Forty-eight years ago today I left my parents home in the Netherlands. An opportunity had come for me to emigrate to Canada. I knew very little about Canada, about its history, about its culture, but I took the chance for the adventure of it.
My parents took me to Schiphol airport with my mother visibly upset. My father, on the other hand, breathed a sigh of relief. World War II had produced a ten year gap between my two older sisters and my brother and me. It had been thirty years since my eldest sister was born, and the day marked the departure of his last child.
The Dutch government paid for my airfare and included $40 arrival money. This was part of a program initiated after World War II to encourage emigration from the over-populated and war-torn country. The purpose was to encourage emigres to stay away and to settle abroad. If one returned within two years, the Dutch government sought reimbursement. My parents signed a notarized letter taking full responsibility for my financial affairs and no other sponsorship was required. I arrived at Toronto's Malton Airport just after my eighteenth birthday, with $70 and a suitcase filled with courage.
While returning home from the airport, my father bought my mother a large Delft blue lidded vase as my replacement. It was a common Japanese-influenced design from the time when the Dutch were the only nation that traded with Japan. My parents are no longer alive, but the vase which stood on their sideboard for many years eventually made its way to Canada as well.
On the top shelf in our loft in Vancouver sits the Delft Blue Vase. I occasionally look up at it as a reminder of my heritage and of the day my parents wished me farewell.