When Helen as a child hopscotched through the village, her blond hair danced wildly with her. She ran like a hare and was able to outdistance most boys her age, however not Lolke, the redheaded son of a rich dairy farmer, who milked at least thirty cows.
She must've been about fifteen or sixteen when the two ran against each other at the yearly village folk-festival that was won by Lolke, as close to the finish Helen tripped and fell, even though she had been slightly ahead of Lolke. Some villagers wondered about that. Had she let Lolke win...?
Helen was born in a part of of the Lowlands where the air is fresh and green grass fields stretch all the way way around, right up to the horizon where it changes color from grass- green into the blue of the sky. Her grandmother once said 'it not only looks like paradise here, it smells like it too.'
Lolke was the youngest of a dozen children, and knew that he would never inhered the family farm, as his older brothers were all good herdsmen and interested in the farm so he dreamed of trying his luck in the US.
Most every boy in the community vied for Helen's hand as she was a happy, good-looking and energetic famke girl, but they soon knew that her heart was only for one, though they weren't even going together, and not because Helen's parents did not 'milk as many cows' as did Lolke's father – the problem was much deeper than that, knew Helen.
“What was so much more important than who had a few more cows was, that Lolke's parents churched at the Old reformed church, and mine belonged to the New reformed, and then the saying was 'two faiths on the same pillow there sleeps the devil in between.' We could be friendly to the others, but no friends' and a marriage between Lolke and I was unthinkable.”
“This unfortunate situation was very hard for Lolke and myself as we felt that we belonged together, and - we loved our parents, but the more they argued and pressured us the more we grew together, especially as the date of Lolke's departure neared. O, did I tell you that we had decided to elope? O, no, I missed a very important part. Ya, we decided to elope to America. We really did. However, that did not go anywhere because the US had closed the borders for immigrants. That happened when I was about sixteen, seventeen.”
“Lolke later heard that good herdsmen were asked in Canada, so he made work of it and was accepted but they wanted to see if he was healthy enough. Ya, a medical. I could've told them that there was nothing wrong with him, but anyways, he passed his medical and was wanted by Canada, but not by my parents. And I was not by his parents. It was so stupid. All because we worshiped God in a different church building.”
“So, our plan was that Lolke was going first, to find us a place and I would follow him a year later, but I don't know if I may say this, because we don't know what God's will is for us, for we are only people, but let me tell you anyways. We sometimes went for a walk in the fields behind our farm, and this Sunday-evening after church we did just that. It was haying time and the hay on the field was put in stacks ready to be hauled into the barn. It was a beautifully quiet evening, the kind you only find on Sundays. I can almost feel the calm quietness yet. So, we settled down behind behind a haystack, out of sight of everybody - and talked.”
“We talked a great deal about things we had never talked about before. I told Lolke, that I did not want as many children as his mother had.”
“How do we know how many children we get anyways,” he said. And I said
“No more than four, Lolke,” and he said
“Why four only, isn't that up to God?” and I said
“Four only Lolke, God gave us brains as well.” Then he stammered something I had never heard him utter before, not like that
'Helen,' he said, 'I love you.'
You can't say that in Frisian as slick as in English, that's why he had difficulty saying it.”
Well! My heart beat so fast, I thought it would burst and then I heard the that cuckoo again, it was so weird, and just because of what he said, and how he said it, I felt so close to Lolke.
I felt as if I was married. Yahoo!
I never told my children, but think God strangely approved what we did - I still do.”
“I don't think I have to tell you any more, yes, I became pregnant, but didn't know for sure until after Lolke was in Canada, so he didn't know until I wrote him.”
(next week the second part part of Helen's story)