Today is a rainy, gray day. It reminds me of the weather in the Netherlands, a place I’m quite familiar with. I’ve been there four times and lived there for nine months.
It seems ironic that today is a weather day like the Netherlands because my cousin Harrie is going with his wife, Michelle, to pick his brother Huub (and wife Petra) up from the airport in Chicago.
Harrie and Huub are from the Netherlands. Harrie met and married my friend Michelle from Pekin, so that’s where he lives now.
Huub and Petra have never been to the United States, so the excitement is huge for all of us.
We’ve all taken vacation time so that we may spend as much time as possible with our Dutch guests.
When I told Huub I was taking a week off, he said, “Don’t take all of your vacation. I know you don’t get much.”
Compared to the Europeans, he is right. I get four weeks of vacation compared to the three to four months they get over there. Huge difference!
Harrie, Michelle and I have been brainstorming the things we want to show Huub and Petra. I emailed them a list.
On that list, I included the Spoon River Drive, Grandview Drive, the Peoria Heights water tower, the Riverfront Museum in Peoria and maybe even the East Peoria Community High School homecoming parade.
Harrie and Michelle have the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield on their list.
Huub said they mainly just want to visit family and do simple things. However, he has a list of his own. He wants to attend a baseball game, a gospel event and have my grandma’s homemade banana nut bread.
I think baseball season is over, so that’s probably not going to happen.
I was surprised by the gospel request. It’s not something that immediately pops into my mind when I think of the U.S., but Harrie said they don’t have gospel in the Netherlands. I think of the south when I think of gospel. We will see what we can find to satisfy Huub’s request.
My grandma Jenny is Dutch. She immigrated to the United States after World War II. She met my grandpa while working at Caterpillar.
If there are two things I can say about the Dutch, one is they are clean, meaning they take great pride in their homes and yards, and two is they are great cooks. These are generalizations, but my grandma fits both of these stereotypes.
Ever since I was a little kid, she always made the best banana nut bread and rice pudding. I couldn’t wait to go to their house to have some of her delectable delights.
Page 2 of 2 - When she traveled to the Netherlands every year to visit her family, she always carried her banana nut bread tightly wrapped in tin foil to give to her nieces and nephews. Harrie said they fought over it.
Grandma is tickled about Huub’s request. It makes her feel good.
I’m glad that Huub wants to experience the simple things here in America.
One of my best memories in Holland was simply sitting by myself on an April morning. I looked out the small window of the third-floor bedroom I stayed in at my relative’s home. I watched the Dutch riding their bicycles to work and school. I looked at the unique rooftops which were being covered in snow. It could have been a painting.
Of course, I went to Paris and visited the Eiffel Tower too, but the small things meant just as much, if not more to me.
Huub will likely feel the same way I felt when I stepped off the airplane in Holland for the first time. I was in complete awe at everything. Everywhere I looked was a new experience. It was so refreshing. I felt like a child again, full of wonder and astonishment.
I was amazed at simple things such as the wall sockets, signs, cars, food, grocery stores, TV stations, music on the radio and more.
Everything was different. Even the way the people greeted me was different. They kissed me three times on the cheek.
Of course there were similarities to Illinois. I was with family that was accepting, kind and warm. Just like home.
— Jeanette Kendall is the executive editor at TimesNewspapers and the editor of the East Peoria Times-Courier.