By: Cassie Van Der Hyde
When I was a kid, I grew up at home Dracut and in Lowell, at my grandmother’s house. My big family situation (six kids!) pretty much took away any chance of major travel, so most of my world was New England.
I grew up and married my southern Virginian, Mark, and found a whole new family in the Van Der Hyde’s, with their huge 2500+ cow dairy, huge family of my father-in-law’s ten siblings and all their offspring and their offspring’s offspring, and very southern open door visiting policies–wherein you don’t have to call and check if it’s okay to stop by to chat, you just show up! All of this was a new world to me, the suburban and somewhat private New England girl.
These days we make the long haul down to Tightsqueeze, VA,*** to visit twice a year at least, and I love the way my kids have grown up here amongst their VDH family. We will have been in the car for fifteen hours of cramped legs, but the minute we pull in the driveway to their Great-Grandpa’s house or to Grandma’s farm (right down the road on the same road), they tear into the house, let the door slam behind them, and it’s like they’ve never left.
At Grandpa’s there is Nickelodeon on the TV, toys set aside for them by PopPop, Mark’s dad, and cinnamon buns baked for breakfast by Mark’s mom, their Gommie. At Grandma’s farm there are endless grilled cheeses for lunch, puzzles to do, and tractors, choppers, ATV’s, dump trucks, and lots and lots of cows and farm stories to take in. There is such a richness to the time spent here, and my kids are able to see a difference in pace and style of living that goes beyond the food favorites and spoiling of grandparents.
When my husband and I merged our lives when we got married, there was a cultural merging that had to happen as well; and it was a learning curve for both of us as adults who spent most of our lives in our own small towns. Every time we’re here in Virginia, I see the value in what my kids learn and see and understand about a life that’s pretty foreign to theirs in MA in a lot of ways. We don’t have to say anything, they just see it; but it’s familiar and feels like home nonetheless. The differences, the sameness, all of it is worth talking about with them, and those lessons about culture and loving people translates to our everyday home life the other 49 weeks out of the year we spend up north in our own little community of many cultures here in Lowell. Kids teach us a lot of things, and I’ve only been doing this mom thing for nine years so far, but the way they embrace both cultures so readily is one of the more humbling things they’ve taught me along the way.
***Yes, my husband really grew up in a town in a neighborhood called Tightsqueeze.