Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I Could Be A King

Queen's Day in Leiden

  Orange Feather Boa – check!  Homemade orange crown – check!  Orange baby overalls – check!  Orange button-down shirt – check!  Orange balloons attached to double-stroller – check!  At 9:30 a.m. on April 30, 2013 – we rolled out into the sunny morning, every cast member fully-costumed and anxious to play his or her part in our family’s second, and, incidentally, The Netherland’s last - Queen’s Day. 
  On January 28, 2013, Queen Beatrix announced her abdication of the throne, after a reign of 33 years – and her son, His Royal Highness Price of Orange, Prince Willem-Alexander would be her successor.   The grand handing-over-the-torch-ceremony, was scheduled at 10:30 a.m. a few months later, on Queen’s Day.  At 46 years old, King Willem-Alexander became the world’s youngest king, and The Netherlands first male monarch since 1890.  More fun facts for you folks reading at home – the King will rule over an actual kingdom, the most magical of geographical terms, including: The Netherlands, Curacao, Sint Maarten, & Aruba.  (As I type this in late June with my fireplace roaring. . . . just dreaming about fairytale real estate on a tropical Caribbean island sounds like a pretty awesome job perk).         
  After last’s year’s experience, we decided an early start would be key to ensure a perfect Queen’s Day in our family’s book: shopping success, crowd avoidance, and a “family naptime” by 2:00 p.m.  We entered into town around 9:45 a.m. and easily soared into the marketplace, scooping down and resurfacing with some prime junk from the peddling children who had set their worldly wares on blankets along the sides of the canals.  Among our plunder: a Dutch Elmo Christmas DVD, a children’s xylophone, & a plexi-glass candelabra – for a Euro each.  
Souvenir shop in Amsterdam
   There was a relaxed excitement as the sun cast morning shadows and the fresh breeze tickled everyone awake. As we mingled casually among the smiling faces, the relaxed interactions felt like an early-morning tailgate prior to a college football game slotted for the 7 p.m. TV timeslot.  The crowds of drunken revelers who would flood the cobbles later were still to awake and migrate into town.  The canal in front of the town hall was covered with a large platform and tables and chairs covered the surface like confetti.  People talked quietly to one another, sipping tiny cups of coffee between closing their eyes and smiling up towards the sun (a seemingly required Dutch custom to partake in when the sun shines).  All chairs were turned towards the Corn Bridge.  The bridge was built in 1642 and for hundreds of years vendors sold corn underneath its one-of-a-kind roof, thus sheltering the precious commodity from the rain.  Today, the roof protected hoards of lighting, sound, and musical equipment for the entertainment line-up as well as a huge flat-screen TV showing the Royal Proceedings going on at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.  V and I had visited Amsterdam earlier in the week, and enjoyed seeing the Dam Square decorated for the festivities.  Souvenir shops stocked orange everything in anticipation of the event, large crowns sat atop the fancy department store, De Bijenkorf, and stages were already erected in the center of town. 
Corn Bridge with TV coverage - Leiden
Our family grabbed a table and chairs at Einstein’s on the canal, ordered a few coffees, juice, and a typical Dutch snack of sausages and cheeses.  V and I smiled at each other, across the heads of our children.  We have photos of the two of us, taken years ago during our visit to Leiden, drinking beer on the canal boat outside the same bar – the Town Hall in the background.  We placed ourselves back into the present moment, taking in the anxious faces surrounding us as the abdication of Queen Beatrix commenced at 10:00 a.m. that morning.  We sipped coffee – “I can’t believe we’re really here, in this place, at this moment,” I said to him.  At 10:30 a.m., the royal family made their first official appearance on the Royal Palace balcony.  Everyone in Leiden turned toward the TV, watched, waved, and cheered.  My entire family clapped and “whoo-hooed” - Little Man probably the loudest.  The Town Hall bells rang for an eternity in celebration.  For a culture that seems to be pretty stoic most days, the emotion of pride radiating from the country at that moment in time was incredible.  As I took in the scene before me, it was impossible not to feel a few tears come to my own eyes.  “Are you okay?” my husband asked, smiling and a bit confused. . . “Yeah, it’s just that. . . well, the whole thing is just pretty awesome.  It’s a huge moment in history for them. . . and really, for us, too.”  He nodded slowly and reflectively. 
   With the inauguration of the King – the big question was how it would affect future parties.  Queen Beatrix’s birthday is actually January 31st, but no one really likes to party outside when there is a guarantee of total crap weather, so she decided to keep the Queen’s Day party on the less-risky birthday of her mother, Juliana.  Lucky for The Netherlands (and perhaps, a nod to even more planning on her part) Beatrix’s son, Willem, was born in April – just three days before his Grandmother’s birthday.  So, for the foreseeable future, King’s Day will be celebrated on April 27th.  (Unless of course, April 27th falls on a Sunday – which, actually 2014 is one of the exceptions) SO King’s Day will be celebrated on Saturday, April 26th. (Which, is actually kind of cool – since that’s me and V’s 6th wedding anniversary).  The party will go on, without a hitch! 
  Later that evening, we celebrated the Queen in our own way – with some American Expat friends at a house-party BBQ complete with hamburgers & potato salad.  I don’t know if we’ll be here for 2014’s King’s Day celebration, but no matter where I am, I might just have to bust out my orange feather boa in honor of King Willem.     
De Bijenkorf for Queen's Day - Amsterdam

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