It's been nearly a month and I still haven't written about our trip to the 2012 Tulip Time Festival. What's wrong with me? Our first order of business this year was to pick up some new wooden shoes for the kids. It had been two years since our last Tulip Time trip, and both of them had outgrown their wooden clogs. He liked the ones above, but they were a little big.
So were these ones.
He definitely didn't want shoes made by the Boring Machine.
These ones definitely weren't made by the Boring Machine.
These ones were just right, if a little boring. I promised to paint flames on them after we went downtown to watch the Klompen dancers.
My son wanted me to take his picture by this impressive statue of Albertus van Raalte:
If John Calvin was sort of the founding father of the Dutch Christian Reformed church with all his wacky ideas (a la Joseph Smith) than Albertus van Raalte was definitely its Brigham Young (without, you know, the dozens of wives). In the late 1840s it was Albertus van Raalte, led by a small number of Indian guides, who braved the wildernesses of western Michigan, departing on snowshoes from the nearest town (Allegan) to decide upon the spot where Lake Macatawa met the Black River as the site of his new Dutch settlement. Never mind the Ottawa who had been living there for centuries: this was now Holland. Without Albertus van Raalte, thousands of Dutch-American women wouldn't spend early May dancing with other each on the streets of this small Lake Michigan town, nor would thousands of Indian-American tourists travel from Chicago to take pictures with them.
Both nights we were in town, my wife and I jogged from her mother's house down to Windmill Island (which, it turns out, is a real place and not some magical world where Hervé Villechaize and Ricardo Montalbán are still alive and wearing wooden shoes while living in a giant windmill and shouting with excitement whenever someone comes to visit them, fulfilling any fantasy so long as it is a fantasy involving modestly-costumed elderly Dutch women and fudge). Camped at Windmill Island were a legion of historical reenactors, from loin-cloth clad Native Americans to French Voyageurs to British redcoats. I felt a yearning in my heart, sort of like what it must been like in the old days when the circus came to town, and I gave my wife a puppy dog look that said, "Do you think I could run away with them?"
"I know you think it would be a life of sewing buckskin pants and talking old-timey, but most of them will soon return to their day jobs as accountants and office managers for real estate companies in Battle Creek or St. Clair Shores."
"But they get to throw hatchets at things, and wear jaunty hats with feathers!"
"How is that any different from a normal week for you?"
She had me there.
* * * * *
The best part about wooden shoes is that kids who might ordinarily complain about having to walk around all day suddenly discover that walking is the most fun activity they can possibly imagine. "Let's walk up and down this hill a hundred times, okay pops?" Sure thing, man, I'm just going to sit down over here with some fatballs.
We couldn't find either of their hats from 2010, so we improvised. At first he didn't want to wear that floppy hat, but then I showed him some delft tiles with a little Dutch boy wearing a similar hat shooting guns and fishing. Then I showed him all the elderly women dressed up like little Dutch boys with the kind of hat he thought he wanted. You don't spend three years in law school without learning how to occasionally make an airtight argument.
We were only able to spend a couple days in Holland this year, and it rained a lot so we were able to partake in the truest Dutch-American experience of all: lunch at Russ' Restaurant, where I worked as a busboy during high school. I marveled at the fact you could order a $2.25 roast beef sandwich in a sit-down restaurant. Then I shuddered when the busboy cleared a neighboring table.
When we left Russ', the rain stopped, and the kids spent the rest of the afternoon spoiled out of their wits by their grandmother at the carnival, while I sat and listened to Mariachi bands and ate tongue tacos at a Dutch festival. It was almost perfect.
(Next year, when I get my wife to wear a full Dutch costume, it will be).