The history of my ancestors is shrouded in mystery. My uncle made the pedigree of my mother’s family until the time of Napoleon, before that date nothing can be found on paper. My father’s family made no effort for a pedigree, because his family is closely linked with the three families that have lived for more than 1000 years in our village. The village exists more than a thousand years, but some 1000 years ago the village is mentioned in a deed. And if it is officially stated on paper, than it exists according to the people in my village.
My mother does not come from our village. She will never fully belong in our village, although she lives here more than 50 years. She will always remain Belgium – or “Belsh” as they say in our village. Due to this, we – my two sisters and I – also remain mavericks in our village. At our home everything is little different; by my mother, we have many Belgian habits in our family. In the beginning I had trouble to understand my mother’s family: they speak a Flemish dialect between each other. Even if they speak a kind of Dutch to me, I could I not follow them. Now I’m older and I have no trouble with their tongue; by many travel Flemish became very familiar. Now I know their way of living; it has a certain charm – closed to the outside and warm inside.
My father and mother got to know each other in the 1950s by chance. Two normal, young and kind people have met and started to love each other – and they still do. After a few year courtship, they married and soon we – the three sisters – were born. My first memory is the birth of my oldest sister. I was almost 2 years old. Suddenly everything was strange in our house and that night when I called for my mother, she did not come. Then many, many other memories arose. At the birth of my second sister when I was three years old, I felt a real mother for her. I was well able to take care for my youngest sister; my mother thought otherwise. Our first generation conflict had arisen.
In the kindergarten it soon became clear that I was different: I could learn far too well. I soon noticed that it was not wise to show it. Reading was still nothing for normal girls in the kindergarten. Unnoticed I read old children’s books of my mother at home.
In that time I had caught a grasshopper. That evening it sat in a matchbox on the night-stand next to my bed. As I shook the box, I heard it jumping. For always I would have company of my grasshopper. The next morning it was dead. My father and I burried it officially in the garden. This was my first real farewell.
In elementary school I played hide and seek with the teachers. I did not think it wise to show how easy I could learn. The master in the second class had a magnificent collection of butterflies from Indonesia. He was drafted there as soldier: about the fights he told nothing. Later, much later I understood that there were about 95,000 Dutch soldiers in Indonesia: 2500 soldiers have not survived this conflict . This number corresponds to almost a third of the graves at the military war cemetery in Margraten. It was no police action, but a real war. The number of victims among the inhabitants of Indonesia is many times higher. After the second world war, Holland wished to retain this colony for its prosperity; the joy of life of my schoolmaster was sacrificed for this aim. As a girl of 7 years old, I saw that razor sharp.
I also played hide and seek with my mother. I could count very quickly. Counting is addition and subtraction of numbers. I never had to learn the multiplication tables: I could add 9 times 8 in a flash. When shopping with my mother, I could add the final amount at once. As a girl of 6 years old I saw at once when my mother received the incorrect exchange money. A discussion about a difference of a few pennies with the shopkeeper and my mother is not wise for a child of 6 years old. Since that time I only intervened when the differences were large.
I was the oldest of three sisters. I thought it was natural that I had a better overview about everything and I could be their second mother. At that time I did not notice that I could learn so much easier than my two younger sisters. My sisters are normal happy people who married in our village. They still live there with their families.
Every Saturday I went with my father to the library in a larger town. The librarian chose for me small book to read and my father chose the books to read to me. He chose in the second class of elementary school “Letter for the King” written by Tonke Dragt. I did not look at the books selected by the librarian for me. The books to be read to me, I read myself – Tiuri the page in Letter for the King was my hero. My father was asked why he read so much to me. My father said that he only read out the first pages. That was absolutely right: I read the rest on my own. Hide-and-seek again.
 Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Greta_oto.jpg