Last week, just two days after stepping out of a plane, Dane and I stepped into a car for a quick trip home. To Holland. The Netherlands. My dad’s oldest sister was turning 90. Just Dane and I were able to go. Jet lag be damned, we needed to represent the American Dutch.

We were blessed with a gorgeous sunny day. An easy drive. I drove with extra joy not just because we were heading to a celebration, but because I had missed the familiar roads and sights. America is beautiful but this part of Europe is home. I was so happy to be home.

I stopped at the local florist to pick up a big, colorful, bouquet for tante Annie. It was from me, my dad and sisters so my budget was rather large. That largesse earned me a free cappuccino. After 4+ hours of driving, my time-zone confused body double-y happily accepted the coffee. Later I learned I was the first person to be offered a free cappuccino, much to the consternation of my cousins.

Dane and I grabbed our bouquet, almost as big as Dane, and headed to the luncheon. By then we were 2 hours late, but that had been unavoidable. Our morning had been filled by a long-awaited doctors appointment in Landstuhl.

We arrived to a room full of family, tante Annie front and center beaming with happiness, just in time for a fabulous dessert. A Snow White. An amazing fluffy white pudding topped with a sour cherry sauce. In between bites we happily caught up with family, while I showed off pictures of baby Declan.

As the luncheon wound to a close, people slowly made their way to the terrace just outside. The late summer sun was bright and warm. No one was ready to call it a day and head home…or back to work.

Finally, as it started to get chilly later in the afternoon we headed to my cousin’s bakery for birthday cake. I know I just had a dessert already, but Dutch birthday cake is really the best birthday cake on the planet. It is the real reason I made the drive. Don’t tell tante Annie!

Even after all these years I am still amazed at the incredible difference between German (no sugar), American (too much sugar) and Dutch (perfection) cakes. Tante Annie had a mocha cake for dessert, my mouth is drooling all over again just thinking about it. It’s just that good.

I ate my fill of my favorite cake, and several more cappuccinos to keep my weary head awake. Dane gave up the battle, even after a coffee of his own. After two bites of cake his body demanded sleep and I put him down for a nap on my cousins couch.

I chatted with my aunts and cousins, revelling in the joy of not just being with my people but also speaking my mother tongue. But. Like all good things, this too came to an end. Leny and I loaded her car with flowers, while her son Marco and his husband Rainer loaded Tante Annie and her husband Giel into their car. Together we made a mini caravan through town to bring them home.

While Rainer and I cut & vased the abundance of bouquets, tante Annie tried to keep the party going. She turned up the music, offered drinks, tried to send us for take away, I am slightly surprised she didn’t suggest we all go clubbing.

I can only hope that when I reach 90 I am as filled with life as tante Annie.

Tante Annie and oom Giel

My dad’s sisters: tante Marga en tante Annie and his sister-in-law my tante Rietje in the middle

Tante Annie, me and oom Giel

Tante Annie, Dane and oom Giel

Tante Annie and the fabulous mocha cake