By the time Sophie’s dad came to pick us up the morning after her birthday party, I was even more grateful that I decided against going to the Hague. I don’t remember when the train was, but there was no way I would’ve made it. We took our time getting ready and eating breakfast.
Sophie’s dad was dressed in an olive corduroy sportscoat with a green tanktop underneath. He wore corduroy pants and a black scarf tied loosely around his neck. Combined with the thick, dark-rimmed glasses and the styled silver/grey hair, he looked pretty artistic and trendy, very different from what I expected. However, unsurprisingly, he was about 6-foot-8, which one would expect of the father of a 6-foot-2 girl.
The sky was overcast and I was anxiously hoping it wouldn’t rain. Utrecht was supposed to be a very pretty medieval city (surprise, surprise) and I didn’t want a damper put on my plans to wander the town.
Sophie’s parent’s house is over 300 years old, I was told, and is located near the city center, along one of Utrecht’s two long canals. The house itself was very pretty, solidly built and well maintained. It didn”t leave a very large footprint, but rose four floors up. Sophie’s dad soon disappeared suddenly and was replaced by her mom. The two were sharing the house in a way and it seemed they tried to avoid each other as much as possible. Sophie’s mom also brought a friend, I think her name was Ellen.
A bouquet of 12 long-stemmed roses sat on the table in a glass vase. Apparently Sophie’s ex had sent them to her as both a birthday present and a mea culpa. She wasn’t buying it, and polled us for suggestions on what to do with them. She wanted to shred the flowers and then return them.
Sophie was meeting her dad for lunch in town so I decided to use that time to explore the city. I wandered from shop to shop, looking for a replacement hat, until it started drizzling and I needed shelter. I spent about an hour at a coffee shop surfing the internet, and then suffered through the rain, finding my way to the train station.
I still had my ticket to Den Hague, and then one from there to Frankfurt. I found Utrecht Centraal Station and changed my ticket to leave directly from Utrecht. By then Sophie was done with lunch and I walked back to her mom’s house. We sat, talked and played with her birthday present, a speaker sound dock for her iPod. We helped Ellen make an apple tart for dessert as Sophie’s mom worked on meatballs for dinner. Sophie’s brother showed up and, big surprise, the guy was like 19 years old, and 6-foot-6.
Sophie’s friend who came with us to Jimmy Woo’s showed up with his mom. Apparently, his mom and Sophie’s mom have been friends since before their children were born. They laughed, shared stories and reminisced … in Dutch. I felt very left out. Again. Sophie failed to mention that those “friends” that she and her mom would be inviting over, were their oldest friends and practically family. I started thinking about the Hague and the M.C. Escher museum I wanted to visit (yep, you heard me right … check it out if you get the chance, then tell me all about it so I can descend into a death spiral of self-loathing and depression). I also started memorizing the placement, color, size and construction of various things in the room. A magazine stand. A vase. A piano and some music books. Every now and then Sophie’s mom would recognize my boredom and sternly remind her daughter (yes, even Sophie was only speaking in Dutch), “In English …”. And by the end of dessert Sophie was leaning towards me, giving me a play by play of whatever was being said, like commentators at a sporting event. It wasn’t exactly how I imagined the night would go, but at least I had a homecooked meal, MY OWN BEDROOM (OK, maybe it was a futon in the attic), and I got to spend more time with my friend.
The next morning I woke up early and after a quick breakfast with Sophie and her mom, I set off for the train station. I promised to keep Sophie updated on my travel plans, and told her I’d look her up if I was ever in the area. She was planning to go to New York for a long vacation in the near future, and I made her promise to look me up too, if I was in the area. But who the hell knew if or when that would be.