I simply didn’t pay attention. All those years with Mom and Dad (who BOTH loved to reminisce although Dad said very little about his grandparents). You know how it happens. Visiting your parents with small children. The littles are occupied when your mom or dad says something about when they were young. Or a story about their parents as youngsters that was passed on decades ago. You listen, nod, maybe even ask a question or 2, but then a fight erupts and you scoot to make peace among the kids.
But what about all the years following the visits with small children? I drove or flew to Rock Valley for years by myself to stay and help Mom and Dad. And we talked a lot. Yet very few of those old family stories are written down or stuck in my memory bank. Something I’m very sorry about now-when it’s far too late to glean parts of my Dutch heritage from my folks.
I have much more material embedded from my mom’s paternal side which is odd. Don’t want to say Mom was exactly estranged from her father but for many years they weren’t close-at all. Mom’s dad, Gerrit (nicknamed Lakey) was 10 years older than his beautiful bride in 1924. Lakey was the big prize winner in that marriage at least in his eyes. Coba was gorgeous, educated and loved him. She became pregnant in the spring of ’26 and gave birth to my mom, Florence and her twin brother, Floyd in December. Coba died 2 weeks later, complications from their birth a couple days after Christmas. Lakey was devastated, heartsick and bitter. He wanted no part of his newborn twins, though both sets of grandparents raised their hands to volunteer in rearing the babies.
I told a story about the mild squabbling involved between both sets of grandparents before the dust settled and Lakey’s parents, Guert and Jantje ended up raising the twins. The grandparents lived a few blocks apart from each other so it wasn’t like either set wouldn’t be a big part of their young lives. But one home would have the babies the majority of the time. This home was bigger and there were no other children in it which they felt was an advantage. The other set of grandparents had raised more children and still had 3 at home which they felt was a bigger advantage for the twins.
The paternal’s (Wanningen’s) had raised their 2 children already and lost their only daughter Jenny and newborn grandson by the time babies Florence and Floyd moved in. Lakey stayed for a bit but the constant reminder that those squirming, squealing babies were the reason he no longer had his beautiful wife by his side proved too much and he moved out. He was 30 and ready for whatever came next in his life, but raising twins didn’t figure into the equation.
So this is what I know about Mom’s maternal side of the family. The Berghuis bunch. Pieter Berghuis was born in the Netherlands in 1862. When he was 19 he immigrated to the United States. He was sponsored before ever touching soil at Ellis Island. The way mom explained it, sponsoring an immigrant included a family vouching for him. Helped him find a place to live, assured the authorities that Pieter would have a job waiting in northwest Iowa when he arrived.
Aafje (Effie) Beukelman was born in 1877 in the Netherlands and immigrated with her parents when she was 7. The Beukelman’s were sponsored by another family in northwest Iowa, so much of the pressure/stress was missing by the time they got to Sioux Center. There was housing and employment waiting for them, the biggest barrier probably resulting in language. This part of northwest Iowa was (still is) predominantly Dutch so it wasn’t hard to communicate. And the children learned English when they attended school. (My Mom spoke Dutch before she learned how to speak English).
Now how 30 something Pieter met and married teenage Effie in the mid-1890’s remains a mystery. Maybe the marriage was arranged. I know they were devoted to each other throughout their marriage. Mom told me that Effie and Pieter teased each other and were very affectionate. (The Wanningen’s were more stoic with their words and showing affection, however Mom adored them and they felt the same way about her and Floyd). But it was during frequent visits to the Berghuis house where Florence & Floyd realized they weren’t sinning or bound for hell when they made a batch of Fudge or Penuche with Grandma Effie-on a Sunday afternoon. Oh. My. Word. That would never happen in the Wanningen home. The Berghuis family were no less religious or faithful to the Lord-just a little less rigid. (Both women peeled their Sunday dinner potatoes on Saturday! Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work, but the 7th day is the Sabbath to the Lord your God, on which you must not do any work). Yet grandma Berghuis didn’t think it was wrong to make a batch of candy with the grandkids on a Sunday. God love her.
Into this Berghuis family 7 children were born, starting with Alida in 1897, followed by Abraham in ’98, William in 1901, Lena in ’03, my grandmother Jacoba (Coba) in 1906 and twins in 1910. Oddly enough, the boy/girl twins were named Floyd and Florence. The twins were sweet 16 when their 20 year old sister Coba gave birth to her own set of twins. She and Lakey promptly named them Florence and Floyd. Like there wasn’t another set of twin names that would fit them in the universe. My goodness.
After the death of their mother at the end of 1926, the twins lived with their paternal grandparents, the Wanningen’s, but were also very close to the whole Berghuis family. Lena didn’t marry until she was almost 40 so she and my mother were very close. The oldest sister Alida married and moved a few miles outside of Sioux Center. Mom and Floyd and spent much of their time at Aunt Alida’s house. Alida’s children were just a bit older than than the twins. My mom learning to can/preserve several hundred jars of meats and vegetables every year with her cousins and aunt. Floyd helping in the fields and with the animals. Although Effie Berghuis was a decade younger than the other 3 grandparents jointly raising Mom and her brother, much of the twins practical life lessons/experiences came from the Berghuis’ six siblings, especially Alida and her kids. Mom said it was Aunt Alida who told her about the birds and the bees, and what to do when that first period arrived. By the time mom and Floyd were nearing their teen years, the grandparents raising them were closing in on their 80’s.
Not as detailed history on my great grandparents as I’d like but what I do have I hold dear. Actually have quite a few pictures of my greats over the years. Much of this I think is because having twins was a big deal, plus losing their young mom within a month garnered a lot of attention back in the mid-20’s. This Christmas I made a couple batches of fudge using great grandma Effie Berghuis’ simple (but not so easy) recipe. I have to make it exactly like she (and Mom) did. No candy thermometer, soft ball tested on my finger, no pan-always poured on a buttered plate. Carrying on with their tradition-sometimes even on Sunday…