Tag Archives: family

The House at the Top of The Hill



Taking the late bus home from cheerleading practice, I would have to yell “Stop at the top of the hill!” to the schoolbus driver, who would invariably be listening to WMMR turned up nice and loud while driving a bunch of rowdy jocks, bandies and club nerds home from after-school activities. If I didn’t, it would mean a looong walk down from McCollugh’s, which was the next stop.

My brother is selling the house we grew up in. It’s a house made for a family, sadly fallen to neglect and disrepair for a whole washlist of reasons to tedious to go into. I left it when I got married in 1987 and never looked back. This feeling of nostalgia arising from the news of the sale is unexpected.

Once our father passed away, I ‘d urged my brother to sell up and start fresh somewhere new, somewhere without the emotional baggage tied up in the bricks and mortar of our family home. It is important to note here that I have no financial interest whatsoever in the property. My brother spoke to me at length (yelled and raged and fumed) about how I was 100 different kinds of wrong about starting fresh. He had “buddies” who were going to help him fix up the place. Having moved and rebuilt homes a number of times at that point, I advised caution about employing “buddies” but again, I was 100 different kinds of wrong (mostly because I am a “girl” and don’t live in the real world). My doubts about the time, effort and cost of fixing the house up were also pooh-poohed ( because I couldn’t possibly know how these things work ). Shortly after that particular conversation my brother and I stopped speaking to one another.

The other day I peeked at the realty site and saw that the house was finally under offer. Looking through the photos of the interior, memories rose unbidden: the sound of the screen door (long replaced) with glass louvers used to make when we’d run out to play on a summer day, the winey smell of the apple trees (cut down more than 30 years ago) in September, delight at looking out the back door and seeing bunny rabbits in the back-yard on a spring morning, the way the dial phone used to ring, running like a maniac down the stairs to answer it,and oh God! Please let it be Jeremy!, the dining room: ravioli and gravy on a Sunday afternoon and an assortment of my friends or my brother’s friends just dropping by and pulling up a chair and a plate to the table, in the big (in my memory) screen porch where I’d practice rollerskating (also long gone), running from the front door down the driveway to the mailbox where I to look for the next letter from my Dutch fiancé (now my husband of 30 years)…

No visible repairs have been made to the house either inside or out. It would seem that the plans with the “buddies” fell through. My thoughts turned to what could have been done to remodel it, and then, realizing that this was a direct route down What-if-crazy-street, imagining instead a wish list for the new family who will be living there soon.

I wish for them good times and lots of people who love them filling the rooms, holidays with merriment and music, not stress and shouting, many backyard cookouts and people staying until the wee hours because its just so nice to be there. Above all may they find there the stability and joy that never took root for us.


For Those About to Rock…

For Those About to Rock…



There is a lot to be said for mobile technology, being able to keep in touch with your loved ones at all times and then there’s the downside.

This is a rare weekend for Vince and I, being mostly child-free. We went out to dinner last night, made conversation about subjects other than our offspring, enjoyed getting up without a rugby match or concert on our Saturday agenda, we were relaxed. I worked on a new oil painting, Vince went to the gym and pottered around the yard. No. 2 Son was off to Pink Pop with his uncle and No. 1 Son wasn’t arriving for one of his flying visits home until the late afternoon. If anybody needed us, we were a phonecall, text, or what’sapp away.

No. 2 Son is a hard rocker. To emphasize this point he has a wardrobe consisting almost entirely of black T-shirts promoting various bands, some known to us, some only known to heavy-metal cognoscenti. I don’t think he has a tattoo yet, at least not where I could see it. Perhaps he really has taken my threat of the sandblaster to heart? Recently he’s taken up the bass. It could have been the drums, but no, he chose the bass. It is not the piano. I shall say no more on the subject. Apparently he’s in a Motörhead  tribute band and I will get to hear them play at a school event this week, but I digress.


No 2. with a friend and his cousin at Pink Pop


This morning, No. 2 was off to the legendary Pink Pop festival with his uncle and a few other like-minded individuals because today’s lineup was all about metal. We were treated, via telephone to lots of nice photos of the black T-shirt contingent from Pink Pop, just to let us know they were having a good time. I thought that was nice, long live the mobile phone, until this flashed up on screen:

Mosh Pit

No. 2, dead center wearing the vest with patches…

There was my baby, (he’s 6′ tall, but still my baby!) headed straight to the vortex of the mosh pit. Some things you just don’t want to know. I responded as one would expect by yelling at my brother-in-law in caps that he ought to put a stop to this. If I’d responded any other way, everybody would be disappointed.

We haven’t heard anything from Pink Pop since. I can only assume that he made it out of the mosh pit in one piece and I have already planned my revenge. Next Wednesday evening, guess who’s going to be in the mosh pit when her son’s on stage.

throw metal

The Shabbos Goy at Leiden U.



Our firstborn is at university on the other side of the country. That sounds far away; it’s only a 2 hour drive, but still! We’ve had the necessary sleepless nights worrying first about how he was going to make it on his own,keeping on top of his busy schedule, laundry, feeding himself proper food, then about his choice of study, followed by what would his wacky first landlord come up with next, and shouldn’t he be spending more time on his study than his music? Lately we’ve seemed to have arrived in calmer waters. Olivier’s study is going well, he’s still singing but it’s no. 2 on the priority list for the time being, he doesn’t come home in the weekend with a week’s worth of laundry anymore and disappear until Sunday dinner, he actually spends time with us when he’s home, he’s learning to drink wine…in short he’s turned into a delightfully civilised young man and we’re getting a good night’s sleep because of it.

He’s been writing a few articles lately as part of his minor at Leiden U. as well as just setting his thoughts down to make sense of the world. Here’s what he wrote about the shooting at Umpqua Community College last week.

Horrified by the shooting in Roseburg, OR. I couldn’t imagine the lack of safety, and fear I would feel if this would happen at Leiden University. With eight school-shootings in the US in the past three years, the most painful being the one involving the first-graders in Newtown, CT, it makes you question if school environments are safe in the US. Especially, since this one happened in a gun-free zone.

It’s frustrating to see this happening over and over again. The Charleston-shooting is just 3,5 months ago. A very memorable quote from a family member of a victim was: “Hate the sin, but forgive the sinner”. It stresses the importance of environmental factors leading to such a crime, be it gun-control in whatever form, lack of good parenting or the lack of a community that exercises social control on its members.

Sending strength and consolation to the families in Oregon, while hoping larger steps will be taken in addressing the root cause(s) of these shootings. And finally, enjoying the safe community around me, consisting of tolerant people allowing different people to live together safely. Tolerance is necessary, but in this case, as a (world-)community, we need to speak out a collective vote to stop tolerating these crimes, not just in the US, but everywhere.

I couldn’t wait to tell him in person how well put I thought this little piece was.

We usually get the week’s drama out of the way when I pick him up at the train station. By the time we’re at our front door I’m listening to his stories of college life, the new experiences, hearing his (wild) plans for the future. Its fun to see his old highschool crew when they come to our house to drink beer and play cards on the odd Saturday night, and hearing him sing the Magnificat when he’s under the shower on Sunday mornings is a treat not to be missed.


This weekend he announced “Mom! I’m a Shabbos goy!” I can’t remember the last time I heard that term, certainly not in this country. Simply put,a Shabbos goy is a non-Jew who performs work that a Jew is not permitted to do at Shabbat. There are a shedload of specifications and exceptions if you look into this properly, but this is the short version. After I got done laughing he told me the details. Apparently one of his friends at university has returned to the faith and our Ollie puts the lights on in D’s apartment on Friday’s after sundown. The days are short at this time of year on this parallel, so this qualifies as a “life threatening situation”– 18th century buildings, high, narrow stairs…you dont’want to think about the consequences of stumbling around in the dark because you aren’t supposed to turn on a light switch. Is my kid a mensch or what?

We shipped him back to Leiden on Sunday morning. He sent me a funny Facebook sticker last night.


This afternoon the phone rang and it was my friend, Marjolein. “Did you hear about Leiden?”

The phrase “Did you hear about…” in the middle of the afternoon sends chills up my spine. Nothing good comes of it. Another afternoon in 2001, my mother-in-law phoned and asked, “Did you hear about the Twin Towers?”

The earth tilted and my world started slipping away.“What about Leiden?”

There was a threat posted in social media about a gun massacre somewhere on the Leiden campus. I’d been too busy bumping up my Candy Crush score all morning to look at the news, so I hadn’t heard about it yet.

I hung up and quickly phoned my son. I heard his voice. The earth tilted back to a normal position. He was at home, studying for his exam this afternoon. Olivier wasn’t worried about the threat. He assumed it was just some nutjob being stupid online. My son is 21 and still immortal. The immortal train left my station a long time ago, I think it was when I became a mother. I was scared. He wasn’t. He was going to his exam as planned. I made him promise me that if he heard gunfire to hit the ground and play dead. I couldn’t believe what I was saying as the words left my mouth. What kind of world do we live in?

St. Michiel, Defender of the Faithless

St. Michiel, Defender of the Faithless


For the past 3 years, I’ve had a “man about the house”. Decades of putting up with cleaners, most of whom (but not all) were women of a certain ilk, given to back problems, migraine, and vague “lady issues” which prevented them from moving the furniture to vacuum underneath, cleaning windows and/or showing up on time, I’d almost given up on finding a cleaner. One last advertisement then. Michiel responded.

I liked the sound of his voice even before he came over to check out the lay of the land and discuss terms. When he walked through the door, I knew I was going to hire him: Michiel is very easy on the eyes. After a trial period of 2 months, my windows had never been so clean and we decided that it is a perfect match.

Yesterday Michiel  came to work and after leaving him with a list of what needed to be done, I crawled back to bed to nurse my hellacious migraine.

One of the things on the list was scrubbing down the kitchen floor. It was nice weather, so Michiel left the kitchen door open to speed the drying while he moved along to the livingroom. Suddenly he heard the dogs going ballistic in the kitchen.

Now I’m not anti-religious although I’m in no way a conventional believer. I don’t think all people who subscribe to an organized religion are morons. Indeed many of my friends are people who have a deep and abiding faith in a higher power. I do, however take umbrage at being evangelized by strangers on my front doorstep. I could not for the life of me, imagine a situation where a person would walk uninvited into a someone’s kitchen, clutching sheaves of “The Watchtower” and think anyone living in that particular house would be interested in hearing what they have to say. Not even if the back door was wide open. That’s what doorbells are for. Well readers, it happened right here in Hengelo.


You call it a squeegie, I call it a modified Jo stick

All I can say is that Mighty Mack made quite an impression, but it was Michiel , or rather St. Michiel, Defender of the Faithless who was the hero of the day. He managed to call Mack to order, then proceded to chase the Jehovah’s Witnesses out the kitchen door and down the driveway while wielding a floor squeegie. It must have been a sight to see.

St. Michael

Unfortunately there is no video of this. I missed all the fun, being conked out on Advil, but Vince sure enjoyed telling me about it later.

Two Funerals, a Wedding Proposal and Mothers’ Day

Two Funerals, a Wedding Proposal and Mothers’ Day

California Republic

Yesterday we returned from a 2 week road-trip (more to follow in a later blog) in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and back to California again to catch a plane for the 11 hour flight back home to the Netherlands. Vince celebrated his 51st birthday in the plane (not really, he was mostly trying to sleep) and I got to celebrate Mothers’ Day with a crappy airline breakfast and 9 hours jet-lag.

Things improved once we were home. No. 1 Son, who is surprisingly thoughtful lately had a gorgeous bouquet delivered to the house for Mothers’ Day, I crashed for a few hours and woke up to check Facebook and email yaddayadda. Vacation time is always afk for me, and I had some catching up to do.


Like I could use viagra…fake or otherwise.Gotta luv spam!

Between all the ads and spam and selfies of my nieces and nephews (our generation doesn’t selfie, does it? ), other peoples vacay pics and neat stuff from George Takei, there were three important messages: A friend’s father had passed away, a dear friend of mine had passed away and another two friends got engaged, which rather balanced out the bad news nicely.

mothers day

Mothers’ Day is always a little different for me, hence the apostrophe change when I’m writing. My relationship with my own mother wasn’t great, but I was lucky enough to have come across a lot of women in my life who mothered me at one time or another and filled in the gaps: Ina, Sylvia, Dorothy C., Lavinia, Maribel, Sr. Marie-Patrice, Tecla, Rita, Beatrix, Gloria, the Aunts, Mimi Baba, Jeanne, my mother-in-law, and my dear friend, Terri, who passed away last week. All these women taught me how to be a woman and a mother by example and I am eternally grateful.

Ina just let me be me and seemed delighted when, as a 4-year-old I’d pop up to her apartment and bang out my own little songs on their upright piano for a half an hour. Sylvia taught me how to relativize the situation, whatever the situation. From Dorothy and Lavinia I learned how to be charming. Maribel brought me to the theater and showed me how to argue and win and still be a lady, Sr. Marie-Patrice, where to begin? Her sense of fun made learning so easy and she boosted the confidence of a shy little girl in all sorts of ways without making me an obvious teacher’s-pet. Tecla stood up for me when my own mother couldn’t. Rita gave me a home. Beatrix and Gloria acknowledged my talents and encouraged me. I was spoiled beyond my wildest dreams by the Aunts, Mimi Baba and Jeanne who made a fuss over me when I needed it most…and Terri, we were two of a kind, except my drink is whiskey and hers was Manischewitz and ginger-ale.


Free for All Friday– On Saturday


Yesterday was one of those days that never quite gets started and is best given a swift dismissal with an early night. Today I’m playing catch-up. While big snow blankets my hometown in the US, this ex-pat is enjoying unseasonal spring-like weather on the other side of the pond.



Max. temp.
Min. temp.
Regen in mm
4 januari
9 °C
6 °C
Wind S
2,1 mm
5 januari
8 °C
5 °C
Wind SW
0,6 mm
6 januari
12 °C
6 °C
Wind SW
1,8 mm
7 januari
11 °C
9 °C
Wind SW
0,3 mm
8 januari
10 °C
6 °C
Wind SW
8,9 mm



I woke up while it was still dark to see Joe College off to the station. He’s spending the weekend in Utrecht rehearsing with the choir and has a must-ace exam on Monday. I didn’t think I’d be seeing him again until our return from Curaçao at the end of the month, but he’s coming back tonight; he left the keys to his apartment on the table by our front door. Joe College is a genius on paper. In practice, not so much.

FOTI and I left a while later to do the groceries: our weekly date at the Makro. GMOTI would be joining us for dinner and I thought I’d make some boeuf bourguignon (recipe to follow on Tuesday) from the cookbook Joe College gave us for Christmas. We also ended up throwing a few kettlebell weights, some selections of Belgian beer and a new ironing board into the cart along with the real groceries. Makro is dangerous that way.

We all spent the afternoon in the kitchen, watching videos. I cooked the boef, FOTI and GMOTI were finishing the Bottecelli jigsaw and Charlie Brown was delving into Japanese shogun lore online. My kid is turning Japanese. Meanwhile we got Rick Rolled on the video channel 192.


Mr. Ginger in all his glory. Still, you can dance to it, Dick, I give it a thumbs up!

The boeuf bourguignon was delish. Looking forward to the next installment of “Sherlock” tomorrow night.


* Images of  Oops and weather charts found at Google.

Who Do You Think You Are? Hengelo Edition


Joe College came home from Leiden last night, excited to show me “something cool” he’d found on the net. He’d discovered ancestry.com and was doing a little research into the distaff side. My husband’s family, being Dutch and originally (way back in the 1500s) German, has a detailed family tree and it holds few, if any mysteries. It is now digitalized and kept up-to-date by Cousin Ruud. My family, being that exotic species, descendants of American immigrants is, to my knowledge, more or less unrecorded. Joe College was intrigued by the challenge.

He’d made some progress on his own, but looking at some of the names and cities he’d added, I could see he’d barked up the wrong side of the wrong family tree on more than a few occasions. We sat at the kitchen table, clicking the mouse into the wee hours finding the right paths that lead ultimately to him.

One of the first things we uncovered was that my mother’s grandmother was not Austrian, as we’d always believed, but that she was born shortly after her parents arrived in the United States from Russia. “Well that explains a lot!” Vince boomed from the livingroom, “bet they were Cossaks.” Vince attributes our sons’ volatile temper and ruthlessness to my side of the family, because he contributed the calm and rational Dutch temperment to the mix.

Reading the names and places in the census documentation, often I could vividly call up an image, an occasion, sometimes a face, memories long buried and half-forgotten. Family names kept cropping up all over the pages. There was a liberal sprinkling of Oliver (Joe College’s real name) and Julius (aka Charlie Brown) as well as variations on their unusual middle names as well.

Was I named for him?”

Well in a way, you were named for your grandfather and he was named for his . I never knew the first Oliver.”

What’s in a name? Long ago, my mother told me stories about her great-uncle Julius being an enormous tease and prankster and this also seems to have carried over to the present Julius as well.

On my father’s side of the family, it is amazing how the Incornatas, Josefinas, Marias, Antonias have morphed into extremely Anglo names like Lauren, Addison and Julie over 3 generations. The Anthonys remain, however. One of my older “cousins”, who was family, but not a blood relative, is called “Anthony”. Then there’s my brother who’s called “Tony” to differentiate him from “Anthony”, another cousin came along and was dubbed “Antn’y”, there’s an “AJ” as well and the last one I heard about is “Tone-tone”. I’m assuming “Tone-tone” is a toddler, but you never know with my family: my brother was named Anthony because the family (everyone was consulted back then) thought Dominic was too “ethnic”.

I thank the powers that be every day that I was not called Incornata.

The ‘Burg is beautiful!!!! The old neighborhood.

We found the Amish connection (something I always thought was made up), and draft notices for family members from both World Wars. We laughed over “Uncle Adolf”–I had to explain that he was born before 1900, and that the name wasn’t taboo then. We marvelled at the various occupations listed on the census of a given decade, we looked at pictures of gravesites and family homesteads and we finally went to bed way past midnight.

My son is on such a wonderful adventure, discovering who he is, where he fits into the greater scheme of things. It was a treat to share part of the adventure with him in this way.

* Images from Google