You: Man Leben – South Limburg


Die Zeit die man leben nennt [1]

Until the end of 1941 you have lived your early childhood in Amsterdam as a Dutch boy.

[2]

No existing man and place has been model for one of the main characters and places. Their names might be Allman, Everyman and Everywhere.

Just before your eighth birthday you said goodbye to your parents. After a night of staying at your aunt, you arrived by several places in between and with a new name Jacobus Hermanus Maria Leben – they called me “Man”– as Catholic boy on a farm in South Limburg.

On your eighth birthday you ended up in a country where a language extends as far as you can watch [3]. So many foreign armies have set foot on this country that the new regime from Germany brought no shocking change. But the manner in which one lives and who is allowed to life here, the Pruusj – or German – the Dutchman has nothing to do with. In 1942 life went on as it has done for many thousands of years.

You continue with your primary school years:

“A long journey on foot, on a bike, by train and on a carriage followed when I left my aunt. A number of nights I have lodged with different people. In between I am renamed and baptized Catholic. I still use this name. At the end of the trip just before sunset I arrived in a different world; a farm near Valkenburg [4]. I could understand no one. The farm looked like a castle surrounded with walls and buildings and everything smelled unlike anything I was used to. The farmer and his wife – who I have adopted me as their (temporarily) godfather and godmother – and the servants were kind. First I got supper, bread, and many delicacies. I was tired and I fell fast asleep in a strange bedroom. The next morning began the rhythm of the farm, Church and school: first I helped with milking of the cows, then I went to the church – a strange world – had breakfast and then to school. The pastor introduced me in the classroom. Odd looks; I could understand no one. After school I helped on the farm. Later I also played with classmates. I remained an outsider at school: I could learn far too well.

  [5]

After the period of habituation, this is the most beautiful time out of my life. Everything was stable between my eighth and twelfth year. In that time I got used to the seasons, the change of light and the rhythm of nature. I still carry the field flowers with me, the Church with the processions through the fields, and the golden yellow light from that time.

[6]

Soon I was allowed to confess like all children of my school. After some classmates did there confession, the door of the pastor opened, he opened the door of a brutal boy. The boy received several  slaps – in a farmers’ environment this did not really hurt – and he was allowed to carry on with his penance. I actually had not sinned, but I decided to invent a few small sins; my first deviation from the right path – more followed later.

At the age of 10, I unexpectedly fell in love with a girl in the village. It seemed that lightning struck, so fiercely and unexpectedly; Everything was covered in a white glow. From then on life was different with extra feelings and concerns. Nobody has ever known of my first love.

Later I never more helped so open-minded on the fields with ploughing and sowing. The smell of freshly ploughed earth only smelled of growth and bloom. After I left South Limburg, another – sad – smell was added [7].

In between in September 1944 the other regime from Germany was expelled from South Limburg without any clashes in our village. Near Aachen, in the Ardennes and in North Limburg there were fierce fights. A new regime from the West arrived with first the sensation of change and later habituation; life re-took its rhythm.

In the summer of 1946 my aunt came. With her I moved to a village near Rotterdam. I moved from an environment that is completely Catholic to an area that has a strict inner faith and guilt with a sharp “F” and hard “G”. As I look back, this move is – next to having children – the biggest change in my life “, you say.

“These changes should have been shocking for you”, I say.

“In Limburg, it came as it came, it was as it was and it went as it went; and not otherwise. Falling in love was a change. After this lightning struck, life was no longer the same, no longer carefree as before. I have had a very good time in Limburg. Around 1975, I have again lived two years on the same farm: again a good time. The shocking changes came when I moved to Holland”, you say.

The next post is about your grammar school years near Rotterdam.

– “Who are you – Part 1″ ready for download –

– Please, see page: “Who are you – Part 1”



[1] Translation: “The time one names life”. There exists a film with a similar title; see: http://www.tvspielfilm.de/kino/filmarchiv/film/die-zeit-die-man-leben-nennt,1318419,ApplicationMovie.html

[2] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AmstelAmsterdamNederland.jpg

[3] In France until the time of Napoleon, the languages did not extends further than one can watch. See:  Robb, Graham, The discovery of France. London: Picador, 2007

[4] No existing farm or neighbourhood in the area of Valkenburg has been model for this post.

[5] Examples of farms in South Limburg. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Houtemstgerlach.jpg

[6] Source image: http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=download&id=1361079

[7] This may remind of the title of a novel by: Pavese, Cesar, La terra e la morte.

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