Today my beautiful Oma, Oma Door, Theodora, Doortje, and one time spur-of-the-moment “Thea”, would’ve been 102 (A Final Goodbye; Goodbye Oma; My Oma; Favorite Photo; Met Oma; My Oma, My Hero). I was lucky enough to be the oldest grandchild. Lucky enough to have her in my life from 0-to-48. Every day she is with me. I feel her in my bones as I walk. I feel her eyes as part of my face as I look at the world. I see her hands when I cook. I feel her love & compassion, especially around her birthday and the holidays, as I search for people whose day I can brighten.  My Oma, as much as my parents, shaped the person I am now.

I am not sure why I spent so much time with my Oma. I’ve never asked my mom, I’ve always been grateful I did get to spend so much time with her. Just me. Before my sisters or cousins arrived, even after they arrived there were still weeks & weekends I had her all to myself. I wish I could share those wonderful, quiet, happy moments with my children.

I loved walking into her house. I can close my eyes, even now, and smell the old wood, heavy curtains, that clean, Dutch, bathroom smell, the scent of her cooking, her eau de toilette, all mingled together, welcoming me. The hallway was always cold, no sense wasting heat on a place that opened to a door that frequently let in huge hordes of people. The living room filled with smoke, back in the 60’s and 70’s everyone smoked. The kitchen, tiny but incredibly cozy, homey, always clean, tidy with something on the stove and cassis (my favorite soda) tucked behind the door.

She was rarely alone when I arrived, Opa was there, if not at work, aunts, uncles, later cousins too, anxiously awaiting to see me and my parents because we lived so far away. I now know it was only an hour, but back then we lived in the “rimboe” (or as Americans say, Timbuktu). Little did they know then, we’d really move to the Rimboe… or California in a few short years.

I always explored her house, looking for new plants, pots, doilies, vases. I loved climbing the incredibly steep stairs, with an amazing thick rope for balustrade, to sneak into her room and touch all her jewels. She had a gorgeous collection of Austrian crystal beads that sparkled even without sun. I loved sitting at her vanity table, in her bedroom, and trying on all the beads. Even the clip-on earrings that would pinch & hurt hours after I finally took them off.

I hated going to the bathroom or taking a shower. Both bathrooms were always cold, I’m sure they were warm in summer, but all I remember is the icy cold of winter. I hated sitting down on a toilet seat made of ice. I hated undressing to stand under a barely-there weak shower stream, shivering as I washed as quick as I could.  Only later, in my twenties, did I realize what a blessing that horrible shower was for my Oma. Only later did I learn how she used to boil water for a bath, once a week, for her, Opa, and all seven of her children. I feel guilt to this day about my whining about that cold shower. That immense luxury she was so proud of.

I miss my Oma so much. She loved me. She loved me with all her heart. Unconditionally, faults and all. I want nothing more than to hold her one last time. To hug her, kiss her, share my cassis with her, even if in later years she licked the bottle rather than drink from it. I want those piercing, light, bright, blue eyes looking into mine. Seeing me. Knowing me. Loving me.

Happy 102nd birthday Oma! You are here. You are in my heart.


Me, Opa en Oma Christmas 1967


Oma’s 100th birthday, two years ago with her daughters, sister, brother & the mayor (and my cousin).


Me & my cousins at Oma’s 100th birthday. None of us are normal. None.


Some of Oma’s great-children at her funeral, including my Tess & Dane.