We went to Tulip Time the other night and it was everything.  I hadn’t been since I was a little kid in my (adorable) Dutch costume sweeping the street and step-tap-brushing with Grandma.  We drive down the tulip-lined boulevards and point out our favorite colors. We find Calvin colored tulips (they don’t come in blue and orange, sorry Hope!), beautiful pink-purple ones, classic reds, dark dark purples that look almost black and funereal against yellows and whites.  Some grow so tall they almost fall over, and some stay stubby near the ground.  We laugh at the solitary pink mixed in with a bed of whites. Someone put a bulb in the wrong bag for winter storage.

We drive past a carnival and tease Mom about our one amusement park experience as a family. Let’s just say it didn’t go well.  Fried dough scents the air and carnival games send their ding dings out across Lake Macatawa.  We pull U-turns at the end of the boulevards and drive back down the other side, stopping to snap photos out the window. Mom grew up here, but we’re not ashamed to tourist anyway. Hollanders are used to it come May.

We wander toward the park and stand on tip toe and tree root to see the Kinderdance.  Little ones in their costumes and tiny shoes turn in circles and do hand clap patterns with their partners across the circle.  Their performance lasts about 180 seconds, at which point the announcer says they will treat us with a second performance, if the audience in front would please step back and give others a front row view.  Which they do, of course, because the Midwest.

The grown ups dance in twenty minutes on the ring road around the park, so we go find a patch of curb to claim.  Dad, always practical, rejects our first choice because the curb is dirty and sandy and will leave unfortunate marks on our bottoms. We cross the street and plop down. Sitting on the curb squishes your knees up to your chest like a little kid. I think that’s the point—to induce nostalgia. The lady next to us is from Austin, and we strike up a conversation with her, because the Midwest. Mom and Dad are thinking of visiting Austin! What a coincidence. They exchange notes.

Crowds are gathering on the curbs now, and dancers in costume start to congregate in the street.  Their costumes are so familiar: from my memory and from those odd faux-memories you get from looking at the same family photos over and over again.  Mom knows all the names of the costumes, which I didn’t know existed until now. Middleburg, Friesland, Isle of Marken, Urk—each design represents a different region of The Netherlands.  Hannah and I try to spot the designs we wore as kids.

The dancers separate into groups of eight and begin the dance. There’s nothing quite like the sound of hundreds of wooden shoes clomping along the asphalt in rhythm. Or the semblance of rhythm.  Music echoes from the park about a hundred yards away, and the reverberation and delay make it hard for the wood-shod dancers to keep up. Mom spent her high school years dancing, and she starts humming along with the soundtrack.  “Here comes a fun part!” she says, grinning.  We clap for the windmill move.

Dancing is followed by a stroll through downtown, and then we end up at New Holland Brewery, because the Midwest.  They’re serving their take on Balkenbrij and the traditional Dutch combo of asparagus, ham, and egg.  We get the asparagus because spring is finally here, and we supplement with chicken wings and spinach artichoke spread. No need for plates here—we all eat with our fingers straight from the serving plate, because family.

Abby Zwart

Abby Zwart

Class of 2013 at
Abby Zwart teaches high school English in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She spends her free time making lists of books she should read, cooking, and managing the post calvin.
Abby Zwart

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