Holland was my land of soggy farm fields, of Van Gogh, of windmills thumping in the wind, and frigid winter walks by the sea. It is the place I attended a Victorian house of a school, where I fell off a fat pony three times in an hour, where I read seven Enid Blytons in a week. It is the place I tasted pure freedom, zooming around Wassenaar on my bike, and the place I learned I could play soccer as well as a boy. Holland is the place where my mother wore her long, baggy raincoat and translated Dutch at a rug- covered table, and where my father rode to work on his bike. It is where I made a 12-foot gum-wrapper chain, and where I ran for student council and lost because I was a girl. It is the place I first tasted the elixir of belonging to a crowd, and it is the site of my first kiss.
When I left Holland at age 13, I wept all the way in the car to Le Havre Airport. When the grief was finally spent, something in me was broken. It was the kind of fracture that hurts with the sharpest pain the first time around. Holland was my first broken heart.