past
Do not know who this is.
Sister says:
“What face?”
Does not know the brother.
If, therefore, his mother,
Do not look into his eyes,
Call her:
“Hans, my son!
Greet God, my son! “

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