Twirls and Tales

Adrianna Verduin Vanderberg


This week I’ve discovered just how resourceful children can be.  Toys and familiar items to the girls were some of the main things we decided to ship, but even so, in our larger house the collection seems pitifully small to me.  To my daughters, however, every day has been spent re-acquainting themselves with familiar playthings– and big empty spaces are just perfect for running and rolling around.

One particular morning B, rummaging through cupboards and boxes, managed to unearth the few US-region DVDs which we were able to keep.  I was touched by her selection to watch: the Charlie Brown holiday collection, and Disney’s Fantasia.  So in between exploring and discovering, I’ve watched her learn about the first Thanksgiving and cheer when Spring returns in Stravinsky’s Firebird.  And suddenly, our house feels like home to me.

Listening to the Thanksgiving story got me thinking about the first settlers.  When the storms hit during their crossing and they considered turning back, what thoughts must have been on the Captain’s mind?  And when winter came and two-thirds of the group died (but none of the 30 children- amazing what you can learn from Charlie Brown!*)– what questions were the people asking themselves?  And how on earth did they decide what they should do next?

This made me reflect on another more personal story.  Like most Americans, my family can trace its roots back as far as its journey to America.  According to family legend, my great-great grandparents came to the US from Holland.  Their route took them through Liverpool where an unexpected twist happened- my great-grandfather, then an infant, was kidnapped.  Thankfully they managed to find him, but by the time they did most of their savings had been spent.  The immediate work they took up on arrival and the location they settled were a direct consequence.  I have never, before now, thought to ask- what was their original plan?  And how, when faced with the possibility of losing their child AND losing all their money, did they put one foot in front of the other?

I’m incredibly grateful that I’m not on a ship in the Atlantic in the middle of a storm.  And I’m not desperately searching for my child in nineteenth-century Liverpool.  It makes my problems seem pretty darn small.  But this journey we’re on has helped me to truly hear these stories- and they give me a little bit of confidence.  We are daily finding ourselves making some big decisions.  Some of them have effect on our children.  Some have effect on our finances.  As time passes and the visa still hasn’t been completed (thus effecting our ability to earn an income), we are watching some of our goals drift further and further away.  What do we sacrifice in order to keep moving towards our goals?  Then again, what goals do we need to let go of for our own good?

The ‘right’ answers are not always clear, are they?  I’m guessing they weren’t for the Pilgrims either.  But something in my family’s story gives me heart: the complete absence of bitterness when our stories are told.  I’m sure it must have been hard.  At some point, someone must have felt frustration or regret over how things turned out, or how they were supposed to be.  But that’s not the bit that gets remembered.  My relatives speak with pride about where grandparents and great-aunts and uncles came from, how they lived, and what they’ve accomplished.  I guess, in the end, they made the best decisions they could– and rejoiced in the good things along the way.

I guess if I can pass that story on to my children- the one where we celebrate the things we create, accomplish and share together- then we’ve done at least something right.  So for now, we’re twirling to Stravinsky.  Not too shabby, I think.

*This post has definitely not been fact checked.  I don’t have the time or the bandwidth.  Feel free to google as you see fit.

**You probably also noticed that’s not my great-grandfather in the picture.  That’s his wife- the closest I could get in photo form.  Still, another happy consequence of the story.


3 thoughts on “Twirls and Tales

  1. What a great post! I enjoy hearing other peoples stories, I can’t imagine what your family went through to find their child, an amazing story, thank you for sharing.

    • My Monday awesome – your Sunday post! I really do think that the reflection and thankfulness of Thanksgiving is something I want to take up!
      Hurray for knowing your genealogy!

  2. I love reading your posts Rachel. The way you write is very relaxing – grace over the Atlantic :-) Our B has done a little on his family tree, however unlike you, we don’t get much further than the Victorians. My mum is our only source of information now, and she was never one for sitting down and listening to her granddad’s stories; my mum is very much the ‘doer’. So, there’s a lesson: sit down and listen while we can before family memories and stories get absorbed into silent history. We’re on it! Thank you xx

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