The Slow-Cooked Sentence


Rachael Conlin Levy
Photo courtesy of Travels in Italy.

One of the things that first enchanted me about my husband was his foreignness. When I met him he was a wild-haired art major who had transferred to a university filled with tobacco-chewing cowboys. While dating we shared a joint filled with sweat-soaked marijuana that he had hidden in his shoe on a return flight from Amsterdam. And when we married he taught me how to say “I love you” in throat-scraping Dutch.

Our only daughter embodies not just our love for each other, but also our love of Holland, where she was conceived. We fill her with stories of a past she can’t remember: How as a tiny seed inside of me, she made me so sick I puked into the Prinsengracht. How she grew and I became so heavy and awkward that I fell off the back of a bike while riding sidesaddle.

And although we live a world away from Amsterdam now, we help her create her own Dutch moments. Sometimes they are planned, like tonight’s coming of Sinterklaas. Other’s are serendipitous, split second shifts in reality and suddenly The Netherlands is in Nevada. Below my husband tells of one moment this morning when his daughter — with eyes the color of the North Sea and hair as warm as a rare puddle of Dutch sunshine — overslept.

I was going to walk her to school because she had an early choir practice at 8 a.m. I look at the clock at 7:25 and realize I haven’t seen her around downstairs. I go up and sure enough she’s still out cold. So I wake her up and she rushes through breakfast and chores. But it’s two minutes to eight by the time we get going. She gets mad when she realizes I’m taking my bike (which usually means a 10-minute walk to school), because she was hoping we’d take the car so she wouldn’t be too late. So I say, “C’mon, hop on,” and get on my bike. She’s hesitant at first, but she sits sidesaddle on the rack and we make it to school in record time.

Ik voelde me weer echt Hollands. Een leuk moment.

This time, my husband reassured me, she didn’t fall off.

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