Wednesday, February 3 2021

a book about the reckers, a tough month, and surprise blackhawks logos



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Wednesday. All week I’ve been collecting old photos of my grandpa in an online album. I’ve been chatting with some family members too. Great Uncle Don sent over a handful of interesting, well-written anecdotes. My Uncle Steve added a trove of old scanned photos. It’s been a family history kind of week.

Did you know that there is a book written about the Recker family? My Uncle sent me a link to the book A Name for Herself: A Dutch Immigrant’s Story. Just read this tagline:

The Reckers, like many blue-collar immigrants, were rolling stones, going back and forth between south Chicago suburbs and Wisconsin and Montana. The men ride the rails as hobos, dabble in farming, building Pullman Palace cars–anything to get by. They see Chicago mobsters rob a bank and run booze, all the while trying to live as faithful Dutch Reformed Christians.

Like a reflex, I clicked the Add to cart button as soon as my eyes found those words. My family has long touted our Dutch heritage. Growing up, my sisters and I each had to do the same school project where we made a poster board pie chart of our family’s cultural lineage. Ours was just a solid circle labeled DUTCH.

I knew it was true on my mother’s side. The only way her maiden name Geertsema could be more Dutch is if were proceeded by a van or served with gouda. Her father - my grandpa - came over from the Netherlands, and his English sounded more like Dutch. No shadow of a doubt there.

But the name Recker never sounded very Dutch to me. I assumed things got kind of murky and that we picked up some German or Austrian relatives along the way. I couldn’t point to a person in recent memory who was actually from our alleged motherland.

I read the first few pages on the Amazon preview. The book opens with a story about Alrich Recker, a proud carpenter reluctantly filing for unemployment in Harlem, Holland. I had already bought the book, but I knew if I clicked away and started reading the electronic copy, I would have just spent my whole work day reading. Something to look forward to.

I also sent the book to my “work cousin” Paige. My company hired Paige over the summer while I was gone for paternity leave. We share a last name - exact spelling and everything. We couldn’t conclusively find how we were related, so until further notice we’re just “work cousins”. I sent her the link, and she too bought the book on the spot.

Sip. So happy Wednesday. How are you feeling today? I hope you have been spared from what Marissa and I have deemed the worst month ever. Last night, I let the dogs back into the house, and they ran ahead expecting us to follow them upstairs. Marissa and I were reluctant to turn in for the night, and I had a little more wine in my glass. So we stayed up a few minutes chatting in the kitchen.

“Can I be honest?” she said. “I was dreading this month for a while. I knew it would be the worst.”

Heading into this year, our city was more optimistic about getting vaccines out by March. Marissa read rumors about a home COVID test kit that yielded immediate results. We consoled ourselves during the bleak December and January evenings, imagining we’d be getting vaccines and using home tests to coordinate careful visits with family as early as spring time. Most estimates now report this may not happen until late summer. I guess deep down Marissa knew that the estimation would slip by a few months.

“I read that the tests were supposed to be at Walgreen’s and stuff in January,” said Marissa. “I think I’ve been sad this week because January has officially gone, and that’s not true.”

Emotionally, this has been a tough time. We’re holding on to anger and bitterness. We’re tired. We’re plagued with guilt and doubt over our failure to entertain our curious and extroverted four year old. We’re tired of raising a baby in secret.

Feeling a little glum yesterday, I wasn’t up for making a big meal. While Rodney’s giant remote control monster truck skidded around the kitchen, I prepared chicken noodle soup. Just some carrots, onions, and celery in butter, chicken stock, and noodles.

While we’re on the subject, I do have a pretty good Chicken noodle soup tip. It’s a well known fact that I can’t make anything without messing with the recipe or adding something unexpected, even chicken noodle soup. Yesterday I added a dash of curry to the vegetables while they were sweating in the pot. The fragrant powder turned the soup to a radioactive yellow, so I corrected the color with a dash of soy sauce. The two flavors combined beautifully. Curry and soy sauce - two distinct flavors that work very well in chicken soup, and almost impossible to diagnose in the finished product.

The Blackhawks also played yesterday. The third period was about to begin just as Rodney was getting ready for bed. He found Marissa in the living room to say goodnight. He asked Marissa a question. In a hushed voice, I heard Marissa acknowledge him and send him around the corner to me.

“Dada”, said Rodney. “I have a TV in my room so I can watch the Hawks?”

I burst into laughter. Marissa chuckled form around the corner. I decided to call her bluff.

“Sure dude,” I said. “You’re almost five. A five year old boy should definitely have a big screen TV in his room for playing xbox and watching sports. Why don’t we just move the living room TV in there for tonight?”

The sarcasm was lost on Rodney. To deescalate his disappointment, we let him stay up past his bedtime to watch more of the game. During a commercial break, Marissa disappeared around the corner to make a drink. She returned, grinning behind a new Blackhawks drinking glass that I had never seen before. I broke out into laughter.

At the beginning of the hockey season, we agreed to budget some money to buy some Blackhawks swag. Marissa offered to show me what she picked out, but I instead chose a more interesting option.

“Don’t tell me - it will be more fun to just see surprise Blackhawks logos appear around the house.”

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a great Wednesday, everyone.