This year I turned 30. In advance of this big birthday, my husband and I made a deal that for our 30th birthdays, we each would pick a place we want to travel to and go there together. Being a girl of Dutch heritage, and wanting to learn more about it, I chose the Netherlands.
My Grammi was born in the Netherlands, and immigrated to Canada after the Second World War. Growing up she would tell us about her life in the Netherlands – about the food, the culture, the war, and her family life. As I got older, it became more clear to me that I wanted to delve deeper and experience the country for myself. So I turned 30, and off we went.
We stayed in Amsterdam and enjoyed four wonderful days there. One morning, we rented a car, and drove 45 minutes to the town of Wassenaar, Netherlands, where my Grammi grew up. This visit was my pilgrimage so to speak – my day of walking in her footsteps. Before we left, she had shown me maps, photographs, street names and important houses so I knew where to go and what to look for.
Wassenaar is located on the North Sea. During the Second Word War, it was occupied by the Germans, whose bunkers still exist on the beaches, although you can’t access them. Today, Wassenaar is an affluent suburb of The Hague and an official residence of the Dutch royal family, as well as home to ambassadors and the like. It’s a beautiful little town.The historical main square (or “plein”) in Wassenaar is quaint and lovely, and is around where my family lived.
We parked just outside the centre of town, and wandered along the streets until we came upon the plein. When we arrived, the plan all along was to FaceTime my mom, who would be at my Grammi’s house. I wanted to surprise my Grammi and experience being there together in Wassenaar with her. We had a few technical difficulties at first, but when our phones finally connected, and I could stand in the square with Grammi looking back and seeing everything with me, it was the very best feeling. She gave me a tour of the square as I ran around with my phone outstretched. She pointed out her Uncle’s home where she spent a lot of time as a little girl, and she also took me up the street to see my great grandmother’s house. In that moment, there was something very special about four generations of women being connected in some way. I’ll hold it in my heart forever.