A New Romance Language

2012-11-19T07:30:00Z A New Romance LanguageRick Kaempfer nwitimes.com
November 19, 2012 7:30 am  • 

I know that Dutch is not exactly considered a romance language. It sounds a bit guttural and harsh. But for me, there is one word in the Dutch language that stirs romantic thoughts.

And that word is Grolsch.

I can feel your eyes rolling, so let me explain.

In the summer of 1988 I was working at a radio station in Chicago (The Loop, AM 1000) as a producer. My producer’s booth shared space with the AP newswire machine (remember those?) and the music library of the Loop FM. Because of that, there were always people milling about. The disc jockeys came in to get their music, and the news staff came in to get their news, and I was supposed to ignore the commotion and pay attention to the radio show I was producing.

Sometimes that was quite a challenge, but never more so than the summer of 1988. You see, that summer the news department hired a new intern; a smart, sarcastic, pretty redhead named Bridget. I was smitten almost immediately, despite the fact the she was only twenty years old, and I was a worldly wise 24—and that we were both seeing someone else at the time. Every time she came into my booth to tear off the newswire for the news director, we chatted effortlessly. I could tell she liked me too.

One day she mentioned that it was her 21st birthday. I offered to take her out for her first legal drink after the show, but she had to catch a train before the show ended. So, I pulled some strings and got someone to make a run for me. I don’t remember who got it, or why this particular brand was chosen, but the beer they brought me was Grolsch. As Bridget poked her head into my booth to say goodbye, I handed her a bottle.

“I wanted to be the one to give you your first legal drink,” I said.

Months later when we were officially dating she admitted that she was so touched by that moment she saved the Grolsch bottle as a memento. She still has it in a box somewhere in our attic. I’m sure when we’re both gone, and our boys are cleaning out our stuff, they’ll stumble upon that bottle in a box and think: “What in the world is this?”

I only bring up this story because we celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary on Friday. The number 21 reminded me of her 21st birthday in 1988, and it brought a smile to my face. My mind immediately flashed back to that cute young girl in the newsroom poking her head in to say goodbye. I remember what she was wearing. I remember her facial expression. I remember how she blushed and smiled when I gave her the gift. I remember everything about that moment; because it was precisely the moment I decided I would do whatever I could to make her mine.

Three years later she was my wife.

Since the very beginning of our marriage, we’ve made an effort to do something special every year on our anniversary. Last year for our twentieth anniversary we went to Italy. But this year, we were simply too busy and couldn’t pull it off. On our actual anniversary Bridget was working at a Cub Scout event and didn’t get home until 9pm. I figured it was just going to be one of our typical nights home with the boys, when she said: “It’s not too late—let’s go out for a nice dinner somewhere. The sushi place is open until 10.”

I knew exactly what drink I was going to order for her on this 21st anniversary—because I had been thinking about that romantic guttural Dutch word all day. When the waitress asked what we wanted, I didn’t hesitate.

“We’ll have Sapporo,” I said.

What? You expected something else? It was a Japanese restaurant. They didn’t even serve Grolsch. Besides, the Sapporo came with a free plate of Gyoza. To me, that’s a very romantic Japanese word. It was quite delicious too, but I somehow doubt it will still bring a smile to my face twenty one years from now.

It’s pretty hard to top the Dutch when it comes to romance.

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