Day 5 –Zwaag and Family

July 4, 2015

Oh how I enjoyed waking up to this breakfast (note the cinnamon bun looking thingies – very yummy:

I mentioned that the coffee is amazing in Holland; my only complaint is that it all comes in extremely small cups and I always want more. I think Europeans look at us North Americans as drinking way too much coffee at one sitting. Maybe that is why they all seem to work in a slightly lower gear than we do, to our detriment no doubt.

I don’t; think I showed the larger room that we weretransferred to after the first day, for the duration of our stay at De Hedera…DSC_0097

Sorry for the mess …


And of course the view outside shows  ubiquitous bikes even first thing in the morning:


I have been looking forward to this day, because it is the day we were to meet Wil and Bep, distant cousins of mine from the same line as Louis Charles whom we met with his wife Laura on the first day; in fact they are first cousins, with whom we have been corresponding for many years via email. Wil is proficient at remembering everyone in my family’s birthdays and sends eCards or emails with greetings promptly and always takes into consideration the time difference.

Whereas Louis Charles and I had unfortunately lost track of each other due to computer malfunctions and email address changes, Wil and I have over the years regularly corresponded, sent pictures of new family members, our subdivision at different times of hte year and exchanged other information about the War Remembrances (ours on November 11, Hollands May 5th) and the Liberation of the Nederlands.

So I was excited when Wil said he would be happy to meet on the 4th, even though they had just the previous week taken the keys to a brand new house they had built in Zwaag and the inside wasn’t finished. He and Bep had actually been camping while they waited for the outside to be finished and the inside roughed in and plumbing installed so they could move in.

The house and subdivision is so new it does not show up on Google Maps. So Wil’s daughter Jacqueline (who had Wil’s computer at her house), sent me a map.


Jacqueline mentioned she was very interested to hear how our families were related and what other genealogy information I might have, so I knew there would be lots to talk about.

It is natural to feel uncertainty about meeting someone in person after only corresponding via email, regardless of whether they are family or not. We felt the same when we were heading to meet Louis Charles and we felt the same on this occasion; however, we were bolstered by the fact that we had had such a great experience with Louis and Laura.

So we headed out on the journey to Zwaag, cross the huge dam again:


It seemed as if Jeeps was trying to control her outburst, but couldn’t quite manage it, as she blurted out “In 200 metres, turn left!” once more, at this point:


“Really Jeeps?” I said.

Jeeps display screen

After which there was dead silence in the car.

We knew it wasn’t Jeeps’ fault. We trusted Jeeps to lead us to the right spot, once we got through the apparent magnetic field disruptions over the dam.

“We love Jeeps”. I said as I patted the dashboard where she resides.

“Always trust Jeeps,” said MLW.

And our trust was well-founded, as we arrived with no problem whatsoever, and were welcomed at the door by Wil and Bep.

wil and bep

as well as their lovely daughter Jacqueline


and her beautiful daughters 15 year old Jennifer and 17 year old Brigitte.


We were told in fact that Brigitte and Jennifer had been asked to come to help interpret. We were very grateful for their assistance and appreciated that they were giving up their Saturday to entertain visitors, something not lightly undertaken by most teenagers.

The family immediately presented us with this lovely basket of Dutch cookies, biscuits, candies and stroop, as well as a bottle ofvery nice Spanish wine, which Bep said she had had to take a flight to Spain earlier this morning in order to procure for us.


We had a look out the back deck, which overlooked a canal. Very beautiful setting.


Wil pointed out the road crossing the canal to the right of his house:


and said that eventually that would be removed and the canal would run straight through. Once that happened he would be able to take his Zodiac and travel all the way to Rotterdam if he desired.

I can’t imagine how cool that would be to take a trip like that.

As we settled into camping chairs and deck furniture in the unfinished living room, Jacqueline asked us to fill in the missing portions from my father on down, in her roughly drawn family tree which was hanging on the wall, while Brigitte had written down questions from her and Jennifer about our family and what life was like in Canada.



Brigitte asked if people in our side of the family were known to be stubborn.

“Oh yes! Very much so, especially my father Bryan and all of my children,” I said (leaving myself out as the obvious example of conciliation and accommodation, while MLW shook her head and looked on knowingly).

Brigitte continued to query MLW as I engaged in genealogical discussions with Jacqueline. There were many questions from Brigitte and Jennifer; MLW remembers these:

“What is Canada’s food?”

MLW answered beaver steak and maple syrup … no … she said there are so many cultures mixed in Canada ‘s origins that it is hard to pin down any one national food, although Maple Syrup may have to be the natural choice.

“Do Americans and Canadians really not like each other?”

MLW answered from personal experience that as individuals, there are many similarities between Canadians and Americans and as with any group of people there are nasty people and great people, by and large all of the individual Americans we have met have been great people and very welcoming. However, when it comes to politics and issues pertaining to trade, economy and sovereignty, Canada and the USA are wary partners and often don’t see eye to eye even while working closely together as part of North America.

Then, Wil and Bep’s other daughter, Diana arrived


with her husband Eric


and their children, 9 year old Tony and 7 year old twins Sven and Lars,


all blond with happy faces both innocent and mischievous at the same time. Three of the most polite and well-behaved young boys I have ever met.

Wil and Bep were gracious hosts, offering beer and wine and water and coke and biscuits and cookies and other goodies. Now, keep in mind this was all out of a cooler, as they were literally camping in their home.



Wil and Bep showed us around their home, which you could see was going to be very comfortable and well-appointed, once completed. They each had a room upstairs they could use for their own endeavours as well as the master bedroom and a very large bathroom. The upstairs rooms had excellent laminate hardwood already laid down. All of the bathrooms were finished, which had been a criteria for the m to move in, of course.

We discovered that there were some similarities between my work situation and Wil’s, as we were both able to retire early, due to downsizing of our respective organizations. Bep also is retired from an office administration position and they both play tennis for a hobby.

Jacqueline had a hard time describing what her occupation was, as the English eqiuivalents did not quite match up, but I believe she works in the real-estate/construction field, consulting, measuring and pricing out jobs.

Diana informed me that, although she was a registered massage therapist, that occupation does not allow her to work part-time, which she needed to do because of the demands of raising her children. Her husband Eric is a butcher and would love to have a farm one day, which Diana would like also, as long as it didn’t involve raising animals for slaughter. Diana is hoping to start up a photography-support business for realtors, which would allow her to work flexible hours and still earn income.

Jennifer is focusing on languages in her schooling and was in an accelerated learning class for English, as she was getting top grades.


Brigitte just graduated from high school and will study to be structural engineer. (If I get any of this information wrong, I hope the offended party will write me and I can edit accordingly!)


Wil showed us the secret to his uncanny ability to remember birthdays … an old-fashioned day planner/calendar that his father had started with all the family birthdays and he had continued on with. (I wish I had a picture of it now)

Yes, on paper! Whenever I ‘remember’ anything like that, I use Outlook reminders, which my kids laugh at because I end up with 20 or 30 pop up reminders in cascading tiles every day.

Wil’s method is old school and just as efficient, if not more so, with the added benefit that whenever he uses it, he can recall his father.

Sometimes we get caught up in the new electronic supposedly more efficient ways to teh point of gradually losing the tactile, emotional attachments to actual physical things. It’s like pictures; the old photos you have in an album, you can take it down form the shelf, heft it onto your lapo and take each photo out, feel them, touch them, look at the writing and so on. With digital photos you click and click and click and click and have many many more photographs than ever we would have before due to the cost of developing the film, but where are they? On a jump drive? In your computer? On a CD?

Sure you might say, old photos lose their colour, they fade, stick to pages and plastic and so on, but don’t kid yourself, electronic media half pretty short expiry dates as well. Expectations vary from 20 to 100 years for CD and 5 to 10 for USB and flash drives and if one isn’t diligent in transferring and re-transferring the media to storage devices every few years, whole swacks of photographs are lost for good, whereas there are means to preserve the hard-copies for many years.

I don’t know … it just bothers me. I call it electronic amnesia; you forget where your photos are, where your files are. Your computer crashes and if you haven’t backed it up you lose everything.

So, I value Wil’s method passed down from his father and I can attest that it works well, thank you very much!

Back to our visit … there were so many lively discussions and much laughter at not understanding each other all the time, it made the afternoon speed by, so that suddenly it was time for photographs and to say our goodbyes.

We thought it would be a good idea to set a delay on our camera and get a whole group family shot. Now, this was something I had attempted only on our little red Sanyo (as per previous entries – you know how well that worked) and not the Nikon, which was MLW’s. I was sure she knew how to make that camera work, however.

“Of course I do!” said MLW.

We all gathered dutifully in front of the camera, lined up against the wall under the genealogy chart that Jacqueline had painstakingly drawn.

And waited.

MLW fiddled with the camera. A surprise snapshot went off.DSC_0121a

MLW fiddled some more.

“I don’t fmhgh dsjirgtn wrong with the fnhjsdh thing!” She muttered, or words to that effect.

Diana, who had a very similar camera, came over to help MLW with the task. Meanwhile, the waiting subjects of the photo-shoot dispersed. Wil went out onto the sundeck, Bep attended something in the area where the kitchen would eventually be, the kids played with their phones and I, as is my usual default in these types of situations, found a glass of wine with which to occupy myself.

Suddenly there was a loud beep and a flashing light on the side of the camera

“It’s working. It’s working!” Squealed Lynne and Diana. “Come back, come back!”

As I calmly quaffed my glass of wine, I saw Wil make a sprint worthy of Christiano Ronaldo or Usain Bolt, at full speed from the deck, Bep lept over coolers and cookies, and we all managed to get together for this shot.


“One more, one more!” Diana said, and took over the photographer duties.

We got a few more group shots.


Then adjourned to the balcony where we posed for some shots in different combinations.




Then it was time to leave.

We hugged and kissed and laughed. We told them that any of the family were welcome to come to Canada and stay with us while they visited the country. (Jennifer and Brigitte were ready to go out and buy their tickets. Bep and Jacqueline looked like they would have a few things to say about that).

We are completely sincere in the offer; we would love to host such great people, anytime.

As Wil and I shook hands, he solemnly told me that he had been very surprised, as he saw in me the face of his father, at which I had to stifle a tear; I could hear the emotion in Wil’s voice as well. He promised to forward a photograph of his father so we could see it, which I look forward to very much.

As we rode back to Leeuwarden, MLW and I reflected again on what a loving family they were, to have all come out together to see us, how  gracious Wil and Bep were to host us in the middle of construction and how delightful, thoughtful and polite all of Jacqueline’s and Diana’s children were. Most of all, how lucky and honoured we felt to have finally met them all, to put a face behind the email and a mind behind the Facebook

I was reminded again how we can have a family of the heart as well as family in name, and in this case, they are one and the same.

Previous installment: go here       Next installment, go here [under construction]


4 thoughts on “Day 5 –Zwaag and Family

  1. Carole

    Oh how I loved this installment Colin. I was laughing thru tears.What a wonderful extended family we have! Superb photos!!!

  2. Pingback: Day 4 Leeuwarden | Colin John Keats

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