Dana leans back in her cafe seat, arms crossed, face a resigned combination of amused and embarassed. "I'm a regular here," she admonishes with a glance to the counter.
Rick puts down the rind of the lemon he's eaten out of the teapot. I continue to nibble on the slice of ginger I've fished out of the tea. Eileen pushes her nearly finished bowl of butter beans across the table for Rick to finish.
Dana (of course) has a great list of places to eat in Rotterdam, and we're systematically destroying her local cred with our usual highjinks. But we do appreciate the good food. In our 36 hour stay, we've had a 6 euro breakfast with croissants and avocado toast, an excellent Vietnamese lunch in a maximalist-decorated restaurant (tea sets suspended in bird cages from an indoor false cherry tree, acrylic rod chandeliers in the bathroom stalls), and tapas and pinchos at the old waterfront, staying late enough over our bottle of red that the waiter brought around free pinchos from the closing food bar.
I last saw Dana in November for a Hamburg weekend. Rick and Eileen haven't seen her since July, when she came home briefly (I was in Alaska). She hasn't seen Ryan since her wedding in India in 2022, and she still hasn't; he went home to Taipei last week when we got to Cape Town. My family doesn't do a lot of long-distance hanging out, but everything is natural when we do visit.
Family dynamics don't change much. We used to road trip a lot as a family, long hauls across the American West for orienteering races, stale bagels in the back seat, early pre-race mornings grumbling on the way to middle-of-nowhere venues, hanging sweaty post-race clothes on the mirrors and windshield wipers. Ryan does patient directions and frustrated speeches. Rick doesn't stop for food. Dana is on-brand for having skipped the South Africa orienteering trip entirely. Everybody knows I'm going to be a nightmare if I don't eat soon.
It's been below freezing the whole time we've been here, an abrupt change from southern hemisphere summer. Last night, we ducked into a food hall for the warmth and found a ping pong table. It only had two paddles, so the four of us chased each other around in circles, dropping the paddle after each hit and running to the other end to catch a subsequent return. In a few minutes, we were warm, laughing, Dana eyeing the other customers in silent apology for our puerile behavior.
Today, it's snowing. Hard little snowflakes hit against our bags, our coats, give traction to the icy walkways. But the cold is perfect; we're taking one of those cheap airlines with luggage restrictions. Two pairs of pants plus two skirts is that much less weight in my bag.
We said goodbye to Dana over breakfast, so it's back down to me and my parents again to start the final leg of the trip: Portugal tonight.