Spring Forward, Look Back

Spring is a time of hope, when promises unfold and the world is fresh and green. It’s also the time when I reflect on life-changing milestones and special memories.

Every April, I celebrate the evening that I reluctantly attended a barn dance outside Lawrence, Kansas and met my future husband. I also remember the time, four years later (to the day) when he defended his thesis and we prepared for our move to the Netherlands (the next day!). An overwhelming cascade of memories mark the flight to Holland, arriving in that unfamiliar village that would become home, and meeting a friend who would instantly become family. I also think of young daughters searching excitedly for brightly colored Easter eggs hidden among the daffodils or scattered throughout the house.

It was quiet this year, and a college visit took the place of the traditional Easter egg hunt.

My friend sent photos of her home – a beautiful farm in Holland, ready for friends and family sharing a festive holiday brunch.

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An Easter To Remember

Lovely Gnomys from Annekebouke

Lovely gifts: Gnomys by Annekebouke

Today I remember an unusual Easter, 21 years ago, in a Dutch village far away.

We were young and living the grad student family life in Lawrence, Kansas, with a 2-year-old daughter and another baby on the way.  My husband’s studies were nearing an end and he accepted a job offer – in the Netherlands.  I had traveled out of the country only once, and the thought of an international move was daunting.

We were heading to the unknown and this was pre-internet, so my resources consisted of a few books about Holland at the local library.  A Dutch acquaintance offered to introduce me to a “relative of a relative” who happened to live near the town where my husband’s office was located.  I wrote a letter introducing myself and asked questions about midwives, housing and a few other concerns and sent it air mail to Holland.

A few weeks later, the phone rang.

It was Els.

She had located a midwife and made an appointment, found all of the information I needed regarding housing and answered my other questions.  “I noticed that you arrive the day before Easter.  I always have a brunch and will come by to pick you up at 9:00.  Ok?”

At 9:00 on Easter morning, Els arrived in her van and transported us to her home.  The entire day was a bit of a blur, with an Easter egg hunt in the garden, a wonderful breakfast with extended family (and very welcome strong Dutch coffee) followed in the afternoon by a boat tour around the canals of Leiden.  We didn’t leave until bed time and by the end of the day, we were exhausted.  But Els understood jet lag and although I could barely keep my eyes open I thanked her later!

She also understood moving to another country, and we discovered that we lived not so far away from each other in the U.S. for a few years.  She understood raising a family with lots of creativity and limited means and donated furniture when she realized we had left almost everything behind.  Els adopted us like her own family from the moment we met.

This morning we had a quiet brunch with just the three of us at home.  Els had a houseful of visitors, decorating with her usual creative flair and hiding the eggs carefully in the garden for the little ones to discover.  We’re far apart but I was there in spirit, remembering a wonderful Easter so long ago.