My late mother was once a nun. Around 1950, she joined the Order of the Franciscans in the village of Dongen in the province of Noord-Brabant. A few years later, she left. Monastic life did not suit her.
I’m actually in Spain writing this, on the island of Gran Canaria. It is late October, and there is unrest in the Catalonia region. While watching the news reports about the rebellious region, I wonder where from Spain Saint Nicholas is actually leaving for the Netherlands with his steamboat. Valencia? Malaga? Or the rebellious Barcelona?
Last October, to be precise the 29th, it was seventy-five years ago that my home town of Breda was liberated. Both of my parents had consciously witnessed the Second World War and the German occupation and my mother took part in “The Flight” as a seven-year-old child with all citizens of Breda.
Hurray! The cultural season has started again. I do love the summer, and I enjoyed it to the fullest. But after these new Dutch heat records and the lazing away with too many beers, I always find “De Uitmarkt” (the opening of the cultural season) very refreshing.
It is late July. Shortly “our” Amsterdam Pride will take place. I think it very nice as a homosexual that you, dear heterosexual, want to come to our Pride party, even if you secretly prefer we’re not too strangely dressed and you think that we are allowed to be gay, but prefer us not to be kissing on the streets, while asking a same-sex couple which of the two is the man and who is the woman in the relationship.
Yesterday was July 2, 2019. “So what?” I hear you thinking. What’s so special about this date? Indeed, for most of us the date doesn’t signify anything of importance.
Yet it is a day that will affect all of us. I am not talking about the total solar eclipse that takes place that day (almost completely above water and not visible) but about the first day of the session period of the newly elected European Parliament.
May was a very special month in my family, as we celebrated three birthdays in May: my late father, my brother in law (my brother’s husband) and my youngest sister. My sister is three times last on the list: she is the youngest member of our family, she was - after my brother and myself - the last of the family to come out of the closet, and she is the youngest of all sixteen cousins on father’s side.
During a spring long in the past now, my mother was on her deathbed. One evening, I asked her if she was afraid to die. “No,” she replied, “I am going to see Hetty and God.” God was God, and Hetty was her twin sister and my godmother. Hetty had died a few years earlier.
Since last month, I live in Hooge Zwaluwe in the Dutch province of Brabant again. It is February, and almost time for the traditional carnival. The last time I celebrated it was four year ago with my friend Wouter. He left Amsterdam in his rabbit suit and me in my sailor outfit, going to Breda with public transport. We were very popular. I told him about the old days, about how I used to celebrate carnival in my home town Breda, the city where I now live close by again.
“Just act normal,” my mother told me when I was imitating the Dutch 1980s girl band the Dolly Dots with my two sisters and the girl next door, or when my brother and I were washing our doll clothes and hanging them on the clothesline to dry.
“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.
When you are reading this, it is almost December 5, or that day has just past. In the Netherlands, we celebrate the children’s party Sinterklaas on that day. Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) is the prematurely born brother of Santa Claus. Originally, Sinterklaas is from Turkey. Long and long ago, however, they did not know where that country was exactly. For convenience sake, the children were told he arrived on his boat from Spain, bearing gifts and accompanied by his assistant Black Pete.
When you are reading this, you may just be getting your pumpkins ready, trying on your troll costume, or hanging up fake spider’s webs for Halloween. It’s that time of the year again. Even though I love dress-up parties, strangely enough Halloween was never really my thing. I did not grow up with it.
Before I met my present partner, I hadn’t bothered to attend the Amsterdam Pride Canal Parade for some years. I’m not very tall, and the past few years the canals were dominated by tall inebriated straight women in pink hats and trendy high heels, who responded with irritated looks when I politely asked if I might move to the front so I could catch a glimpse of the parade.
I am running a cosy hotel with my best female friend Pascale in the centre of the “country’s most beautiful city,” as singer Wim Sonneveld once described Amsterdam. It has its advantages. Although our hotel is not “Fawlty Towers,” every day something new happens.
I turned fifty this month. On the morning of my birthday, I looked at myself in the mirror, saw some new crow’s feet around my eyes, and grabbed the framed family photograph that was made when my father turned fifty (in 1985) to compare myself to him.
Last April it was fifteen years ago my father died at the age of sixty-eight. My father loved reading and my mother, a former nun. He also loved his children, which manifested itself mainly in the chores he did for them. Less in showing physical affection.
May to me is a special month. It was one year ago in this spring month that I entered into a relationship with my Syrian-Armenian friend. This year for the very first time, we stood hand in hand at the Remembrance of the Dead in Amsterdam. A day later, we celebrated freedom together.
The municipal elections are just behind us. In my municipality, Zaanstad, sixteen parties participated for thirty-nine council seats. It was very difficult to make an informed choice. Not only am I confused, I am also split.