This past week, Pastor Pete and I celebrated the 53rd anniversary of our first date. Well, we really didn’t celebrate. In fact, I don’t think he even remembered. I’m sure if you would ask him the actual date of our first date, he wouldn’t be able to tell you – but I would!
Of course, I remember it so well because it was my first date ever. My parents had told me that I couldn’t date until I was 16; so for years, when was asked if I had a boyfriend, I would answer, “I can’t date until I’m 16.”
But then I reached the age of 16 and I no longer had that excuse. I waited for a couple of weeks and the phone never rang. I knew I was doomed to be an old maid! I asked my parents to please extend their “no dating age” to 30 or at least 25.
“My parents won’t let me date” sounded so much better than “No one has asked me out.” Being the daughter of overly concerned parents sounded so much better than being a “dating reject.”
I watched as all of the girls in my class were dating and all I ever did was cruise up and down Bellflower Blvd. with my friends who also didn’t happen to have a date on that evening. Things were not looking good – until a church car wash!
Pete and I were assigned to the pastor’s car. You’d be surprised at how much a teenage girl and boy can communicate to one another by means of a soap-filled bucket and a dirty towel. We threw wet towels and buckets of water at one another, ran after one another with hoses squirting water, and ignored everyone else.
I now realize that these actions were just part of the “teenage mating dance.” You’ve all seen it. The success of the dance can be measure by how often a teenage boy playfully hits a teenage girl and how often the girl screams, runs away, but then slows down waiting to be hit again.
Together, Pete and I scrubbed every inch of the pastor’s car. Rev. Aberson’s car was never so clean before. In fact, Pete and I had used so much soap and elbow grease on his car that, in the evening, Rev. Aberson was seen re-waxing his car. Somehow, all the wax on his car had disappeared.
Our first date was seeing the movie “Beach Party” with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Watching those two romp and sing on a beach would stir up emotional feelings in any teenage soul. I knew a good night kiss was inevitable. The evening ended with a firm handshake.
Actually, the first date was not as scary as the first meal with his family. Pastor Pete and I first met when we were infants and attended the same church, so I wasn’t unfamiliar with Dutch cuisine, but I did have to learn a few new things.
I totally understood the “coffee and cookies before lunch and dinner” procedure. Dessert before the main meal was essential in all Dutch homes. Morning “coffee time” and afternoon “tea time” somehow ran right into lunchtime and dinnertime, along with cake and cookies. Ice cream was reserved for a “before bedtime treat.”
I also knew that rice was always boiled in milk with raisins and then topped with butter, cinnamon and sugar. I knew that fresh, sliced strawberries sprinkled with sugar were always eaten on a piece of buttered bread. But I didn’t appreciate the mashed rutabagas with barley. That could be due to the fact that my brother told me that the barley was actually fish eyes!
Eating meals with the VanDyke family, I discovered that there were many more exotic dishes in the realm of Dutch cuisine. I learned to actually like a few, but most created a struggle with which I had to take action.
The struggle was this: Do I pretend to like this food to impress my boyfriend’s family, or do I not eat it and risk losing this wonderful, teenage, “we are really in love” relationship? I opted for the latter. After all, I was almost 17 and time was short!
I ate the food, pretended that it was great, and then drank as much milk as possible to help disguise the taste.
I learned to like pea soup and that a cube of butter baked with a roast did provide interesting gravy; but when it came to “stamppot” (cabbage and potatoes boiled, mashed together, with sausage added), I asked to be excused.
There are things that I learned to overlook: raw hamburger sandwiches, raw eggs stirred in a glass for breakfast, and mixing your potatoes, vegetable and meat into one huge pile on your plate. I started to question my involvement with this family when I encountered a plate of what looked like pudding, but actually was stale bread crusts that had been boiled in milk.
But then things changed. To my delight, I watched as Pete buttered his toast and covered it with Dutch chocolate sprinkles. Chocolate!! I can do this!! Chocolate that slowly melted into a delightful, gooey glaze seeped in wondrous butter covering the warm toast. Life couldn’t get any better than this. Within five minutes, I was hooked. Not on Pete, but on the “Hagelslag” slowly melting on my toast and into my heart!
I then made a decision: If my only means of securing my newly found habit, Halgelslag on toast, was to date the boy with an unending supply of Halgelslag, I’ll take the deal! But only if they throw in a little pickled herring on the side.