As hinted, I am going to make a biweekly departure from the ‘Friday Freelancer Report’ to bring you something a little spicier. This week, it’s the second installation of an experimental piece I started a number of years ago. For the beginning, check out Dutch, Part 1.
Like those post-Roman-treasure-loving warlords, who cared more about hoarding pretty bits of glass and whooping it up than patriotism and social reform, we forget that our actions will for centuries dictate to our descendants where they stand in the social hierarchy of contemporary construction.
Enter my ancestors -
In recent decades, my Dutch grandparents (of more than one degree of greatness) traveled by boat to North America, and then settled more specifically and permanently in what is now Wyoming, Michigan. I can’t help but wonder if they knew how horribly dull a picture they were painting for the rest of the country. Why would anyone chose the Midwest, let alone a pseudo Midwestern state like Michigan? Was it the water, reminding them of the canals and dykes of the Netherlands? Was the lake effect green a pleasant change from the startling blue of handcrafted delft?
Going further, the Dutch immigrants were not exactly hot-blooded. Religiously pious, they steered clear of the fun stuff like dancing and liquor and kissing. So much for adventure-loving German barbarians. What were they thinking?
I don’t know the answer, but I do know that the decision to make a life in the second-from-the-left knuckle vicinity of the giant mitten created my family, and the cocktail of meat and potatoes, CRC, symphony, wine, and hymn sing that characterizes any given Sunday dinner. This is the Borst branch of my relations, complete with the ironically legendary and conversational footnote that Borst means “breast” in Dutch (true fact).
My Dutch-American family grew up with the lakes, the Great Lakes. Our love for blue, and genetically predisposed dependence on water for travel and communication, encouraged us to gather at the west shores of Michigan and commune with our cohort, our New Netherlanders. We purchased and boarded sailboats. We erected lighthouses at the tips of slippery piers. We set up sandy camps from which to watch the bobbing of buoys and small blond children.
We ate the cheese puffs and grapes that my Aunt Ruthann had so lovingly produced from Tupperware and plastic baggies.
We looked to the horizon and wondered about the families on the opposite end of the water, the sunbathers and pier strollers in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. There was a bond with them despite the distance between us. The water was like a giant table, where those around it might only find connection through passing the butter, or navigating their yachts from one dock to the next.