I had previously met my husband's extended family at his grandmother's 80th birthday party last spring. But this time we got to visit. Very different meaning, especially when you're Dutch. Everyone has their ethnicities. I have a cultural ethnicity that was imparted to me early on from my father's mother, Cobie. Through the years I was educated as a granddaughter in what it meant to be Dutch, such as the following:
- Cleanliness is next to godliness. Really. It is not okay to skip the dusting.
- Gardening is aerobic exercise.
- Expensive shoes are essential. Clogs were only the beginning.
And last but not least, one of the most important lessons in Dutch heritage I received was through food traditions.
My Oma always participated in my Grandmother's (my mother's mother) thanksgiving. They were great friends and since my Oma expected our presence at Christmas, her children were free to do their other family responsibilities on this holiday. So our traditions for Thanksgiving strengthened around the Dahl holiday table with Dutch treats.
When I anticipated Thanksgiving, I was suddenly filled with dread, thinking thoughts like, "What if there is box stuffing? What if we don't have fresh cranberry relish? What if there isn't any Pumpkin Chiffon Pie?".... the thoughts multiplied...and fear was brought down like the house of cards that it is.
Aunt Bette (should I say Tante?) brought the EXACT same cranberry relish my Oma made every Thanksgiving that I can remember. Then Aunt Jean and I swapped tips on making bunket, a Dutch pastry. And we spent hours playing "Dutch Bingo". It is a game where you talk about your relatives and find out how you are connected or related among the "Dutchies". Aunt Bette Bosma knew my Uncle Bruce when he was in Michigan teaching. That was 25 years ago. I was so blessed to meet my grandmother-in-law's brothers and sisters. They are all in their spry young 80s; one just remarried and was wonderfully affectionate with his new bride, Jean, and the others told wonderful stories of their hiking adventures. What an inspiration and joy to be around such wonderful people.
Not only does this show that you can never go far without finding a kindred spirit, but that I couldn't go far without finding someone else who was Dutch. No matter how far I've moved, there have been many new friends and, now, family that I find reason to be grateful for. Even for simple things like fresh cranberry relish brings joy to my heart.
(Ps. I have a huge stash of the relish in my fridge that I made tonight so that my mother, sister and I can carry on the tradition of eating it straight through from Thanksgiving to Christmas, when we make our second batch....)