That’s him on the far right, the one with the shades and the goatee. Dirk Hoornstra, the Dutch Immigrant. His migration was not a romantic adventure to the New World. He went to sea as a boy and impulsively decided to jump ship at the Soo Locks contruction site somewhere in his young adulthood. And there he was. He worked, saved, and sent for his first cousin, Maggie DeGroot, back in Holland. The last he’d seen of her was when they were twelve. He proposed marriage in the letter, she answered yes, if she could bring a brother or two, I assume as escorts.
Starting from left to right, back row, granddaughter Doris Smart Murphy, daughter Johanna Hoornstra, Joseph Henry Smart, son-in-law twice over, and Dirk. Standing in front are Mary Lois and Ralph, Mom’s first two. Dirk is the patriarch.
Johanna was known as Honey from childhood. Dirk never totally mastered the ebb and flow of the English language through his heavy Dutch accent and “Johanna” came out sounding like “Honey”. Honey she was for life. She and her sister Mary, my grandmother, married two brothers, Will and J.Henry Smart. The short version is that Mary died and Will died and Honey and JH married at sixty-something. My uncle Lester never ceased to tease them about their elopement to Detroit and was a shotgun involved?
As he grew older and more dependent on others, Dirk lived with them in their small house in town. His white goatee and his pipe characterized him. Like clockwork, he would retire to his upstairs room after breakfast, read the paper, light his pipe and methodically pace the floor, holding his pipe in place with his hand rather than bother with his miserable dentures. Mom said it was a comfort to relax over her tea in that little kitchen below and hear his slippered footsteps move slowly back and forth, back and forth, the floor boards gently squeaking.
Here in Tennessee, fall is quickly giving way to winter and Christmas is inches away, but the weather is still mild enough to leave the furnace off. It’s been dry enough that I’m afraid our tree colors won’t be very bright. It’s still weird to me to turn the calendar to November and see 60 and 70 degrees on the thermometer. That’s when I think of Illinois’ chilly, rainy falls and long ago Halloweens. Usually they caught Mom by surprise. With a few exeptions, our costumes had little imagination since we had to come up with something that day. One that repeated itself a few times was the good old brown paper grocery bag with eyeholes cut in them and crayon faces hastily applied. Another was the traditional sheet. Hobos costumes were easy.
These days there are few if any trick or treaters which pleases me greatly due to safety reasons. What displeases me is all the slasher movies. Chainsaws, axes, bleck. On the other hand, the original classic “Psycho” is on my list of collectibles. Then there are the “documentaries” of haunted hotels on the allegedly serious channels like Discovery or The Travel Channel. Where are the ghosts? They need to show the ghosts. I selectively believe in them, sort of. Some of those documentaries state a good case.
Mom was probably the cuddliest and huggiest member of the Hoornstra-Smart clan. Their origins were Holland and Scotland, chilly climates, a conservative people, Presbyterian and proud of it, too. Their faith and their bonds were solid, sealed, and water tight. Dirk was the respected leader, the founder of the American family branch, and honored. He was a leader in the community, well known, distinctive. I’ll bet his eyes sparkled. I think he was a good man. Mom spoke highly and fondly of him and made sure that the very old patriarch spent time with his great-grandchildren.
She kept good track of her dad and aunt Honey. She visited often and being the depression, I imagine they generously filled out her budget with regular meals. Sometime around 1934 or 1935, Dirk quietly passed away. It might be “time to go” but for those left holding the reins, it’s never good timing. This only drew the three of them closer.
Mom and Aunt Honey told me that after Dirk was gone, there were many mornings in that little kitchen that they smelled pipe smoke and heard the upstairs floor creak under soft foot steps pacing back and forth, back and forth. Comforting.