Our last day was spent revisiting a country family home we had stayed in back in 1982. I was 12, and Memphis arranged a Friendship Force exchange with Enschede to honor our longstanding partnership. The Van Heek family took us in at the last minute when our scheduled hosts got sick. They were out of town, but allowed us to stay in this lovely house for a week. It is a bit outside of town and in an utterly lovely setting of gardens and fields and patches of woods. I had forgotten how beautiful. I could happily paint there a week or more.
It was a holiday weekend, and many of the kids and grandchildren had returned to the family center, but they welcomed us in warmly, gave us coffee and homemade cakes on the terrace,and showed us around the house and land. It was special to me to be there again. The trip was the last one we took with Mom. She was in remission at the time, before her final round of cancer. Being back in those spaces we shared with her meant a lot.
And the family was so very kind to us. The two things I remember so clearly from that trip were the overwhelming hospitality of the Dutch people (we Southerners take such pride in it, but I thought the Dutch outstripped us by miles) and the fact that they ate chocolate for breakfast. I couldn't believe I hadn't grown up in such an enlightened country.
We spent the second week just across the field with Fleur, the sister of our original host. She took us in, also at the last minute, after my sister broke her ankle and we couldn't move to Amsterdam with the rest of the group. Fleur had a sod-roofed home, baby goats, a lamb to bottle feed, and a duck named Walter who waddled across the bike path from the lake for his dinner every night. Marian and I were both enchanted. Fleur very kindly let us come visit her home too, and walking in to see the big round coffee table for some reason evoked the previous trip in the strongest way. Memory is a funny thing. It was so special to be there with them and welcomed back to this lovely place. I'm very grateful for the opportunity.
I didn't have time to sketch much at all, so I'm adding a few photos as well.
Here's Fleur with me at her home. I hope to get some more of the family photos from Dad but haven't yet.
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Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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