Klompen (Wooden clogs)

In Attire
Photo of Dutch wooden clogs (klompen"
Photo of Dutch wooden clogs (klompen"

These are not my grandparents’ wooden shoes (or “klompen,” in Dutch); it’s an image I found on the internet. While I remember my grandmother talking about her shoes, I never saw or held them for myself. Even for her, a few generations out from her ancestors who immigrated from the Netherlands, they were more an artifact from time past than a part of her everyday life. For me, the klompen signify a culture that has been lost to my family. My father’s ancestors came to this country in the late 19th century, gradually finding their way to South Dakota. I do not know why they chose to come here; I imagine that they were looking for opportunities they didn’t see for themselves or their children in Europe. And they realized the dominant narrative of the American dream- in time, they came to work and later own farms and stores on the prairie. But so much was lost in the process. As a child, my grandfather was embarrassed that his parents spoke Dutch, and refused to speak it himself. I never learned about any traditional Dutch dances, music, holidays, beliefs, food- because my family chose to, and was able to, assimilate and become white Americans. I imagine for them the cost was worth it. After all, their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren have access to resources and opportunities they couldn’t have imagined. So while I honor their sacrifice, I also seek to rediscover a culture that is in my blood but not yet a part of my life. 

Place(s): The Netherlands, South Dakota
Year: 1899

– Sarah Begeman

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more