Gevoel: HART GEBROKEN DE MAXIMALE
(Translation: Feeling Like my Heart Has Been Pulverised into Infinitesimal Pieces – I.e., “broken-hearted to the max”).
I think my heart is fairly fragmented; I just left Holland and I feel like I left my home.
Isn’t it amazing how in just three weeks you can become so attached to a place and a bundle of people that a mere 21 days ago you didn’t know from the odd FB photo in your newsfeed or Dutch comment on a meme? How the thought of not seeing them for more than a year prompts twinges of despondency, and the thought of the final farewell sends you into spasms of sadness?
Because the last few days have been all of that and a whole lot more.
I’ve become so accustomed to coming home to my Dutch family at the end of the day. To doing a “doo-ee” on departing the domicile and messaging Annelies to let her know my whereabouts. And although the people are the main means of melancholy, it’s also the place itself.
I’ve grown used to the act of waiting in traffic because a bridge is up to let boats through. To the abundance of bikes locked up against every available space (although it still isn’t habitual in me to check for a road rider as I cross the street, meaning near knockdowns are still the go). I’m inured to sorting the washing into colour categories and to going to separate stores from the butcher to the baker to the candle stick maker (well, not the final of the aforementioned three but Nieuwkoop does have a store that sells the most sensationally scented beeswax beauties). I just know upon return home I will announce all yummy or good to be “lekker”, will be nonplussed when the ever-present beschuit tin isn’t on the table top in the mornings and will automatically go to get on a bike rather than in a car when going somewhere (and I bet I will now start looking to the left for rogue riders whenever I cross a road).
So it was with an undercurrent of woe that I spent my last weekend in the Fatherland, every pleasurable act and activity peppered with a dose of distress.
Earlier in the week neef Mignon (daughter of Jan and Maria, youngest of the four “M” siblings with two tykes) (sorry, I know the characters involved in these recent spiels have been oh so ever confusing. The integer of individuals shall shrink significantly in the to-come posts, I promise) asked if I’d be interested in attending the Ibiza Markets in Zeist with her on the Saturday morning. Held annually, they are a “Happy Hippy” market sort of set up with all sorts of trinkets and treasures. Of course I said yes, and 10am saw Richard, Yvette, myself and young lad Joey (you may remember him from a fair few posts ago) scrambling into the auto for a trip to the hour-away city.
And oh I was in my element! I am a sure thing for anything feathery/glittery (not in tacky way, mind)/plaited/tasselled/with flowers (not necessarily floral)/Om-like and such lark. So the stalls upon stalls of fringed and beaded boots, crotched creations and interlaced items had me gushing out in glee and seriously considering buying another bag for the Emirate flight home (on par with Singapore Airlines for the best in the business; mate, those hot flannels to refresh your face are the goods). Mignon, Maria, the three I came with and Mignon’s little daughter Sofie laughed out at my exclaims of intense inveigle (well, Sofie didn’t, she didn’t really understand) as we roamed around the stands.
But I managed to reign in the impulse to obtain all, leaving the lanes with no more than just two presents for the last two in the immediate fam I hadn’t gotten a gift for (Ok, and a really rad twilled tied headband complete with two quills on it for myself). Angus and Otto, the Norfolk Corner Schnauzers.
I stumbled upon a little stall with ribbon and lace woven lines that enticed me in. “What on earth are these?” I asked, fiddling and fondling the braided lengths and coming across the clasps at the ends. “Dog leads,” replied the lovely lass on the sell.
I couldn’t resist but buy a brilliant blue for old Fungi and a pink sparkly number for Otto (hey, he’s man enough in his masculinity to rock the sort of salmon, lavender and hot pink number woven in with sequins; once when still slightly not quite sober the morning after a big one, I walked him into town wearing a dress and he absolutely loved it). (And I think I may have actually found a more fitting person to gift the pink lead with, but we shall see).
After a lovely lunch we bade goodbye (another perforation of the fondness nucleus – seriously, I’m finding it so hard) and went on our way back to Alphen a/d Rijn to drop me at Simone’s.
You see, back about 19 years ago when this Pop Wort was but the tender age of five, Opa announced that his brother’s daughter Simone was coming over to New Zealand with gal pal Danielle. The two were –get this – 24 years old and had decided the time was nigh to discover down under, and along their – get this – three month travels came and stayed with Opa and Babcia for a few weeks.
And with us sharing a driveway, that meant me too.
I fell in love with the two girls, from Danielle’s insanely long hair to Simone’s passion for Pippi Longstockings. Family photo albums show many a photo of the three of us (sometimes four, with Michael in the mix) playing with Barbie’s and me clambering on their knees, and when they left I was beside myself.
So seeing Simone at my Dutch birthday the week before had been a remarkable reunion, especially with her having her two children in tow – seven-year-old Sem (English “Sam”) and just-turned-six-years-old Roos (English “Rose”). (The two having the exact same age difference as myself and the brother Michael, as well as almost being the age we were when Simone came and visited all those years ago). And when she invited me for a sleep over the next weekend, I was in with a gusto-grin.
As soon as I rang the doorbell I was leapt upon by Roos and Sem, all excited for me to finally be there (“They’ve been waiting by the door for three hours,” Simone said). Armed with a well, armful, of stroopkoekjes, gummi bears, lolly-filled chocolate and a jar of olives (the kids had been hoeing into them the previous week), I met their dad Martijn, given a hold of Sem’s new shark-tooth necklace (very proud of it he was; the family of four had just returned from three weeks in Thailand and Roos was sporting some seriously sensational “Bali” pants too, as well as an elephant ankle bracelet) (Sem and his necklace reminded me so much of the brother James, as I remembered him at the same age being obsessed with obtaining his own shark tooth necklace also) and was shown about the house (as well as the top floor attic level where I was told I was welcome to move into on coming back next year) before being begged to go outside and play.
So the two kids and I took off for the playground, the no-English speaking of the two and my distinctly derisory Dutch meaning conversation was non-existent bar me declaring a “good” or a “thank you”. I followed them around as they took me to all their friends’ homes in the neighbourhood, ringing the doorbell and introducing me as their “neef from Niuew Zeeland” before announcing we must move on and doing so to the next mate’s house. (I was most taken with the naming of each street as being after a country, from “Pakistanstraat” where Simone’s lot lived to “Indiastraat”, “Nepalstraat”, “Thailandstraat” and “Chinastraat”. “Is there a New Zealand straat?” I asked Simone later on; no there was not, but the main road coming into the suburb was Australiastraat, apparently). (Bloody Aussies).
Simone met us at the park where Sem, Roos and I had a fair few jandal throwing contests and roll-down-the-hill races. After a wee while we headed back home, where Simone’s older sister Margaret had arrived for a wine, as well as none other than my much-loved Danielle.
It was so fun, over wines and a dinner on the BBQ (to clarify; the food was cooked on the BBQ, we didn’t sit on it to eat) we looked through Simone’s albums of their trip to NZ and laughed at the photos within. I was so touched, in pride of place on one of the pages was a picture I had drawn Simone back in 1996 of a yellow-petalled blossom (though they all gave me shit it was more a phallus looking figure than a flower), made all the more special by the fact that Roos had presented me with a hand drawn pic of her own as soon as I had arrived a few hours earlier (though hers could not at all be mistaken for a wang). It was funny, a few photos showed the girls in Cambridge visiting Sir Patrick Hogan’s horse stud; what with Danielle being into her riding, going there back then was on the agenda for them. I must admit, I did embellish somewhat in saying how I see Sir Patrick all the time when he comes into Onyx, declaring we were on first name terms and how I even call him “Patty” (ok, not embellishment – total lie. While we do have a bit of banter, I certainly don’t nickname him as such).
After putting the kids to bed (seriously, lying alongside Roos as Simone read us a story in Dutch had me thinking I could stay there all night), Martijn, Simone and I sat outside and yarned for a wee while. Simone laughed at how she how my Opa would always turn the sound down on the TV whenever the ads came on, and now whenever she finds herself doing the same now she always thinks of him.
And my word, I had a glorious sleep in my future bedroom. (And my yoga area could be in this corner… I mused as I went off to slumber).
Simone had told Sem and Roos that they were not allowed to come up into the attic and wake me before the clock struck 9am (the rule for them too on the weekend). After a bout of yoga, I was headed down at 8.59am, to open the lounge door and find them both counting down the clock for when they could come and get me. We all cuddled on the couch and watched cartoons (seriously, I was brain boggled when SpongeBob Squarepants came on in Dutch – link to the theme song for you to share in my hoodwinkedness: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=u55E4BGDzQ0) (and Frozen too! Roos did a dance for me and just as I was about to sing out in a, “Let it go” a haughty Netherlandic speaking voice rung out in such tongue instead) before bounding off to get dressed.
It was so cute, my hair had been shoved into a bun during the morning and Roos had done hers up so too. When I returned downstairs with mine out and my new braided band on, Roos immediately pulled her hair tie out, jammed in a plaited piece she had made earlier on seeing mine and shyly asked if I would plait her fringe bits like mine were. It reminded me so much of me back in the day with Simone, even more so when we recreated a photo of us back playing Barbie’s (with horse forefront in the present-day pic too, I’ll have you note).
After a go on Wii fit (mother fucker that thing is intense) we all donned our bikes (well, Roos was on this scooter-like contraption thing that was totally trumping me. It moved by the rider downing a sort of surfing-like motion and pumping it along; insanely ingenious) and rode on our way.
First stop was a look-in at another of the 15 Wortman kids, being brother Kas and his wife Leni. I was flabbergasted upon entering their home at how like my Opa as well as his own father he was, a real mix of the genes. We hung out for about half an hour, Simone translating between us all, before one again saddling up and riding along to see Simone’s mother, Nieske. (Now, aside from “Nieske” I just couldn’t get my head – nor articulation – around properly pronouncing the names. What with the Dutch “e” being more an “a” sound, “Simone” is actually “Simona” and “Danielle” is actually “Daniella”). (Actually this totally just made me realise why no one can say, “Anneke”. For all you relieving teachers I gave a tad of a hard time, here is a much belated apology).
Now. To Nieske.
When I was a mere few months old, Niekse and her husband Job (yes, another of Opa’s brothers. There were 11, remember) came over to New Zealand. On meeting – the very chubby, cuddly – me, Nieske said, “Oh what a little poppy!”. (Pronounced “poop-ey”). (Yes, all shit jokes aside). You see, in Dutch it is common for a baby to be described as a “poppy”, being a “little doll”. And thus where my nickname-cum-preferred-name comes from. (I was so in infatuation with Nieske I named my little Dutch doll after her too).
So it was another absolutely anticipated reunion as we arrived at her apartment. Having returned from Spain the evening before (she heads off their every year with her long-term boyfriend; Ton died a decade or so ago) she was totally tanned and sun kissed and I was overjoyed to see her.
She enveloped me up in her arms and it was amazing; I was completely taken back to being just a little kid and remembering her smell and her hug. How magnificent is the human memory?
As it was passed midday we settled on the sofa and had a pert pour back of wine. It was so lovely sitting amongst these people that so rainbow coloured my infant and initial memories – mate, this woman pretty much named me – and I was thrilled beyond belief to go for a tipsy tinkle and see that upon the birthday calendar hanging on the back door, my name was noted alongside Opa’s for September 6. I was totally tickled! And it went further still when I saw August 31 had James down (with Frans) and January 24 had the brother Michael (with neef Peter-Paul; I guess when the fam gets as large as ours, shared birthdays get to be the norm).
And it was fab; in Spain – Benidorm, as it happens – Nieske had gotten Sem and Roos each a back scratcher as a souvenir, and what with them being keen on garnering euros I told Roos I’d give her a coin if she took to my back for an hour (this lessened to half an hour when I saw her arm got tired, then became about 15 minutes when she got sick of it. Don’t worry, she got a solid tip). At about 3pm we made for our bikes then on reaching Pakistanstraat exchanged them for the car, and the family of four dropped me to my Holland “home” for the last time.
I was all funny upon getting back. As you all know I don’t deal too dearly with emotion, so I was erratically leaping around and being all hysterically humorous (I.e., fucking annoying). I took off upstairs to pack, and was summoned down half an hour later as Will had arrived to bid me bye bye.
Mate. If I thought saying see ya to Frans and Wyna was dreadful, bourgeon the wretchedness by 10-point-oh. I couldn’t sit down, having to flit and flurry about the pretence of being busy as I knew the moment I sat still and looked into those pearly blue eyes I was a goner for the gushes.
But the time came for Inneke to herd her homewards and I couldn’t put it off any longer. My lanced heart splintered into squillions of shards as I hugged her hard (well, not too too hard; she is fairly frail) and waved her off. If you look up “gut-wrenched” in the dictionary I’m fairly certain it will contain a photo of me at that moment.
I finished packing, Yvette and I went for one last fiets ride (talking of great plans for three-weekly ones together upon my return next year) and then the whole family sat down for a pancake dinner (a special occasion spread I was told, this one being my goodbye) (I had raw carrots and applemoes and was in my element). Soon after Yvonne turned up to say her cheerio, and presented – literally – me with the Greatest Gift TM.
Ok. You know how exciting it was as a kid to get a trinket with our name on it? You know, a keyring saying “Sarah”, a mug declaring “Daniel”, a pencil case expressing “Eleanor”? Well I was never part of that party. You see, “Anneke” wasn’t at all a common name in NZ being Dutch, and aside from the “Anne” notepad Deb painstakingly went through and added “ke” onto each page, I never had one of my own.
So I was greatly excited to think that in Holland I would be able to come across something – anything! – with “Anneke” on it. But would you ever think it; apparently over the years “Anneke” has become quite old fashioned and it twas not the go.
On telling Yvonne earlier in the week we had paraded to a fair few places in search of anything announcing “Anneke” but to no avail. We came across an “Inneke”, an “Annika”, hell even a “Hanneke”, but not that golden gem and I was distinctly downtrodden.
So when Yvonne sashayed in saying she had something with my name on it, my heart skipped a beat (still in potsherds). As I ripped open the paper my hands were shaking. Could it be? Could it really really be?
Mate, it really could. My very own Anneke socks. (I declared I would never, ever take them off). (Aside from in Dubai. Uncle Adrian had told me the temps were reaching upwards of 40 degrees and I feel the socks there may be a tad too much).
(Insertation here: I am coming home with a haul of here-you-go’s from my family. Honestly, they sneak them to the point of sale when I am unawares and then present them upon me with such glee. I am totally overwhelmed. From the little language book and top from Annelies, to the socks and lacy bracelet from Yvonne to many an other along the way, I am totally touched).
We had two games of Rummikub (me taking out both – I’m back in a big way) and then settled to watch a show on TV called Love is in the Air. I quickly determined it is the type of reality TV I can condone (having done two papers on RTV at uni, I am quite in contention with it, you see). The premise was that this man – “Dr Love” – receives letters from Dutch people whom have family members overseas, then he takes a group of them to the country where the ex-pats reside and surprise them. And would you know it; tonight they were off to New Zealand, Rotorua and Te Awamutu no less!
I was astounded at how thick and strong and downright uncanny the Kiwi accent sounded when it came out of the TV. I guess aside from a very few a wee while ago, I haven’t actually heard it in fair bit and it sounded so foreign to me.
I informed the family they must write to Dr Love and say they wanted to come over to NZ themselves, where we decided an entire plane would be needed to send over the whole hoi polloi.
I then presented the family with the presents I’d acquired for each of them personally (Yvette so adorable; upon reading the wee note I’d written her she burst into tears and came over for a considerable cuddle – it was then I realised that perhaps I may have just had as much as an impact on these people as they’ve had on me) and we went to bed, alarm set for a 6am rise to check off the belongings and drive through to Utrecht to board the bus to Munich, Annelies and Sharon to see me off.
So it was with a seriously smashed and hefty heart that thumped in my chest as I waved them away. Don’t get me wrong, I am insanely pumped for Munich and seeing my NARF (not-actually-related-family) in Joachim and Melanie then my adventures in Dubai with first Katie then seeing Uncle Adrian – but a bit of me already pines for Holland even though I am only halfway down the road.
(I’m being a bit ridiculous actually. On going into Google I almost wailed out when I saw the “google.nl” had changed to be “google.de”. And on a stop off on the way I went to thank the man distributing me my mushrooms with a “Dankje val” rather than the now “Danke schoen” and I was moderately browbeaten).
I’m sad. I’m sorrowful. I’m truly leaving with a lot of longing and love for Holland. It’s made me realise the immense importance of family and making time for each other, from the set be-there Sunday family brunch to hanging out with the siblings. (And I’ve realised I’d much rather spend my Saturday night rolling down a hill with Sem and Roos than raging up a downpour with an all-nighter).
But rather than end this (again, lengthy as fuck – I’m sorry, I really really do promise I will try to cut them down after this one) on a despondent culmination I shall once again sign off with just one point as to why the Dutch are the wasp’s patellas (I.e., “bee’s knees”).
- So as a Uni student all public transport is free, provided you finish your degree within ten years. Should you pull out of study, you are entailed to pay back all the bus rides and train journeys and what not, but if you go through and complete your course it’s all written off with no need to reimburse. Like, catch on Auckland you fanny face. (I’m pretty sure a good third of my student loan went into the one-stage jaunt from Orakei to Britomart).
So doo-ee! You shall hear from me again in Munchen. (That’s Munich, my mates).