This place is lousy with Dutch people. Everywhere you look there are names like Van der Meer, Haan and – my personal favorite – Hoendervanger. That last one cracks me up to no end. It’s like something the Swedelock and I would make up to be absurd. Like the Irish bar we want to open called O’Shenanigans. (There is actually a place here called Malarky’s. Which blows “O’Shenanigans” out of the water. But I digress.)
I knew three things about the Dutch before moving here:
- They are a freakishly tall people,
- They eat mayonnaise on their fries,
- Their expression “Dutch treat” means we will go halfsies on dinner.
I never thought about that last one being derogatory until I heard the following joke:
Question: “How was copper wire invented?”
Answer: “Two Dutchmen arguing over a penny.”
Oh, I get it! They’re CHEAP. And this is where my husband has come to fundraise?
Yet in this oh-so Dutch city is some of the smartest philanthropic work I’ve ever seen. Philanthropy was my business until my recent promotion to Boss at Stay at Home Mom; I know whereof I speak. There’s something truly special happening to this place that was dying a mere 15 to 20 years ago. People my own age grew up calling it “Bland Rapids,” and now they’re so excited about their city that you’d think we were in Seattle in the late ’90s. Or Prague. Eye roll.
But it is pretty exciting being here. Like starting an experimental theatre company right out of undergrad! Innovative public-private partnerships bolster the community. We walk to the newer organic market around the corner. And the yoga studio. And the salon. And the food pantry. And the soup kitchen. And the Goodwill. And the soon-to-be year-round food market. You get the idea.
I’ll be curious to see how this Dutchness affects our friendships. The Swedelock and I both have an aversion to stinginess. Or, rather, we have the same definition of stingy. We love treating friends to drinks, movie tickets, shoulders to lean on, moving day furniture-lifting. We also love being treated. We don’t keep track of dollars or time exchanged, but will will start to notice if the flow only goes in one direction. So, for now, Grand Rapids, it’s our treat. But some day you better buy us a damn cup of coffee, or we’ll pay for our half of the bill and head home.