This is the second night in a row that I find myself awake at this hour. Last night, I was awake from 2AM through 630AM CET. And tonight, again, here I am. There is this small window right after I wake up to make sure I fall back asleep. It feels like I have less than a minute to make that transition. Otherwise, I start actively thinking and then you see where that gets me… I would like to say that I blame it on too many cups of good Dutch coffee but that is not the cause at all. It is my own hamster wheeling brain to blame.
According to the Fitbit, yesterday was a 16K day in terms of steps. I still haven’t made it to the 25K in a day but I am working on it. Yesterday was a day of independent apartment viewing and neighborhood scoping. Today we’ll go with the person from the relocation services so it will probably be a different experience all together. I found an apartment yesterday that I could see myself living in and I put in an application. The market here moves VERY swiftly so I will need to continue to look at the other 12 on the list today and tomorrow.
I had a lot of difficulty today, searching for apartments. I kept trying to not to think about my Mom so I could focus on the task at hand but the sadness was right there, just out past the determined boundary. It wasn’t until we came back to Amstelveen that I let myself go a little and had a bit of a cry.
Things I learned today – there are some very beautiful neighborhoods here that are just too dignified for my sense of self. The first apartment was in one of them. It was beautiful but I realized that if I lived there, I would always feel like some sort of imposter. That I didn’t really belong. That sounds like a strange thing to be aware. I didn’t feel like I could just be if I lived there, rather I felt like I would always be having to justify why I chose that apartment, that neighborhood. And I couldn’t imagine my friends and family visiting there and having the kind of experience I would like them to have. After all, if you are going to send someone out in the world because you need some time to yourself, you want them to have a place to go – cafes to choose from, shops to browse, bicyclists to dodge. You want them to be able to be occupied while you work on trying to find a reason to miss them!
The second neighborhood was much more my style. It had a great blend of places I would want to frequent in my day to day life and is close enough to other parts of the city that I’d want to visit when I felt like leaving my postal code. And while there was some very shi-shi blocks, it was much more modest and more of a cross section of people who live and work in the city. The neighbors on one side were pensioners and on the other a young woman. Today’s search with the relocation person is across several different neighborhoods including the one I liked today. And it was a neighborhood that I could see my Mom getting lost in for hours as she would be finding out everyone’s life story.
I was thinking about that tonight, as Joanne and I ate more of the curried pumpkin soup and really dark Dutch bread. Why is it that Amsterdam draws me so much since my childhood experiences were in the Hague, where my mother grew up after the war. I was my mom’s tour guide in Amsterdam. The first time she ever stayed in the city was with me. And she was fascinated by it, she loved it. There’s a huge divide between Amsterdam and the Hague in the Netherlands. They are different capitals, cultural vs. governmental and have very different styles of almost everything. For my mom, Amsterdam was this unknown other than for quick trips through it on the way to the airport or with her parents. So the first time she stayed here, she stayed with me. And we had an amazing time, staying in the tiny Hotel Delphi and getting sick on sandwiches from Albert Heijn. And I do mean the kind of sick that even yesterday, as I walked past the prepared sandwich shelf in the AH, I gave a shudder. And we went to Marum, where she and Oma are both now in the churchyard. And the Van Gogh museum and everywhere on foot, ducking the bicyclists. From that first stay, Mom wanted to keep exploring Amsterdam and we went from staying in tiny hotels to renting apartments when we would come to Amsterdam. And she loved it, and she would dress up – which really meant that all of her layers of fleece would be on the inside rather than visible. I think the thing I liked most about being in Amsterdam with Mom is the sense of possibility it gave her. She would walk past all of these buildings and if there was something she liked, she would say “Oh, I could live there”. That was for sure a trademark Mom phrase, she was always excited by the dream.
And the Hague had become a city of loss for her, after my Oma and Opa and then their house was gone. I remember our last trip there very well and it was so hard for her. Amsterdam gave her a chance to start a new connection to the Netherlands that was her own, not one associated with the loss of family.
I’ll be thinking of Mom again today, especially as the relocation person tries to efficiently convince us of which apartment is the most suitable. I’ve read her comments on the ones I have submitted so I have a pretty good guess on which ones I think she will push me towards. I look forward to seeing if I am right. And in the end, I’ll be listening very hard to hear “Oh, I could live here”…