...we danced the Polonaise 30,000 feet high up, all the way from the north pole to...
I did not have a clue who Alice was when after the service of Second CRC she asked us over for coffee, but her wry smile convinced me to accept her invitation. My wife Anne and I were recent arrivals in Abbotsford then, and were carefully checking out churches before deciding which one to join, however, after 'over for coffee;' which included a lunch of dutch chicken
soup (with mini meatballs) and buns, my mind was made up – we joined Alice's church and from that time on we became friends of Alice and her husband Pete.
Second Church featured two services every Sunday. The second service was held at seven in the evening, which left plenty of time between the services 'to do something,' said Alice, and to do something meant for her to get a get a few couples of friends or relatives together for a drive into the mountains, a park, beach or any other place to climb, walk, sun, explore, or just enjoy each others company, exchange news and have fun together singing while she played her accordion.
She would drag us to a secret hill which literally and figuratively took our breath away as we were stunned by the majesty of a stand of centuries old Douglas firs, or we landed after a steep climb at a plateau somewhere, from where she showed us seven mountains, miles apart from each other. The reason why this was special enough to make the considerable effort to get up there was to show us the slight difference in coloring of these mountains.
'You would think the one farthest away to be the darkest,” she said, “but look,” the mountain closest by had definitely the most pronounced greens of the different trees and vegetation that grew on it, while the one farthest away, way in the distance was so light in color one could barely see its outline. The mountains in between varied slightly in color from the darkest nearby to the lightest way in the distance.
It was not only those extra ordinary wonders she would take us to, she always had something new and interesting to share and her bubbling enthusiasm made you feel that you had to participate in whatever she came up with, but one time she scared the pants off me, when she got me, who has a phobia about flying, as part of a group of some fifty people in an airplane for a trip to the Netherlands.
It was almost the end of nineteen hundreds, the end of the second millennium, and greatly educated people were scared that the year 2000 was going to be catastrophic, computers would seize up, records would be lost, the whole world would be in a chaos. Some had even a problem what the number of the looming year we now call the year 2000 would be. Just before all this brooding the home Frisians invited through an organization called Frisian 2000 the Frisians abroad to come home for a giant reunion.
That set the mind of Alice, who worked for a travel agency at the time, in overdrive and when her brother started his own travel business and asked her to co-partner with him her vision knew no borders. A great many of her friends originated from Fryslân and were still very much emotionally attracted to it, as was Alice herself, being born there and who all of a sudden knew how to speak Frisian (somewhat) whereby she definitely won the hearts of the contacts she made in Fryslân.
To make make friends in the old country was not Alice's only vision, she and her brother were smart enough to understand that good business could be achieved by working with Fryslân 2000, and they worked hard to get as many interested people as possible for a trip to Fryslân. They were able to form a fantastic amount of close to one hundred and fifty people 'ready to fly.'
They managed to sign on the cruise ship Jan Nieveen capable at holding their entire group for the length of the tour, nicely solving the problem of lodging and feeding the large group for the entire tour and to keep them together. The ship sailed from Amsterdam over the Ijsselmeer to Fryslân, after which it would sail through the Fatherland from north to south with several stops to enjoy a variety of entertainment and excursions.
Our group of about fifty participants originated from Abbotsford and was led by Alice, while a larger Ontario group took off from Toronto, led by Alice's brother and co-partner Jake.
Alice definitely put her imprint on our flight. She decorated the aircraft with hundreds of Frisian flags which made the majority of the non-Frisian passengers wonder what was going on, but their wondering changed to bewildering when she started playing Frisian songs on her accordion and the Frisian passengers, used to loud singing, lustily sang whatever songs she fed them. How she managed to get her accordion into the passenger area, I have no idea, but for her there was not such a thing as being impossible.
Alice was no Alice to leave it by singing only, still playing the accordion she rose from her seat and started dancing down the isle toward the cockpit, and like the pied Piper of Hamelin lured the more than willing Frisians to follow her, dancing and singing as they marched behind her to the cockpit, passed by the idle pilots who were by now flying on the automatic pilot, and hossed all the way back to the tail of the airplane. Hossing, which some call the Polonaise, is a dance which was tolerated even by the stern Calvinists (only at weddings) in which the participants, alternating boy and girl, held each other at the waist to form a single line, all the while swaying from one foot to the other in a fast forward motion, and were having a great time.
The hossing in the plane caused tripping and bumping into the seats of baffled passengers and so we danced the Polonaise 30,000 high up, as close to the stratosphere as nature allowed the plane to fly, all the way from the north pole to Ireland, when the plane slowly descended the lofty highs on the way down to earth, where I felt much more comfortable. My father on one of his trips to Canada once said “As soon as we are above the clouds, I feel so good, to be that close to God,” however, I did not share that love with him.
I had loved to participate in dancing the Polonaise, had it taken place 30,000 feet lower, but as I have a healthy fear of flying and was petrified with fear that the plane was going to crash, I sat with my head between the legs, holding onto the seat in a faint attempt to steady the airplane which flew unconcerned on the automatic pilot while Alice and her crowd were having the time of their life. Flying with Alice was never dull. Nothing was ever dull when Alice was in charge, which most often she was.
I have known Alice for more than thirty years, from the time I purchased the first building lot from her on one of the finest spot of south Sumas mountain where Anne and I built our retirement home, we shared the same view of the picturesque Sumas valley with the majestic Mount Baker in the background with Alice and Pete, and later with Alice and Herman Bandstra.
I had breakfast with Alice every Saturday for about twenty years according to her calculations, and over bacon and eggs (special) we talked about things that mattered. I learned there also that leading people and speaking in public was often very hard on her, it kept her awake many nights, although she made it look easy the next day. Alice always appeared to be in control, she possessed a unique and creative business personality, but could be tough with people second guessing her motives, she was generous sharing her wry smile, instead of being a volunteer in church she just did it. Alice showed a strong faith in God, and had a generous and loving heart.
Recently Alice took her last trip to a destination where all us one time will gather with her, in the presence of God the Life Giver, but until I join her there, I will miss her here.
I am missing her dearly.