Posts Tagged ‘Holland’

Until I heard a woman being interviewed a week ago, in reference to the North Dakota flooding, stating that she was lightly optimistic, and that to a Norwegian is like being ecstatic, I had no idea what my Norwegian heritage meant.  You see, I’m a mutt and until just about two years ago, none of those nationalities were Norwegian. 


Mom’s heritage is British and Basque, with a rumor of Native American thrown in there.  My dad, a VanVleck, had always thought he was British on his mother’s side and Dutch on his dad’s side. 


My nephew is really into genealogy JayJay’s World and has traced dad’s family back as far as:  Generation 7:  Van Vleck, John Henry Sr. 


John Henry, Sr., or his family, came to the USA in the early 1800’s.  It is unclear whether he was actually born here or in Holland.  So, dad was partly right, but apparently what my nephew is finding, is that the VanVlecks might have changed their name from VanVlackern when they originally came from Norway. 


I sometimes envy a person with one national heritage.  They know their holidays and their place in the world.  However, us Mutts do have the benefit of getting to choose one or all of the nationalities running in our veins. 


Let’s face it, most of us are from somewhere else,  But, as for me, the Norwegian information does explain some things about my dad.  His lightly pessimistic was like the pits of despondency.

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I grew up in the fifties/sixties. You know, the generation that went from Leave it To Beaver and mother’s vacuuming in high heels and pearls to new mommas and poppas singing and getting high and vacuuming well, without high heels. Not in my family, mind you, but it was the era.


Other than growing up with a fear of nuclear fallout from the bomb, it was a pretty good time to grow up in. I do remember those “duck and cover” drills and, even at that time wondering how the heck this little two by three foot square of wood, above my head, was going to protect me from radiation poisoning. But, we had hot cars and gym dances and Dr. Ben Casey collar shirts; and we had rules. My home sure did.


It was a time when children did not scream in stores. We were rarely spanked, but they did get the point across that manners prevailed. Oh, and no one knew that you should not ride your bicycle in the mist from the mosquito spray truck (and they wonder why there is such a high rate of cancer).


Unfortunately, this was also a time when you were not encouraged to think for yourself, at least in my family. We did as we were told (which is not always a bad thing-just when you are not allowed to think for yourself!) and you did not keep secrets from your parents. YEAH, RIGHT!!! They actually believed that one.


No, seriously, THEY did believe it. That’s the joke.


Anyway, we had rules, in addition to the above, in our own family too.


Dad’s ancestors were from Norway, but he thought he was from Holland. He had been a Military Policeman, guarding German prisoners after the war and they told him his name was Dutch. I think his parents had believed their ancestors came from Holland too. They were fairly poor and very frugal. Hence, when paper plates came out, they bought one package and washed them out after each use. Thereby, negating any benefit from buying paper plates. I remember grandma having a clothesline of paper plates in her kitchen. They saved everything and it took four of us, working day and night, to get dad’s basement cleaned out for his retirement move to Arkansas.  Oh, how he fretted about his lost treasures.


He was also a worrier. He had, what we liked to call, his “Picnic headache.” Just mention a picnic and dad would get this violent headache, like no one else ever had. He really had a headache, just from the stress of being forced to go on a picnic. Mention a trip to Chicago and his appendix would probably burst, even though we only lived thirty miles away. It also carried over to the news. If someone was robbed by an elephant in a grass skirt, dad just knew he was next on the elephants list. If someone was trampled by a snake, we would be too.  And, everyone was out to get him. Everyone! Politicians and lawyers were all crooks, rich people were all greedy, and college graduates were stupid. Dad was a bit of a bigot, but he was equal opportunity and bigoted against just about everyone.


So rules in our house included: lock all doors and if it doesn’t have a lock, put one on (or three was even better), close all blinds because “they” were watching you, do not put your feet on the couch without a newspaper under them (this was socked or not socked). We never went bare foot, as feet were frowned upon. We were also not allowed to pass gas. I was never successful at this as I ran from the room. I did much better at covering up the fact that I was blowing my nose, when I was, in fact, blowing my nose. I did NOT sweat.  Ladies do not sweat.  I was truly pleased as an adult to learn how good exercise felt. And, no, I did not ride a bike following the the mosquito spray truck.

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Where would you go, if you won a trip to anywhere in the world.


My list is almost too long to mention. Alaska to see the Northern Lights, anywhere to watch the whales, Holland/Norway, the Basque Country, to see what really made my ancestors who they were, and Japan to find a long lost friend, Junko Kanazawa.  India to photograph the women in their vibrant sari’s and learn more about Buddhism.  Africa for the music, culture and animals and for fun: New Zealand.  Send me a ticket, and with two seconds to pack my sketch pad and camera, I’m there.


I grew up in Indiana, thirty miles outside of Chicago. My father’s reason for never going to Chicago was stated succinctly.  “I never lost anything in Chicago. So, I don’t have to go back to get it.” The Dunes National Park was a short drive east. Couldn’t go there, He heard from someone, who knew someone, who was mugged there once.  He also told me once that anything he wanted to see, he could see on his television.  Dad was not adventurous.


Dad worked at Combustion Engineering and the family went to town once every other week, on payday.  They got groceries in Griffith, Indiana, where I would go to the library and carry out a load of books that stretched my arms down like an orangutan. Clothing was delivered by the Sears man.  In the summer, we would eat beer batter Fish and Chips at a drive-in restaurant on payday. I think it was at Broad and Main, in Griffith.


I however, wanted to move, since I remember being able to think.  I would look out an office window of a skyscraper and envy every one of those cars zooming by on the expressway, then I would go back to my typing.  I’ve been to 49 of the 50 states, Canada and momentarily in Mexico.  So, the world is ahead of me yet..


Mom was there when we got home from school and cooked dinner, until the fateful day in history when TV Dinners blighted the earth.  She was having health problems, so it was quick fix, and, like Twinkies and White Castle, I thought they tasted better then, than they do now.


Dad’s big travel was his yearly two week vacation. The first I remember were the trips to cabins in Wisconsin. We spent two glorious weeks swimming, hiking and swatting mosquitoes. I loved it and the woods. Then, they bought a station wagon and camping equipment and my brother and I were in heaven.  I haven’t been camping in years and I really miss it.  I’m never so happy as when I am outdoors, anywhere.

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