Pake Roelevink maintained a large vegetable garden of which a considerable part was set apart for growing winter carrots. Master Klaas, a school teacher, advised pake (grandfather) that the children of the Christian elementary school, of which pake was the chairman, did not receive adequate vitamins. After master Klaas explained what vitamins were, the old man immediately cultivated an addition to his carrot plot and during the winter months each student received a long, vitamin laden winter carrot twice a week, and that settled the perceived vitamin shortage of the schoolchildren.
While on my two of the three weeks summer holidays, I had eyed the luscious green carrot tops and was tempted like Eve was in paradise, for the luscious carrot was desirous in my eyes. No one ever had forbidden me to take a carrot, but still I felt hesitant to go for one, knowing that this plot was grandfather’s pride, but I mustered enough courage to pull one carrot out of the sandy loam. My choice was not the right one since it was not nearly full grown and looked more like a long rat tail. I gingerly pushed the rat tail back into the hole it came from, and tried another one which wasn’t any bigger. I went all around the plot to find an edible carrot, before I quit in disgust, leaving the patch as I found it by pushing all the rat tails back from where they came from.
My grandparents celebrated the Sunday by going twice to church dressed in their best clothes. Grandfather wore a black three-piece suit, a black high hat and back laced boots. He walked the ten minutes it took to walk to church three paces ahead of grandmother, who wore a plain black outfit which included a black hat, soberly adorned with a (black) feather. In her purse she carried a little bottle of eau de cologne of which she put a few droplets on her handkerchief to sniff on just before the sermon started. Grandfather consulted his pocket watch, covered by his right hand to hide his intent from the preacher. At the end of the sermon he would repeat the action so he could calculate the length of time the student preacher preached about his sermon.
It was not pake's day. The sermon was barely an hour and a half long, way too short, and then the young student preacher had the gall to make the congregation sing one of the twenty nine newly added songs, which were, totally unnecessary, added by the Synod to the hundred and fifty psalms of David. Out of protest grandfather refrained from singing.
When on the way home he passed the carrot patch, he noticed the devastation, and then the milk boiled over. His face paled and his eyes were spitting fire when he saw the wilted carrots in between the healthy green. His voice trembled when he called out my name, pointed to his ruined garden and shouted “Did you do that?” accentuating every one of the four words.
As in a dream, I heard myself saying “No.” Pake didn’t say another word and went inside leaving me sad, dejected and guilty, outside. I had gravely sinned. I had lied. I had lied after just coming out of church. I had lied on a Sunday. That made it at least a triple sin. I didn’t dare to go inside, where all were sitting around the table now waiting for pake to take off his hat and say a prayer over the chicken soup with mini meatballs, (as beppe grandmother could only make it) and over the steaming potatoes, and the green beans, all fresh out of pake's garden. The water ran out my mouth just thinking about it, and as dessert they all would get a big slice of vanilla pudding with red berry juice over it. But all that was happening inside and I was outside, sitting against the brick wall of the living room, which was used as a dining room as well. So close to all that delicious food and yet so far away.
I heard somebody coming. I hoped it was not uncle Wieger, because he was the strongest and the tallest of the three brothers. Would grandfather have sent him to punish me? He was liable to take a strip of my back, and then some. Afraid I peeked up to him, but nothing of the kind happened. Uncle went down on his haunches besides me. Maybe he was going to send me home.
“The carrot patch out of which you took some samples are winter carrots; they will be ready a few months from now, even if you had tried the entire patch you wouldn’t have found one big enough to eat. Pake knows that you were not out to destroy his garden, because you put the carrots careful back into the same holes they came from, right?” He pulled me up and said that we better go quickly into the house, otherwise the food would be cold and led me into the living room where everyone was waiting. Pake had not even taken off his hat, but he did so as soon as I sat down.
Everybody bowed their head while pake started his prayer of which I long remembered whole sentences,
“Our Father in heaven, we come before Thy holy countenance to worship and to praise Thee…”
Starting off with pake, beppe gave everyone a plate of soup including me. I kept my eyes to my plate because pake was sitting across from me. I felt him looking at me.
“Do you like grandmother’s soup,” he asked. I nodded “Yes.”
“I like her soup too,” he said, putting his hat on again.
After the soup came the next round – potatoes, green beans, a small piece of meat with a ladle of meat gravy over the steamy potatoes, wow, - and the vanilla pudding with red berry sauce still was to come.
And then everything was as it was before again.