Occasionally a birthday post-card would arrive with pictures of windmills, tulips and people in wooden clogs from some mystery aunt in a far distant country, but really, we didn’t know any more than that. I am the daughter of John (Bart) Heyning (1921) and I, along with all of his children, grew up outside of Holland and quite isolated from the Heyning family because of divorces and distance. At home we ate things that the other kids didn’t have, like hagelslag, appelstroop and different Dutch cheeses, but that really was the extent of our Dutch education!
The thing we used to find funny was that if our Dad was having a bad day, or something went wrong, he would start cursing very loudly in Dutch, which would make us all giggle. Dad thought it would be ok to swear in front of his kids in another language because he wouldn’t understand, but sadly it really meant that the only Dutch we were taught wasn’t really fit for nice company!! My Dad laughed a lot about this fact when we were older and told him all the great Dutch expressions we had learned!
My half-sister Yvonne and I got quite a surprise in 1987 when our Dad announced there was going to be a reunion in Holland and he would like us to come and offered us an airline ticket each. It was a very exciting prospect – until I got off the plane and it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t know a word of Dutch! – and even more daunting, but equally wonderful, to suddenly meet all these people with the same surname and realizing I had some cousins!! We had been used to living in parts of the world where we were the one and only unique Heyning family, so it really was strange to see that there were others out there. I remember the 2 of us sitting down later with a pen and paper trying to remember who were our aunts and uncles and who were our cousins.
Laura Heyning (1969)