By Belinda (emerging from a busy week and back to continue the story!)
The plane circled over the Pacific on its approach to Vancouver airport. The islands off the coast of British Columbia, the blues and greens of the ocean, took my breath away with their beauty.
Mum and I had passed the time on the plane journey, in the past, tracing the forming of friendships almost 60 years ago, one of which had brought us to this place, here and now. I wrote down every detail. The friend who wrote letters to her fiance in Holland, while hidden behind the curtains of the stage of the lecture hall in the hospital they worked in, would be known to me as Tante Mies, tall, elegant and beautiful. Her fiancee would one day be our beloved "Ome Bart," with brown eyes always twinkling with mischief, a playful smile ever ready at the corner of his lips. They were as loved by us as our blood relatives.
We were about to enter a sub-culture of British Columbia; the flourishing Dutch community of the Vancouver area, for the wedding of Tante Mies's great niece, Birgit de Jong.
Mum was no longer the girl who came to England still wearing ankle socks, full of fun and life. That was who she was when she met Tante Mies in 1949, at 23. She was now 77 and frail. Her life had been hard and had taken its toll on her health, but not her humour or bright spirit. I treasured every moment spent with her.
At the airport I picked up our rental dark gray,Toyota Corolla, and followed the directions on my map, to our first stop, the large, beautiful home in Langley, on the United States border, where my dear friend Ingrid, and her husband Arthur, live.
We entered the pre-wedding excitement at the house, which was filled with other family gathered from Alberta, Holland and Australia. The house buzzed with the electricity of anticipation. Glasses of wine; tapas (those delicious finger foods in the Spanish style;) and animated conversation and laughter in Dutch brought back the happiest memories of my childhood. It felt as though we had landed in heaven!
Mum and I had just enough time to get changed and get ready for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner at a restaurant that evening.
Ingrid had arranged for us to stay with Dutch friends of theirs, Ank and Cors de Lint, in their guest house. We would be meeting them that evening at the rehearsal dinner.
To be continued...