Words, well at least mine, cannot possibly express the past 10 days with my family. I chose to use my new camera to tell most of the story instead. Here is the slide show covering the past week with my family. A teeny bit of insight…
My father was born in Heerlen in the southernmost province of the Netherlands, Limburg 20 km east of Maastricht. Yes, Limburg is where the stinky Limburger cheese comes from. When my dad was 3, my grandfather moved everyone to the USA, which he always joked about by saying “he got in the wrong line for Australia.” At that time, there were four in the family, the parents, Wilhelmus van den Brand and Paula Boumans, and the two boys, Peter and Robert. They moved to South Chicago where they gave birth to their third child, Anne Marie. Shortly after this, my grandmother passed from cancer. I never met her but from pictures she is your typical Dutch woman, tall and beautiful, with a mop of red hair. Also, there is a noticeable resemblance between her and my Aunt Anne. Judge for yourself but I say they are nearly identical. The family returned to the Netherlands for holiday when my dad was 10 and he hadn’t been back since. Forty years had passed and this trip was intended to meet as many of the remaining van den Brand’s and Boumans’ as possible. Erin and I flew in from Athens and spent a couple of days in Cologne, Germany (check photos) before taking the short train ride to Maastricht to meet up with my Dad, my stepmother Mary, and my Uncle Pete and Aunt Carol. Maastricht is charming and quaint and it all feels like one giant bed and breakfast; It was good to be back in my old University town as it had been six years.
What ensued over the next week was truly special. First off, Erin and I were put up in a beautiful hotel with a real bed and a real shower and oh my, a fluffy pillow, and could it be, oh yes, it’s true, a minibar. Stocked. We were treated to gourmet dinners, an absurd amount of beer, wine and liquor. Anything we wanted we had. Nothing was out of the question. We met with both sides of the family, van den Brand’s and Boumans’ several times throughout our week in Maastricht, viewed old photos, ate lots of food, and laughed and joked with each other. Our cousin, Peter Boumans, was our deluxe tour guide (2nd time for me) and organized all parties and events. I speak for everyone when I say thank you to Peter for helping make this trip one for the record books. It was great to see my dad and uncle reunite with old cousins, aunts and uncles and for me, I really enjoyed meeting all those I hadn’t met before and seeing the family I had met in 2002.
Thank you to my Dad and Mary for treating us to a beautiful time in the Netherlands, Uncle Pete and Aunt Carol for dinners and lots of beers and to our extended family for such amazing hospitality, dinners, drinks and laughter. Erin and I came into this part of the trip like two wounded birds, ragged and beat down. We were nursed back to health and were once again able to spread our wings. Fortunately, it was a short flight to London.
The slideshow is roughly 15 minutes long and I recommend putting on some nice music to enjoy it. It’s a collection of photos from Maastricht and the surrounding areas, old family photos, Amsterdam (with the gay pride parade) and our family. Enjoy!