Hippie Kid

January 3, 2020

Fifty years ago this year, on Dec. 28, 1970, the United States Department of Justice Immigration and Naturalization Service deported my father, Paul Kuitenbrouwer, on United Airlines flight 388 from San Francisco to Vancouver. The plane took off at 9:15 a.m. and landed at 12:23 p.m., PST. My father’s escort delivered him into the custody of the Vancouver RCMP, who wanted him on narcotics and hit-and-run charges.

In 2011 the National Post published my series of stories about my childhood. The stories centred on my father’s arrest, with five children (including me) in his car, in Healdsburg, Calif., in August of 1969.

I have long wanted to turn these stories into a book. So far, that has not happened. My new year’s resolution for 2020 is to publish here an expanded and improved serial of the events of my early childhood. These stories will knit together to form a book.

Chapter One: My Mom Never Made it to New York

My mother (standing in this photo between her elder sisters Elsa and Paula) was born in 1936, three years before World War II, the third daughter of an eye doctor, Hans Dekking, and a sculptor, Anna van Haeften. Her birthplace was Nijmegen, a city made famous in the film A Bridge Too Far. During World War II the retreating Germans bombed my mother’s house. A British soldier dragged the piano out of the burning house and, on the street, sat at it and played God Save the King. A rich banker family then sheltered the refugees for the balance of the war.

After the war the family moved to Groningen in the north of Holland. My mom left home at age 13. She thinks her parents didn’t much want a third daughter; plus my grandmother wanted to focus on her sculpture. So they sent Marianne (whom everyone called Hansje) off to boarding school. They couldn’t afford it, but luckily Oma Meip, the mother of my opa (grandfather), came from a wealthy family in Rotterdam, and she footed the bill.

At age 16, having finished English boarding school my mom ended up in Amsterdam. She wanted to get into early childhood education, but first had to take a year studying home economics – how to cook, make beds, iron, clean house, etc. When she completed that year she tried to enroll, but the school said that she was too young, at 17. A friend from boarding school invited Marianne to her dance school, and my mom loved it, and enrolled. The next year Porgy & Bess came to Amsterdam, and my mom saw it. She also saw Martha Graham on her first trip to Europe.

Marianne vowed to move to New York and dance with Martha Graham. She needed money for the trip. So my mom set up a ballet school of her own and, on Saturdays, took the train from Amsterdam to Groningen to teach dance. That year, 1956, Hungary rose up against the Soviets. Aware of the bloodshed, my mom sent all her dance school proceeds to the Red Cross. Her father, feeling bad for her, paid for her passage on the ship to the New World. Marianne Dekking bore an invitation to teach Christian summer camp in the Pocano Mountains of Pennsylvania. After the summer, she vowed, she would travel to New York and tell Martha Graham that she wanted to dance with her.

It was on that ship that she met my father.