Visiting Michigan I: Home Sweet Holland

As promised, Mrs Missouri and I went on a week long trip to Michigan (we may have promised ourselves more than you guys). Because we saw basically the whole state minus Detroit, I’d like to cut this trip up in five chapters, each dedicated to a destination in the Mitten State. The first of these chapters is Holland.

Yes, Holland. The best-known name for my home country (the Prince to your TAFKAP, if you will) is a town in Michigan. Big town. Small city. It was founded by Dutch immigrants who brought their wooden shoes, their tulips and their fascinating last names. It was alienating to be in a place where all the mailboxes read like a Dutch street in the 1800’s. There’s a Dutch village, which we didn’t visit, and a windmill, which we did visit. At the foot of the windmill, I found a version of my heritage that I didn’t know existed. First, there was a dance with wooden shoes that I didn’t recognize nor understand, and then the traditional Dutch clothing was explained to me. I had never heard of the wardrobe wizardry that went into old fashioned Dutch clothing, but I feel really sorry for the generations that walked around in them, desperately clinging to a version of being Dutch that was as foreign to the Dutch as the pronunciation of their last name.

I could see why someone would settle Holland where Holland is. The flat land covered by a cloudy sky, the threat of rain hanging even in the clearest sky, and when you squint your eyes a little bit and look in the right direction, there is no real difference between the Holland landscape and the Holland, MI landscape.

This could be a fun quiz: what Holland is pictured here?

This could be a fun quiz: what Holland is pictured here?

After staying in Holland for two days, we went up north, but visited Grand Rapids on the way over. Even though Grand Rapids has the allure of a bigger city, it is easy to have it confused with similar cities, such as Big Rapids, Small Rapids, Tiny Rapids, Mediocre Rapids, and Disappointing Rapids. Grand Rapids has a special place in my life, because I used to live there as a one year old. I don’t specifically remember being there as a kid, but the evidence of pictures was special enough, especially when driving by. I couldn’t resist going to that same place and actually walking where I drove around on my big wheel twenty five years earlier.

1988, I am the blondie on the big wheel.

1988, I am the blondie on the big wheel.

2014, I am the one taking the picture

2014, I am the one taking the picture

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6 thoughts on “Visiting Michigan I: Home Sweet Holland

  1. Grand Rapids is also Beer City, USA. I hope you didn’t miss out on this fact. Grand Rapids is also where most of my teachers at my Christian Reformed School were from when I was growing up.

    On the other topic–I’ve been thinking about the US’s older European immigrant communities, because for some reason I was remembering my Swedish Christmases growing up and then actually celebrating Christmas in Sweden. There really weren’t that many similarities . . . but there was something similar in the spirit or personality of the celebrations. There also seem to be some differences between my family’s Swedish traditions and those of the many Swedish-background people in my church. I don’t know if that has to do with different regions of Sweden, different regions of the US, or different arrival periods for our ancestors. Furthermore, apparently people in Ireland don’t know what corned beef hash is, but it’s an Irish American staple. So I feel like there must be some things that are generally inherent to the parent culture, but which morph in contact with the new one yet somehow still get transmitted as authentic to the parent one. Does that make sense? And . . . what do you think?

  2. Pingback: Visiting Michigan II: Petoskey, Petowsky | visitingmissouri

  3. My dear bride has wanted to bring me to Holland ever since I moved into the state! We haven’t had the chance yet, though we do think about it, especially when going to Michigan’s Adventure or when we get into Grand Rapids for their pinball events.

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