This is the case with the Sammy Keyes book I'm working on now. As those of you who read the series know, Dot DeVries is one of Sammy's friends, and her parents are from Holland.
My son has asked me in the past why Dot was even one of Sammy's friends because she doesn't have a big role in most of the books, and he has a point. But the reality is, it's hard to have scenes with too many friends. The dialog gets bogged down with attributions, and it just gets messy and cumbersome.
So it's true that Dot has taken a back seat for many of the books, but I couldn't just write her out because I've known since the fifth book that Sammy would be going to Dot's house the first week of December of this (her eighth grade) year for the DeVries' Dutch celebration of Sinter Klaas.
That was ten books ago.
It's finally time!
Now, the way the traditional Dutch family celebrates Sinter Klaas is a MUCH milder version of the one the Van Draanen family ramped up to when we were teenagers. Traditionally, you put your shoes out by the fireplace with carrots and apples for Sinter Klaas's horse and sing a little Dutch song. In the morning Sinter Klaas has exchanged the carrots and apples for Dutch treats. This goes on for the first four days of December, and on the 5th of December Sinter Klaas tosses cookies through the ceiling and leaves a small gift for you at the door.
Yes, that's right. Cookies come through the ceiling.
Now, I'm not going to go into the details of how this happens or my family's adaptation of this quaint custom, but I will tell you that what you'll read about in the story is very much how the events played out in the Van Draanen household.
It starts with carrots in the shoes and ends in cookie warfare.
I'm sure anyone reading the story (Dutch or not) would think the scenes are the result of an overly active imagination on the author's part, but I know (and my family will know), that, yeah, that was pretty much the way we "celebrated."
I like this part of writing. The slipping in of scenes--or even just phrases--that are like a private tribute to special people or a special time in your life. And even though my husband's not Dutch, we've carried on the Van Draanen adaptation of Sinter Klaas here at home. It's just fun.
Actually, wild is a much better description.
And throughout the year as I find little cookies in light fixtures and on top of hutches and behind the refrigerator, it reminds me of fun times, now and then.
So I'm looking forward to having this "cultural activity" documented in a book. I think it'll be pretty cool on several levels, including being able to point to the book and say "Read Chapter 3" to my sons' future wives.
After all, it's important that they understand what they're getting into.
Dutch or not, there's no getting out of cookie warfare.
Er, I mean Sinter Klaas.