Our Holland Home

EDITOR'S NOTE:  It is April 11, 2016, at 10:27 am, and I am happily ensconced at my favorite table, in my favorite bookstore, with the gift of two kid-free hours to write THIS POST.  This piece has been tough to write, in the best possible way, since my heart is so filled with love and gratitude for the people in it, and I am certain that my words will not do them justice.  Moreover, by the time I reached these dear folks after our journey, I relaxed completely.  I was in MY Michigan.  I was HOME.   Home means REST, and REST means no writing, apparently for EIGHT WHOLE MONTHS.  (Timeliness is not by strongest asset).  My deepest apologies to our Holland family for the late post.  The lateness of the post does not reflect the posture of our hearts.  We love you so. 

**************************************************

THE BEGINNING

It is the summer of 1996, and two very young marrieds arrive in a U-Haul filled with hand-me-down furniture to their first home, a crisp, white Cape Cod with black shutters.  They were confident that they were fully prepared to tackle all of the FIRSTS:  jobs, home ownership, dog, marriage, and all the ADULT THINGS. 

These crazy kids left their families and friends in the East, not unlike the pioneers of yesteryear (wink), to strike out on their own and forge a life together.  But with what proved to be wisdom that belied their years, they chose to reside in Holland, Michigan, the land of tulips, wooden shoes, freezing winters, beautiful beaches, and Uncle Jeff and Aunt Joyce. 

  The guy in the middle?  Our realtor, whose catchphrase was "Oh, my achin' BACK!"  Also, where are Jeff's shoes??

The guy in the middle?  Our realtor, whose catchphrase was "Oh, my achin' BACK!"  Also, where are Jeff's shoes??

 Two "adults" signing their first contract on their first house.  What in the WORLD??

Two "adults" signing their first contract on their first house.  What in the WORLD??

Jason and I lived in Holland for three very formative years.  These were the years of frozen ravioli, frozen pizza, and frozen corn.  We were broke, young, lonely, and learning.  Everything felt big and difficult and NEW.  But, we had each other, and we had the occasional dinner (Hallelujah!  Something hot and fresh and actually cooked!) or post-church China Garden with Uncle Jeff, Aunt Joyce, and their three great kids.  We skied and tubed with them on Lake Macatawa.  (Some of *we* may or may not have chipped her tooth whilst tubing.  Nothing like dealing with a snaggletoothed niece-in-law).  We just loved our time being around the REAL GROWNUPS, because surely, WE WERE NOT.  We loved their kids and learned so much by watching how they were parented.  (We still live by the Jeff Pett family "one sport a season" rule).  Their presence in our lives was renewing and encouraging.  They SHOWED UP.  Sometimes as themselves.  Sometimes as leaf removal fairies.  Our neighbors, our sorely neglected yard, and our pitiful little selves, exhausted from all of the ADULTING, were very grateful. They loved us well.  Still do. 

After our time in Holland came to an end and we returned East, we made it a point to come and visit west Michigan each summer.  Jason's roots ran deep there, we had made dear friends, and we loved our yearly check in with the Jeff Pett family.  Not to mention, Jason had the NEED TO SKI.

Then, our boys started to arrive, and the doors to Jeff and Joyce's house remained open.  They embraced our growing family with laughter, love, and lots of adventure, despite the fact that our arrival always feels, at least to me, like the circus coming to town.  Our time with them each summer is one of the highlights of every year, and this year was no exception. 

 We arrive!

We arrive!

Hugs first.  Then immediate arm wrestling.

He's nearly got him!

 Carter cannot even BELIEVE it. 

Carter cannot even BELIEVE it. 

BEHOLD!  WHAT IS THIS ON THE COUNTER? 

Get in my belly.

 Every Tuesday, after my teaching day, Gram Pett and I would share tea and windmill cookies.

Every Tuesday, after my teaching day, Gram Pett and I would share tea and windmill cookies.

Meet Glow Worm. 

Glow Worm was a candy-smuggling receptacle back from when Jeff and Joyce's (ingenious) son Kyle went to sleep away camp.  Now, it waits for young visitors at Jeff and Joyce's house.  Sans candy, much to their chagrin.  This year, it was Carter's turn to sleep with Glow Worm.

Carter and Landon gravitate toward the upstairs rec room. . . as do Owen and Joyce. 

Then, it's time to take to the water.

 Spencer.  Looks just like his papa.  BUT WITHOUT ALL THE UNSIGHTLY FACIAL HAIR.

Spencer.  Looks just like his papa.  BUT WITHOUT ALL THE UNSIGHTLY FACIAL HAIR.

 Owen, getting some air.  ALSO just like his papa. 

Owen, getting some air.  ALSO just like his papa. 

These littles could do this for DAYS.  Luckily for us, we have some DAYS to spend boating and playing and laughing together. And we will.  But what makes this such a renewing, restorative time for our family isn't the water, or the boating, or the beautiful Michigan beaches. 

IT'S THE PEOPLE.

We enjoy alfresco dinners, storytelling, laughing, boat rides, hiking dunes, lazy beach afternoons, water play, and just being easy together.  And a BONUS AUNT AND UNCLE swept into town FROM PRAGUE while we were there, and all of Jeff and Joyce's kids and grandkids were so sweet to come and see us while we visited.  It was a complete joy to connect with them, these interesting, smart, loving, and HILARIOUS (I'm looking at YOU, Kyle!) people. 

 Look!  It's me!  With the OJP! (for the uninitiated, that's the ORIGINAL JENNIFER PETT).

Look!  It's me!  With the OJP! (for the uninitiated, that's the ORIGINAL JENNIFER PETT).

And then.  The moment we'd all been waiting for. . .

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow! 

I got MY MAN BACK!

Then it was time to move on to our final Michigan stop, the amazingly restorative Grand Haven.  More arm wrestling ensued while we packed the car. . .

...and we dined together one last time at the best restaurant on the face of the planet. . .

PIZZA RANCH.

If you don't know how wonderful, delightful, and delicious Pizza Ranch is, and how heartbroken I am that there is not one in Maryland, well, I can't help you understand. 

With full bellies and very happy hearts, we said our goodbyes and headed north to Grand Haven. 

Holland. . . we can't wait until next summer. 

 Photo credit:  http://lighthouse-news.com/2008/06/20/holland-harbor-lighthouse-has-new-owners/

Photo credit:  http://lighthouse-news.com/2008/06/20/holland-harbor-lighthouse-has-new-owners/