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The Martin Family

Stumbling Through the Tulips describes a family coping with the challenge, thrill, excitement (and frustration) of setting up a home in The Hague. The Martin Family, experienced in the pitfalls of relocation, was ready for new assignment. In Europe, we learned that the continent was ready for us.

We discovered different approaches to everyday tasks (calendars, for example, that depict the weeks vertically). We learned a new language, were bewildered by a government bureaucracy that has been creating forms and procedures since the middle ages. We observed European queue courtesy and Dutch swimming attire. We mastered the trains, trams, buses and taxies.

Mostly, however, we learned about ourselves and how we cope with transition. Since this is, indeed, the family story, you should know The Martin Family Players. I asked each of them for three self-descriptive adjectives. They all came up with essentially the same words: brilliant, pretty and capable. (My son substituted handsome for pretty.) I shouldn’t make light of this result. I filled out the same form myself. I cheated. I used their words, but added ‘modest’.

Melika: Nine years old. Smart, pretty and capable. Also feisty, dependable, meticulous and ingenious. She feels responsible for her older brother; he complains that ‘Melika acts like she’s older than me’. Melika was the champion letter writer while I was in Holland and the rest of the family was in New England. (And, Melika? I love you SOOOO much too.)

Darius: Eleven years old, smart, handsome and clever. An expert in anything complex. (Want to know the capitol of Morocco in the 10th century? How about how to use fat laser bits on the Macintosh computer? Or the family tree of all 5,230,123 Greek gods? Darius knows.) Simple things (Are both socks the same colour?) are more of a problem. He’s an expert at making friends - everybody knows Darius.

Mitra: 14 years old. Brilliant, pretty and capable. Mitra is always happy - living in Europe is so exciting. Sailing on a canal is so wonderful. Seeing Dutch windmills is such a thrill. Taking out the garbage - well there are limits to her joy. Mitra delights in outrageously brilliant colours. Mitra can do anything, with the possible exception of long-distance running and edible cooking. She’s a great student, a caring sibling, and an expert at housework avoidance.

Nazy: Smart, pretty, capable, friendly and caring. This family had lived in five cities in just eight years. Nazy coordinated the relocations and kept family spirits high. She instantly makes friends: quickly converting the new house into a home. Health conscious (other children may get peanut butter and coca cola for lunch - ours get yogurt, fruit, carrots, nuts and an ‘I love you note’). The consummate shopper, Nazy knows where to get anything.

Dan: That’s me. Smart, handsome, capable (and modest). Why argue with the collective family wisdom?