Friday, August 26, 2011

A Time of Blessing

We have had a most wonderful opportunity - a reunion with beloved friends from the Netherlands! Years ago, in a most blessed period of our lives, we lived in the same community on the Sunshine Coast of BC.  Sadly, both our families were compelled to leave that location due to employment and family concerns. In the late 1990's, Our Dutch friends headed back to Europe and we came east to Ontario. We saw each other for 10 short days in 1999, when our family first moved to Ontario. Hans and Jo and baby Liam visited us and we all crammed into a most dismal, upstairs, rental apartment in an old house here in town. As I recall, I had to work most of the time and was just getting over a bout of pneumonia, but we had many laughs none-the-less. We spent Thanksgiving weekend together visiting St.Jacob's and Wasaga Beach. It was wonderful, but altogether too short. 

Over the years we wrote some letters and stayed connected with periodic emails. Last Christmas, Hans mentioned that they'd like to come to Canada once again. Quick plans were made. Shortly after Christmas they called from Holland to tell us that tickets were purchased....a done deal. I had months to plan and wonder what it would be like to reunite with these precious people after 12 years. Liam was now 14 years old. Wow.

I immediately emailed a friend who owns a superb cottage in Muskoka and arranged to rent it for 5 nights. I had only visited it twice, but knew it to be a haven of rest and beauty. My husband and I talked at length about what we could do...and our friends did some research from their end - all of us wondering and dreaming of an Ontario vacation that lay months ahead in August.

And then the day was upon us. We arrived at the airport early and waited and scanned that sizable Pearson crowd for over an hour. And then the doors opened and out they came. Strangely enough, I recognized Liam first. Same dimples! And right behind him, Yo and Hans. Didn't know who to hug first. We all laughed about getting older, but truly, our friends didn't look any different to me. Same smiles, same warmth.

Over the three weeks we were together, we laughed and told stories during, I'm sure, a thousand kilometres worth of car conversation as we scouted out many of Ontario's most beautiful locales - Midland, Penetanguishene, Collingwood, Craigleith, the Cheltenham Badlands, the covered bridge in Westmontrose, Port Carling, Bracebridge, Dorset, Baysville, Huntsville. We took a few boat cruises, did lots of fishing and introduced them to our closest buddies here. We stayed at Jennie and Jim's cottage outside Parry Sound. Both of them were born in Holland, so a smattering of Dutch was spoken around the table. (Not by me....I learned a great word and excuse my spelling - foukschnout - meaning "wrinkled face." It makes me laugh in the mirror as I consider my age -  foukschnout!)

Cheltenham Badlands near Erin.
Lived within an hour of this for years and never knew it existed!

Fishing again! Outside of Huntsville...

Oh Canada!

And a Dutch bakery in Huntsville, I was introduced to Dutch Licorice Chalk, an amazing licorice covered in thin white mint. It looks like pieces of chalk. This has now become my all-time favourite candy. They also brought Strop waffles. What a cookie that is! (I am pleased to report that this can actually be purchased at some Starbucks locations. We saw some in Collingwood.) Yo and Hans made Nasi Goreng and Chicken Satays with cucumber salad - they were always great cooks. And we shared conversations over many meals in local restaurants.

We enjoyed our time at the cottage....highlight being that Hans celebrated a landmark birthday. Cake for breakfast! Hurray! It was a cool and rainy day, so we even lit the fireplace and read and relaxed until Hans took us all out for a great meal in a riverside restaurant in Huntsville. The sun came out to join us.

A highlight was to spend the day in the Niagara region as our son joined the five of us. We rode the Niagara Skywheel and toasted Han's birthday once more at Montana's restaurant where he had to don the dreaded horned hat for a birthday song.

And time again passed quickly...

This was a time of privilege for me. We love our friends. The house seemed decidedly empty the days after they left. We've poured over the hundreds of photos we took and we have dreams of meeting again much sooner...perhaps even next year in the Netherlands!

We are so grateful to the Lord for this reunion.

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