One of the first things I noticed when we moved to Central Switzerland were all the colourful signs by people’s front doors, displayed in gardens and on apartment balconies.
These hand-painted birth signs are called ‘Geburtstafeln’. They feature an animal or some other theme and mention the child’s first name and date of birth.
I felt a little uncomfortable photographing examples of the signs but over the past months I managed to discreetly grab a few. After all, they are visible from the street so presumably intended for all the world to see.
I can’t help but feel what a contrast this is to other places in the world where privacy concerns would make this type of public display unthinkable. It is one of the things I love about living here in a place that feels safe and has a strong sense of culture and traditions. It’s reassuring somehow to see such innocent signs in these troubled times.
But also because my writer mind works in warped ways, I wonder what happens if a child tragically dies? Do the people discreetly remove the signs? How heartbreaking that must be.
It seems traditional to display the birth sign for a long time, maybe even indefinitely. I’ve seen some that are already several years old. I wonder if it would be weird to put signs up for my two kids, born in 1989 and 1993? Maybe even for me? 1957. Okay, that would be weird.
All joking aside, we will have a reason to put up our own sign soon. It’s official: we will be grandparents! Our son Elliott and his partner Anne are expecting their first child in mid-June. Even though they live in the French-speaking part of Switzerland where I don’t think they have the ‘geburtstafeln’ tradition, perhaps I can get away with a putting up a sign as a grandparent?
Will keep you posted (pun intended).
P.S. – I never really thought of myself as a grandmother. I wonder what he (it’s a boy) will call me? Grandma is what I always called my grandmothers, but somehow it sounds too old. GrandMel? Just Grand? Ha, ha… Ideas?
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