Touching the Source.

I am an American.  I was born here and it is truly the only home I now.  I am a fan of countries like the Netherlands or France and one day would like to retire there.  But going to Amsterdam on this recent trip was like connecting to a source of something I never knew existed.

My father and his cousin in Schagen, Netherlands.
Last year I invited my parents to come to Europe with us.  We had long wanted take a trip to Holland with my father who had not been back since he was 13.  Fifty years later we walked the streets of Amsterdam with our child bouncing across the cobblestone streets in his stroller and my father happily snapping photos of canal houses along the Amstel.

A few months ago my father received an email from the wife of his first cousin.  A cousin he had never met, who was ten years older than he.  His mother, my father's aunt, passed when he was only nine months, almost a decade before my father was born.

My grandfather... looking very cool.
So we made a short trip an hour out of Amsterdam and met a part of the family we'd never known existed.  We heard stories about my grandfather I'd never heard.  I saw photos of my great grandfather, Lucas van Dijk, saw pictures of my grandpa Gerrit as a young man.  I heard my father speak Dutch and watched as he and his cousin carried on conversations in English and Dutch respectively - each understanding the other despite the language barrier.

I sat, my son in my lap, while we reconnected with a history, plugged into a country, that my father had left fifty years before and that I had known only a few days.  And yet it was as familiar as going home.

My grandfather, Gerrit (on the right), and his brother.

 Later that evening, I sat at the window of our little apartment off the Amstel River, on the Achtergracht, reading and writing in my ever present Moleskine and realized I could just as easily make my home here in the land of bicycles, free health care and VAT taxes as I could in the land of cars and subways, crippling insurance premiums and a regressive tax system.  I could live the same life in a place known for cheese and cannibus as simply as I could in a place known for the raucous public square and our gritty determination.

In the end I realized I had touched the source.  Perhaps it's my Dutch blood that is the fount of my socialist side.  But the Dutch are also the original capitalists.  They just believe there are certain things that are not worth profiting from... like man's misery or pain. 

Whatever.  In the end, I found myself feeling at home, comfortable.

Not that I'm renouncing my citizenship or anything...  I'm just saying, home is where you are.  And for me I'd like to live the best of my American sense of duty and grit and combine it with the social consciousness of my father's ancestral home.
This small suburb in northern Holland could be in New Jersey or Colorado.

My great grandfather, Lucas van Dijk.  The G R on his hat stands for Gemeente-Reinigng which means he cleans for the community.  According to the family, in the Netherlands, this is an honorable profession.  


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