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“Each New Year’s Day is like a new, hopeful beginning,” my father said every January 1st, while scattering some icing sugar on top of his “oliebollen” (a kind of doughnut ball that is typically served around New Year’s in the Netherlands). My father then changed for our visitors, and poured himself a drink.

by Rick van der Made - 31 December 2018

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1986 - 2018

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

As always on January 1st, it was open house at our home. Family, neighbors, friends and colleagues of my parents dropped by to usher in the New Year.

“It’s always fun,” mother said.
“It’s tradition,” father said.

As was the case on January 1st, 1986. I was seventeen years old. 1985 had been a special year for the family: my father now was fifty years old, and my uncle had suddenly died. Following my older brother and myself, my youngest sister had had her coming out at the age of fifteen. Out of the four children in our family, three were now openly gay.

“Each New Year’s Day is like a new, hopeful beginning,” my father told my sister, while he tried to persuade my sister to try one of mother’s home-made “oliebollen.”

Our doorbell rang. A colleague of my father and his wife entered our home. My father worked for the Ministry of Defence, and this colleague was some high-ranking big shot. Even though now a Ministry of Defence boat has a presence during the Canal Parade, the situation in the 1980s was completely different, certainly in the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant.

Everyone was sitting down in the living room. Most people were smoking, drinking far too much alcohol, eating fattening snacks that were far too salty - something that is not done any more in our present day and age.

The colleague and his wife were called Uncle Jan and Aunt Dien by us, as back then, almost every adult received the predicate uncle or aunt. They were sitting in the middle of the room.

Uncle Jan was a large, impressive man with a thundering voice. At a certain moment, the conversation switched to TV personalities who could be seen around and on New Year’s Eve. Toon Hermans, Fred Oster, Willem Duys, Wim Kan, and André van Duin.

It soon became clear that Uncle Jan did not like comedian André van Duin at all. He thought he was just a show-off. He did not like his jokes, and the fact that he came from Rotterdam did not work to his advantage either. “And,” Uncle Jan finally shouted disapprovingly, “He is a homosexual as well!”

There was an uncomfortable silence. Uncle Jan looked smug with his arms crossed, while the rest of us stared at my father with our mouths open wide.

Suddenly, a roar of laughter could be heard. All heads turned toward where it came from. It was my mother, who was shaking with laughter.

“Oh Jan,” she told Uncle Jan, while wiping the tears out of her eyes. “If only you knew!”

What that was, she did not say. Most of us started laughing as well, and Uncle Jan was not looking as smug as before.

“O well,” our father told his youngest daughter, while presenting the plate with “oliebollen.” “Just ignore Uncle Jan. We know better. Each of my children are as each New Year’s Day: a new, hopeful beginning.”

Thirty-three years later - while my father, mother, uncle Jan and many other uncles and aunts, friends and neighbors have started their new lives in the hereafter - on January 1st, I think back and remember my father after all the visitors had left on the evening of January 1st. How, with an “oliebol” left over from the day before in one hand and a glass of red wine in the other hand, he told his youngest daughter: “It was a rather great New Year’s Day, except perhaps for Uncle Jan.”

“Next year, we will invite Uncle Jan along with the entire COC on January 1st,” my sister said.

“That would be great,” mother said.
“It will be a new tradition,” father said.

I wish you a merry Christmas, a happy and healthy New Year, full of wonderful traditions.



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