Today we think nothing of calling overseas. In many cases, using tools like Skype, not only is it easy, it’s free and can easily include video.
In the early 1960’s it was another story. My parents made one phone call to Holland. It lasted 3 minutes, took something like an hour or more to set up, involved at least three separate operators, and cost an arm and a leg.
I believe it was in part to set up a visit.
In 1964 my grandparents made the journey from Holland to Kirkland, Washington for a visit. The “occasion” (I’ll call it the excuse) was my first communion – at the time one of the various rites of passage in the Catholic church. I say “excuse” because I’m pretty convinced they just wanted to visit their daughter and son-in-law whom they’d not seen in person for several years.
This must have been quite the adventure. Neither had flown before, and certainly not for however long the flight would have been back then. I’m not sure either of them had even left The Netherlands before. And, unlike today where English is a given, they only spoke Dutch.
But come they did. And my parents treated them to the usual bevy of Seattle-area touristy things; the Space Needle, Snoqualmie Falls, the mountain passes (Stevens Pass, if I remember correctly), and more.
But more importantly, they spent time together, time with my parents, and time with me. It was the first time they’d met their American grandson.
It was a very, very good thing, and a very good memory for me.
It would also be the only time that all five of us would be in the same place at the same time.
I never met my father’s parents — they passed before I was born. But I’m exceptionally grateful to have met my mother’s. A couple of years after this I’d see them again — the last time for my grandfather, as it was his illness that prompted that trip. But that’s a tale for another day.