Here are just a few little tidbits about life in the Netherlands.

I could write an entire blog about the Dutch weather, but I can promise you it is not as dramatic as the weather in Massachusetts. If you are a New Englander there are three top topics of conversation: sports, politics and the weather. You swear you are not going to talk about the weather, but it slips out of your mouth and you end up having a whole conversation about the day’s weather and the five day forecast. In Massachusetts, there is a variety of weather:  rain, hail, ice, snow, wind, humidity and the heat. But it is also a state of absolute beauty. In the fall, when the leaves change, the colors take your breath away.

Here in the Netherlands, the weather is a little different, as things are not as extreme. If there are a few inches of snow during the entire winter, then that is a typical winter. And it is rarely humid in the summer. I am writing this as we end of the summer that was the rainiest since 1906. But there are the Dutch winds and they can really bend the branches and make you hold onto your bicycle for dear life. When it is windy, you need to hold onto your toupee as you step out the door.

Each afternoon I stand on the terrace waiting for the children to ride home from school. I can see them for about two blocks as they bike straight towards the house. On this day, they pull up and look at me, smiling. The wind was blowing like crazy and I wanted them to get into the house right away. Our daughter says “we have got to get in, it is soooo windy!” Our son then says “Jane, this is like Chicago!” I laughed and agreed with him, and as he moved away, he called out over his shoulder “it is the windy city, Jane.” I laughed and then I was struck at how a little Dutch boy can talk about Chicago. When I tell you that the Dutch know America, trust me, they do.

Let me introduce you to Abraham. Here he stands two stories high in front of our brother in law’s house. He recently had his 50th birthday, and following the Dutch tradition, a blow up figure of Abraham was rented for the occasion. Women get a tall Sarah in front of their homes, and men get Abraham. When I tell people that this is not an American tradition, they are very surprised. What do Americans do without Abraham and Sarah on a 50th birthday? I answer by saying we have great parties and presents, but I am not sure they believe me.

As we pulled up to this house, two little girls rode by on their bikes and yelled out “hi, Abraham!” Just another birthday in the Netherlands.

At this birthday party were some wonderful people and one of my favorites is Uncle John. He is quite charming and we are able to communicate a little as he knows a little English and I barely know any Dutch. He shared one of his philosophies of life and I will share it with you: “I tickle myself with good food and short trips and that helps me carry on each day.” Uncle John tickles me with his outlook.

I will close this post with color. On Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 7:30pm this photograph was taken from our terrace. America was never from my mind on this day and we, as a family, talked about it quite a bit. Our son, who was two weeks old in 2001, said to us “this was a very sad day for America” and then our daughter saw the double rainbow (there are two in the photo). The children ran onto the terrace and it was a moment that could have been in a movie. Sunday morning started with me on the terrace quietly putting out two small American flags. The day was gray and occupied with memory. But at the end of the day, color came back into our lives. Watching two beautiful children, whom I love so much, smile at two rainbows in awe….well, it makes the world seem just a little better. The world needs a tickle once in awhile.

Recommended reading: 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner—A visit from the goon squad by Jennifer Egan

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  • Loree Griffin Burns  On September 16, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    I remember your fiftieth birthday celebration, dear Jane. (It was 50, yes?) No Sara, but lots of wise women who love you dearly.


  • AstridQK  On September 21, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Dear Jane,

    I found your blog today and I couldn’t stop reading (which is not handy at work :-)). Keep up the good blogging. Looking forward to more boekentips since I’am a real boekenwurm (new word of the week).

    Greetz Astrid

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