Wednesday, April 11

Running Man

On the phone with a friend last week I was working up to the punchline of this Andrew Anecdote when the line went dead. We have that trouble sometimes. Thus, the multiple attempts at getting the cable line repaired. To this date three technicians have arrived at our home and have done whatever it is they do and have declared it fixed. Your conjecture that we have called back four times to request another service person to come back to the house and really fix it would be dead-on correct.

You may suppose that it is only because I lack butt-crack views in my daily life that I want or need a repairman to hunker down in the corner by my television/internet/phone line. But you would be forgetting that I am a privileged Mama who gets to change diapers every day. Every. Day. Therefore I see more than my fair share of butt-crack. Cute, adorable, precious butt-crack that it is.

But I digress.

Since this pal of mine whom I so rudely unwittingly hung up on arrives here regularly to read (Hi M!) I thought it would be a good place to finish the account. I will begin at the beginning for your benefit.

We live in a very typical Dutch style house; a row house as it were. Land and legroom is at a premium here in the low lands and the Dutch in their ingenuity have always made the most of the limited building space in the country. Though there are large estates and family homes with land and barns in the villages and countryside, the cities are densely populated and the majority of residents occupy a spot in a flat building or like us in a street of houses which are all connected together.

To be fair I have seen housing developments in Arizona where the houses may as well be connected as row houses are, since you could shake hands with your neighbor with a simultaneous reach out of bathroom windows. Houses are that close together. And it just seems silly to make believe that you have a side yard when what you really have is nothing but the twelve inches of space between your outside wall and the wall next door. The way I figure it if the developers took a page out of the Netherlands book on building they could squeeze in an entire other house if they took out the mini-spaces they leave between and forget trying to sell the Arizona suburbanite on the idea that there is a privacy yard on both sides of the home.

I am on a tangent again. Pardon.

So we have a typical Dutch home. Three stories high, steep spiraling stairs, shared walls on both sides of the house. It takes a little getting used to the scuffles and sounds surrounding you when you live like this. On more than one occasion Don and I have flown off the couch upon hearing someone stumble down the stairs, or called out in answer to a question, only to realize that the step thumping or the voices didn't originate in OUR house, but in one of the neighbors'.

The house is also decently old. As in built in the 1930's which is WAY older than ANYTHING IN EXISTENCE in Phoenix so we find that quite impressive. But being an older house it has it's structural issues. For instance, the windows tend to shake whenever someone parks on the street and slams a car door. Also, when the wind blows, the french style doors bow inward and threaten to sever locks and swing open. And the floors vibrate when Andrew jumps or runs.

Andrew jumps and runs a lot.

Our living room/dining room is one long room spanning the entire length of the first floor. If you stand in our front garden and peek through the window you can gaze straight through to the back garden. There are no sub walls or decorative screens or barriers of any kind in place. The floor is a finished parquet; it is smooth and shiny and invites running.

A lot of running.

Even with furniture strategically placed so as to curtail a full house-length track, there is still a good stretch down the center which apparently just begs to be run upon.

And he does.

Andrew loves to run this room. He runs from the dining table straight past the couch and slams into the radiator standing underneath the front window. From there he spins around and repeats the path in reverse. If he can pull it off he likes to slam his body into the french doors overlooking the back garden. I have tried to halt this particular body slam as every time he does it all I can see in my over-worked-macabre-imagination is shattered shards of glass showering down upon my baby boy. Generally now he stops himself just short of the reverberating slam. Then he turns again and takes the path afresh.

Run. Slam. Run. Stop.

Run. Slam. Run. Stop.

Run. Run. Run.

During the onerous winter the run-slam-run game was a daily favorite. Too cold or too rainy to go outside and let off any steam we found ourselves relegated to the constant deep echo of Andrew's diversion.

As spring approached and we began to emerge from our cave to greet the sun I stepped out into the front garden one morning. My neighbor was also out front in his garden and we began to chat. He asked after our welfare during the long winter. (No one lingers to talk much in the winter so it is something like catching up with fellow Grizzlies in the den after a shared hibernation) He inquired about how Don liked his job and whether we were we all enjoying our time in The Netherlands. We spoke for several minutes and exchanged our pleasantries.

Then Andrew joined me in the yard.

And my neighbor's cheerful grin fell from his face.

"Ah." he said. "There's the little boy"

"Yes. Yes. This is our Andrew" I replied.

"He likes to run"

"Uh... yes. He does"

"We hear him often"

"Oh. Yeah. Sorry about that". I am sure color rose to my cheeks giving away my utter dismay.

He sighed heavily and muttered "I suppose it can't be helped."

Sheepishly I slunk back into the house with my toddler in tow before erupting into laughter. Cuz Dude! If you think it's loud over at your house? Welcome to my world.

Thankfully Mother Nature has wakened the sun and has sent her back to play with us now so we can be outside for our necessary daily running allowance.

I am not sure how the neighbor is going to feel about the masterpieces in chalk we left on the footpath in front of his house this afternoon.

But at least the drawings are quiet.


  1. Jenn--

    My sister and her family have been living the expat life in Baden, outside Vienna for almost 17 years as missionaries. She and her husband are language specialists (she speaks English, German, and French fluently - and he adds fluent Russian to the mix) working through their church to help folks who are fleeing former Soviet states and heading west.

    Her littlest one is not a runner, but a climber...and almost climbed out the bar-less window one day. One the 8th floor! While I may not have kids of my own, I enjoy reading about the joys and woes...and it lets me be there when I can't see the daily growing-up of Soccer Mom's precious (and precocious) three.

  2. What an interesting post. Thanks for the look into expat life.

  3. We are living in a townhouse with 3 children. They seem to be made pretty well and the neighbors say they can't hear anything but I often wonder if they hear the shouting, the wrestling, the door slamming, etc. It's interesting to hear of your life in another country.

  4. Interesting blog. Hayyy, I miss Holland :-)

  5. I love your digressions, too! When I lived in a rowhouse in the Netherlands as an 8-year-old(and after visiting the Anne Frank house), I began a journal, and I fear that most of the entries began something like, "Hark! I hear a sound. It is a strange sound. Off I go to investigate. [later] It was nothing." This post brought back memories.

  6. And these are the intricacies of life in the Netherlands that I know nothing about and find so interesting. Having grown up in an old pre-War apt. building in NYC, we knew a bit about sharing sounds with the world around us, and vice versa. Glad you've hit summer time now and Andrew can run to his heart's content!

  7. Hahaha. I love your tangents. And yes, my kids would be noisily running. And you know what? I don't think that even drawings are quiet at my house...