John got a call from his brother in Holland that his father was dying and wanted to see him “You got to help me because I need someone to travel with me.” I sympathized with the big man’s artificial leg, but was running a business.
“When were you planning to go?”
“Are you bonkers John? I cannot takeoff in … what about next week?”
“Can’t do, I got airline tickets already for Tuesday. You can pick up yours at the travel agency. All you have to do is pay for them.”(!)
Our arrival in Holland coincided with the annual extravagance of carnival, which is the greatest communal highlight in the southern part of the country. The entire adult population of the town participated in the revelry of three days boisterous dancing, drinking and singing. The annual extravaganza was held in three inter connecting-buildings packed so tightly that the river of humanity trying to dance from one end to the other barely moved but what they did, was drinking and singing, and everyone had the time of their life.
John was immediately recognized by some of the towns people and for his own safety propped up on a chair into a corner, behind a table filled with beer and dutch cognac, donated by newly found again friends, while I was pulled into the crowd and half carried, half tiptoeing made the trip back and forth through the buildings, inside a feasting frenzy of party goers. My feet had barely touched the floor and I was thankful to join John again who flashed a grin as wide as his mouth allowed.
“I got an invite,” John said as he steered me to a car dealership, where he readily was let in by a woman I immediately felt at ease with. My big friend and her seemed to know each other more than casual.
“I used to date her when we were teenagers,” John whispered as we walked in. The woman was visibly happy to see him and in no time she and John were reminiscing about that time.
“Remember Yohn, what caution we used to foo-al meneer Pastoor?” the priest. And to me, ”The tricks we invented when Yohn and I saw each other on a Sunday night, but who stands in the doorway on Monday morning? meneer Pastoor.” I liked the way she looked but even more the way she talked in her lilting local tongue. “Meneer Pastoor just couldn’t be fooa-led.” John’s family were protestant. ‘proatestant’ she lilted. It was more than frowned upon for an catholic girl to hang out with a boy of another faith.
“What was the reason for him visiting your parents when he got you already?” I asked.
“To let my parents know that he kept ‘n gooa-d eye on me, woar? and to tell me to see him at confession.” I asked what went on there.
“I confessed that I had gone out with ‘n proatestant boy and was sorry about that, woar? And then meneer Pastoor gave me my punishment,” she tilted her head askew and smiled mischievously. John grinned when he saw that I liked the woman, who continued.
“I had to recite so many our Father’s and hail Mary’s woar? And, paid him ‘n kwartje.” A quarter.
“And where you sorry then,” I said, promptly realizing what a foolish question I asked.
“Were we sorry Yohn”? Darn, there went her head again. “I was not sorry, where you sorry, Yohn?” John’s head nodded no.
“I only felt sorry for my quarter, but quickly started saving for ‘n another one woar?”
It was a strange week in which sorrowful emotions of John’s parents death and dying contrasted with joys of renewing old and making fresh friendships, the exuberance of carnival, and for me – a lovely woman with a playful tilted head, speaking a pleasing lilting tongue, who’s image just didn’t want to leave me.