Life across generations

Emma Greco

   It was the early 1960’s, a few decades after World War II ended, and many were moving to the U.S. for new opportunities and a better quality of life after their home country’s economies were plagued by the aftermath of the war. My grandparents, like many, moved from their home country to the US.

   Also referred to as the “Swinging Sixties,” this was an era of opportunities. A new era that was empowering to those who did not fit the social norms at the time. Americans were protesting for equality for all they were promised in the Declaration of Independence. 

   The economy was fairly steady throughout the beginning of the 1960s; there were good paying jobs and lots of housing. My grandparents eventually graduated high school and my grandpa became a licensed electrician and worked on jobs ranging from creating or repairing tech gadgets to household upkeep. My grandma became a seamstress and created clothes in a factory.

   “I had to learn English, so I was reading a lot and learning a new language. I learned so I could read sewing patterns in English,” she said. 

   There were many things about the U.S. that were different from what she was used to, especially when it came to the normalities she grew up with.

   “I played out on the street, it was my playground. There were no playgrounds in the Netherlands like they have in America.” she said.

   She had to learn to be very independent from a young age, taking part in house work right after school. And getting transportation was also a different story, there were no school buses that took children to and from school.

   “I went to home economics school and came home from school and had to cook and clean because my parents worked. My parents had land and a garden with vegetables, so I had to work in the fields after school. I worked a lot as a child, and there were no cars so I would have to walk everywhere I went,” she said. 

   There are many qualities that she misses from the Netherlands. The health care system in America is very different from other countries. 

   “Socialized health care was wonderful for my parents. They take very good care of you when you’re sick,” she says.

    After a few years of living in the United States and a few kids, my mom was born. Growing up, she was taught Dutch as well as English. 

   “My parents always spoke their native language around me, so I can speak it fluently. My grandparents were over a lot too, so it was my second language. The only thing that was hard was when they couldn’t help me with my schooling. Especially in math and English,” my Mom said. 

   Her mother would always cook Dutch food for her, especially on holidays. Her mother would tell her about life in the Netherlands growing up, and how different life was like in comparison to how the life my mom is used to.

   “The food in the Netherlands is much better,” said my mom. “And they have socialized health care and take care of the sick and elderly much more efficiently there.”

   The food my grandma makes is definitely much better than the food in the U.S. I always look forward to her home cooked meals with ingredients from a local dutch store, especially on New Years. She makes fresh baked kroketten (croquette), a deep fried roll with meat ragout inside that’s breaded. 

   I’m not the most fluent in Dutch, nor do I know how to cook some of my grandma’s traditional meals. I don’t know much about my heritage in short, but despite this there is always time to learn about yourself.