Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Stories About Places

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on June 5, 2013

What’s Your Story? Write, edit and record your own Berlin Story Original (in English) and upload it to our SoundCloud group by the end of June. The winners will be broadcast on NPR Berlin and Worldwide.


Stories about places seemed like a cool idea, as I trolled around the internet and I found the above contest. So, below I wrote a fictional vignette about Sofia, Bulgaria. Places are the springboard towards meaning making. When we go to a new place, the old gets woven with the new and so stories can be told.


My Bulgaria story begins at Mariannen 52
the place my twenty-seven year old daughter jumped to from New York. I needed to visualize her surroundings. Of course, we could Skype or do Facetime, but that seemed inadequate. I needed to see where she slept, where she went to the market, what her bathroom looked like. So, to the shock of many friends, I decided that a long weekend from Los Angeles is all I needed to satisfy my hunger. I saw clients Thursday morning, hopped on a flight  to London, changed planes to Sofia, and by Friday afternoon, I would be at Mariannen 52. Monday morning I would return to Los Angeles, allowing me to return to my office for Monday evening clients. I knew that I was not there to linger, only to form visualizations that would help me see that my lovely adult daughter had a life that I could imagine. So, Mariannen 52, was indeed quite a special place, making me so proud that my daughter, as she has done repeatedly, takes such good care to create living situations which are not only adequate but quite comfortable and homey. The building had an elevator, making me prefer it to her first New York apartment, where the five floor walk-up got tiring, even though I usually appreciate a physical challenge. The apartment is a sublet, so all of the photos are from another couple. I thought that made for some interesting living experiences. I wondered what it was like to be surrounded by someone else’s special things. The bathroom was nice. I used it a couple of times. The balcony was a special treat and the kitchen was more than adequate. I could have slept there, but having separation seemed to make sense to me. As much as I wanted to come and see her, to see her in her environment, I was fearful of crowding her in her own space. In about ten minutes, I had satisfied my desire. Those ten minutes made me appreciate, not only my daughter for her remarkable resourcefulness, but also for Sofia, a city which gives my daughter the opportunity for a European experience where she can be an artist and live comfortably. I remember that. It is a vibrant place with lots of young people meandering the streets. She fits in. I am almost instantly relieved. Two planes, twelve hours of travel, a nine-hour time change, for forty-eight hours on the ground, is all worth it. Mariannen 52 is a special place. My daughter lives there.


2 Responses to “Stories About Places”

  1. Shelly said

    It’s interesting how we, as parents identify strongly with our children. I wonder how you would have felt about Sofia if your adult daughter hadn’t liked it? For example, my son strongly dislikes his out-of-home living arrangement. Until I visited the place myself, I couldn’t understand. While the living arrangement itself was fine, it does not feel like home and I could see what my son objected to.

    • The story suggests exactly what you are saying. The mom’s visualization of her child’s environment gives her almost immediate feedback about its suitability. A bad fit is excruciating given that the parent has little control over the situation. The good news, as you also imply, is that your visit gave empathy for your son and I am sure that is helpful in him feeling less alone.

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