Wednesday, March 21, 2012

‘Unpacking your bags’ – still

Near the beginning of the year I wrote about ‘unpacking your bags’. The term has taken on a literal – but also deeper – meaning for me now. A month ago my father died suddenly and unexpectedly. We’ve since made two extra trips to Karaveer.

In the week of the funeral, my sister unpacked an old suitcase of Dad’s that sat under his desk. She found a photograph album – the stiff, old, black paper variety. Inside were early Dutch photos: Dad’s dignified parents, posing on their farm in their Sunday best; his siblings and friends in the early 1950s as teenagers and young adults. Mostly he featured in a football team – ‘the Teteringen boys’. Then there was his sister who married and emigrated to Canada two days later; his youngest brother Piet ordained as a priest; a cousin who led a troupe on horses performing a guard of honour.

Later we found a scrapbook he kept of 1960 – in particular a long trip back to the Netherlands (via Canada) to be at his brother’s ordination, before returning to New Zealand. A young, single man’s adventure; in the days when flights halfway round the world were still measured in days, not hours.

From my maternal grandmother’s collection, my sister pulled out a 1961 blue aerogramme written by my father’s youngest brother (he wrote the best English). Writing on behalf of the Dutch family, he said they were glad that my father ‘is engaged to a good girl’, and expressed the wish that they would visit New Zealand one day. He noted the family had become international, and that they were glad the two families would be connected. So am I.

The first words of my last post resonate in a different way now: ‘Sometimes you need to go back to go forward.’ Our family has been here 55 years now on my father’s side, and much more on my Mum’s. But there’s still a lot of unpacking to do.

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