Fly Away Home
A memoir about the ups and downs in life and the back and forth travels of a multicultural family.

GOING DuTCH

This is a preview to the chapter GOING DuTCH from the book Fly Away Home by Maggie Myklebust.
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Two months before we were due to leave Houston and, I thought, return to Norway, Harry came home and dropped an unwanted surprise.

“It’s official. We’re moving to the Netherlands and we’ll be living there for the next three years!” he announced, but with a twinge of worry in his voice. It seemed the oil platform, whose design he’d worked on in Houston would now be constructed in the Netherlands of all places. I was not happy.

“I don’t want to live in the Netherlands, or Holland, or what ever it’s called!” I retaliated, knowing that in the end I’d follow my husband anywhere.

The reason I didn’t want to go was simple, I was scared of the unknown. It had been easy to move to Houston, that was America. In my effort to escape Tony I hadn’t put much thought into moving to Norway. The only thought I had back then was being closer to Harry. Now I was expected to uproot Brian again and move to a country I knew nothing about.

We had visited Amsterdam once, years ago with my parents. My father loved Norway and it was the only place he had ever wanted to go. My mother was less than enthusiastic. She would have rather traveled to new places instead of always going to Norway. I took pity on her and surprised them with a weekend in Amsterdam while they were visiting us in Norway. With the airline tickets and hotel already booked my father didn’t dare protest. And I’m not sure which excited my mother more, the trip to Amsterdam, or thinking we pulled one over on my father.

The slender old merchant houses lined up on cobblestone roads, alongside narrow canals made the city charmingly unique. We visited the Anne Frank house, the Van Gogh Museum and shopped for Delft blue ceramics. Being true American tourists we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe and in spite of the bone-chilling weather we had a great time. Harry rewarded my father for being such a good sport with a trip to the Red Light District. My mother and I opted for a cup of hot tea and some delicious Dutch pastries back at our warm hotel instead. Although I have only fond memories of that trip I couldn’t quite see myself living there.

With only two month’s notice between leaving Houston and moving to the Netherlands there was little time for pouting. We had to fly over immediately, find a place to live and a school for the boys. Harry’s company again found a relocation firm to help. There were two international schools, one in Rotterdam and the other in The Hague. There was The American School of The Hague a little further north in Wassenaar, and The British School of the Netherlands close by in Voorschoten. I called the International schools first as they were closest to where Harry was going to work. After explaining Brian’s situation I was politely told neither of them took autistic students. I contacted The American School next and could tell they were skeptical about Brian. However, they agreed to meet with us and asked me to send a copy of both his and Alexander’s transcripts, along with a picture and a writing sample. I really wanted them to go to The American School, but for good measure I set up an appointment to see the British school as well.

We spent one week in the Netherlands and coming from the already staggering heat of Houston in June, we shivered our way through the visit. First we met with the people at The American School and were disappointingly told that they didn’t think they had the proper resources to take Brian but would happily take Alexander. I didn’t feel as if we were off to a good start. Three schools had rejected Brian, the weather was cold and I couldn’t imagine living in any of the houses we’d looked at so far. Far from the wide-open space of Texas everything here felt small, tight and crowded. The houses were all tall, narrow and sandwiched between one another on all sides, parking was in the street and the gardens were no more than a tiny patch of earth. All the places we looked at were old, had three floors with steep, dark stairways and miniature kitchens. The strangest thing was the toilet, which was always in a room by itself while the sink and shower were in another room. To top it off, the real estate broker assigned to helping us find a house was a stern and crotchety woman, who on our very first introduction informed me that American women were spoiled. Harry was quick to remind me of all the good signs we got when visiting Houston for the first time and still things went wrong, maybe this time all the bad signs would bring us luck and so they did.

On the third day of our visit we went to the appointment I’d frivolously made with The British School. After a successful meeting the door to the Netherlands finally began to creak open. As we left the school in Voorschoten and headed back towards Wassenaar for another house viewing, I could feel my mood had lifted. Both Harry and I felt assured that Brian’s complex learning needs would be properly met at the BSN. There would be additional costs connected with the provision of a Learning Support Assistant, but Harry’s company would see to that. We decided to send Alexander to the BSN as well, that way they would both be in the same school and have the same holiday breaks.

No more than ten minutes after we left the school Brian remarked on a row of buildings up ahead in the distance.

“Are those houses or churches?” he asked.
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"Maggie is living the American dream until it becomes a nightmare. She escapes and returns to her Norwegian roots, where..."

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