My Oma was always very close with her sister. They had three brothers and their mother died when they were young, so they stuck together and supported one another as they were growing up. When she got married, my Oma made the decision to move with her new husband to Canada. They left the Netherlands in 1949, not knowing if they would see their families ever again.
I moved to England, Alberta, and Quebec to attend school. I met new people, saw different places, and tried new things. I loved it, but it was hard too. It was difficult to be away from my family, visiting infrequently. Now that I am living again in Ontario, I can meet up with my mom for an afternoon walk, or go shopping or for coffee with my sisters. These are things that I couldn’t do when I lived in other places. Although I miss the excitement of being away, the differentness of living in a new place, I also love being able to see people spontaneously.
Several years ago, my sisters and I travelled to the Netherlands with my Oma to learn more about our Dutch heritage. We made new memories and ate lots of cheese and chocolate. We travelled to the city where Oma grew up. We shopped, took pictures, and saw a stained-glass window with her family name on it. Together we visited the war memorial that contains her brother’s name, and the cemetery where her parents and sister are buried, where the names and dates carved into stone represent people who are connected to us. It was beautiful and strange…the intersection of our family trip with old memories. I realized that even though my grandparents chose to come to Canada to pursue new opportunities, they also gave up a lot to do this. They didn’t know if they would see family again. How hard is that? To say good-bye to a cherished sister, not knowing if you will meet her again?
When I moved away, I knew that I would be able to visit often. My Oma’s experience was very different…Although she was able to visit her sister several times over the years, I think that it must have been hard to live so far away, experiencing a new country and raising a family in such different ways. I think that she was and is very courageous. I hope that I can be as brave, making the most of new opportunities, pursuing adventures, and experiencing new and challenging things.