FRIDAY, July 23 – While on Ellis Island, I tell the boys about the American roots that millions of people began to establish on this little island just off the coast of Manhattan as well as the hardships those immigrants faced when they made the decision to leave everything behind and start a new life in America.
I bring history to life in the stories of Jennifer’s great grandfather who set foot on land here, spoke poor English, and, thus, saw his Greek name corrupted. Then I take them outside, to The American Immigrant Wall of Honor, where countless names of immigrants are engraved.
On panel 627 my own name: Tim H. Overdiek.
It was a gift from my brother when Jenn and I got married in 1996. A gracious gesture to the bridegroom, who in late 1994 quit his job in Amsterdam, sold all his possessions, bought a one-way ticket to New York, and joined his one true love. There’s an accompanying certificate, and my name is inscribed on the aluminum wall on Ellis Island. The boys say they are impressed. And so am I. I really do have certain roots in America.
Yet, it’s also a bit strange: here I am explaining to my Dutch-American children things that have to do with their mother’s DNA. and how they feel more American than Dutch, and how I – as a Dutchman – ventilate more American sentiments than they are aware of, because they’ve lived abroad for five years. A world turned upside-down, and yet so familiar.
I can’t do any more than help them find their true identity. We are who we are. Children of an American mother and a Dutch father. Roots are important, but they can grow anywhere as long as they are nourished.