Road Notes: Renewing Vows at a Dutch Farm

DeeAnn and Kevin Taylor have been together for 30 years, and celebrate 25 years of marriage in October 2014–but they’re not just any couple celebrating their anniversary by going on a tour.

On Day 2 of their seven day Trafalgar Best of Holland tour with 19 travellers from all over the world, Kevin approached me, the tour director, with a secret wish to celebrate the anniversary by renewing their vows. Where oh where to hold a ceremony during a fast-paced trip around the Netherlands with people from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines?!

The answer came to me quickly: during our Be My Guest Dinner on Wednesday night. Be My Guest dinners are always special, home-cooked meals for guests in a pastoral setting, usually at a locally-owned farm where we always feel most welcome and in touch with the culture of the country we are visiting. One phone call to the owners of the Boerderijcafé Mausel, and Digbie Vermue-Westinga had quickly arranged civil servant Aaldert Bumskoek to officiate the ceremony just after dinner–and just after a big World Cup match between the Netherlands and Australia!

Aaldert asked me for details about the couple, so tonight I noticed them dining in our hotel lounge in Oosterbeek. With DeeAnn’s back to me, I signalled for Kevin to come speak with me. And he told me quite an incredible story:

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DeeAnn and Kevin met in a nightclub in Des Moines, Iowa. She suddenly felt sick at the club, and Kevin told her he was a paramedic and that he would take care of her. (He’s not a paramedic at all. But you have to find a way to talk to the girl, after all, right?) They lost paths but somehow kept bumping into each other after this first meeting. When Kevin’s best friend called him one night to join him for a double date, and DeeAnn showed up at their door with her girlfriend–they knew someone was trying to bring them together.

They were together for five years before DeeAnn could find the courage to tell her parents about her boyfriend. DeeAnn is a van der Linden, and people in Iowa know Van der Linden Country, an area in the countryside with a large, proud, and very traditional Dutch population. Van der Lindens there have annual parades in proper Dutch folk clothing, with klompen and all (wooden shoes). Her parents always wanted her to marry a blue-eyed Dutch boy, and she was afraid to admit the truth to her parents: Kevin isn’t that Dutch boy they imagined for their daughter.

The two even moved to Florida together for work, without her family knowing she didn’t move alone. Facing issues of racism together in the early 80s, DeeAnn would go on to teach primary school, and Kevin is the school district’s plumber. Their school district is abjectly poor, and the young couple would host neighbourhood Thanksgiving dinners bringing many families together who had never enjoyed such a feast as the ones they would organise. When DeeAnn was pregnant, she posed as a rotund Mrs. Claus and Kevin would dress as Black Santa as they gave gifts to the neighbourhood kids.

But before they married and their two sons Kevin Jr. (22) and Kyle (19) would be born, DeeAnn wrote a letter to her family about the man she has loved for the the past five years. DeeAnn’s father arrived at their Florida doorstep a few days later with one of her brothers, with the full intention of bringing her back home. Kevin talked with her father, and after an hour, her father expressed his happiness for them–now convinced that Kevin loved and looked after his daughter–breaking all the stereotypes he held in his head all his life.

Kevin wants for the renewing of the vows some traditional Dutch wedding clothes, and Digbie and I hope the ones we have rented will be right. Gina will gather some flowers from off their property, and after the main course of herring, ambachtelijke gekachtballen (home-made meatballs), and boerensalade (farmer’s salad), a few female guests and I will carry DeeAnn off to be dressed for “a Dutch after dinner tradition” while Kevin gets into his own kledingdracht. He wants it to be a total surprise to the very moment he marries her all over again. Until tomorrow!

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