My third day in Holland, Monday Sept. 7, was warm and sunny. My mom, my aunt Ellen and I visited my other aunt Nancy and her family at their newly built, supermodern house in Rotterdam.
Nancy and her boyfriend recently spent a couple of years designing this house with an architect and then having it built along a canal in a lovely neighborhood. The house is all white, black and steel; with hard slate and wood floors; and the garden is a work in progress with native plants and a pond filled with little frogs.
Getting to Nancy's house was an interesting trip. First, the three of us walked to the tram stop near my grandmother's house and took the tram to the metro station, where we boarded the underground metro train, or subway. I scanned my ticket the wrong way at the door and accidentally invalidated it. Because I knew I had paid, I slipped through the door behind my mom, whose ticket was still valid, but the doors shut on my elbows and set off an alarm. I was too surprised to be embarrassed at that point. I walked over to the office and told a metro staff member what happened. He seemed amused that I even bothered to go over to them to explain what happened, and waved me on.
It was warm enough in the metro train to be slightly uncomfortable, made worse by how crowded it was. My aunt got a call on her cell phone and talked too loudly on it, the way older people often do, causing the young Dutch man sitting behind her to smile a small smile to himself. The walls inside of the metro train had been spray-painted with graffiti, and while the paint was still wet it had run down the walls in rivulets. Most of the paint was black, so against the beige walls of the train, it looked like running mascara, as if the train were depressed.
We arrived at our subway stop and exited, and because my ticket had been previously invalidated I again had to squeeze out the doors directly behind my mother, and again the alarm went off. But this time my aunt was standing right outside the doors, ready to whisk us away in her getaway car to her new house.
Funny how you can go from sitting in a hot subway train with crying walls to relaxing in a luxurious house with wine and snacks and sunshine on the patio in just a matter of minutes.