When I was young, I dreamed great dreams. I wanted to be a Martin Luther.
Standing before a crowd wanting him to 'say uncle,' or be killed, my hero calmly stood his ground facing his antagonists and said,
“Here I stand, take it or leave it.”
'Say uncle' is an expression demanding that the opponent in a contest submits, it is the equivalent of 'I give up,' but it may also be a cry for mercy, which then becomes humiliating for the loser. Being a ten year old I knew just what Luther faced and how humiliating it would be for him to cry mercy, since he was firmly convinced to be right.
I once fought a much stronger boy but gambled that I could lick him with just a little luck, but was wrong. He had me pinned face down with a knee on my back and twisted my arm back and upward making me scream to stop. He gave an extra twist on the arm which made me yelp like a dog and said
“Say meisjes genade.” say girl mercy. I was not only forced to beg mercy from the winner but he insisted to have me do something much more humiliating – beg for 'girl mercy,' yeeuck!
That was worse than throwing up.
I dreamed about Luther packing a long sword, like Peter the disciple of Jesus, who cut an ear off the head of the enemy.
Jesus fixed the ear to where it came from thereby putting egg all over the face of Peter, the fiery apostle, who was convinced doing the right thing defending his lord.
Today I am eighty-seven years old and in that long life never made it to lofty heights like the giants of my time, Churchill, Colijn, Roosevelt, Billy Graham, Drees, Marten Luther King, Mandela, Gandhi, all born the same way I was, delivered by a mother. Naked.
Some did not even made it to eighty-seven.
I found out early that talking about politics and religion had one severe setback, inevitably people sharing their different visions about both, got angry at each other and often said regrettable things to each other.
I was a wise-nose teenager when I had a 'debate' about politics with my dad which I should've never had started but I did, and defended the socialists, knowing full well that my father was an AR man. His hero was Dr H Colijn, the leader of my father's political party.
When dad was getting angry I quit arguing, because I had never seen him angry except once when he threw a considerable larger men out of our house, because he said something nasty about my mother.
I was ashamed of me leading him on because in my book my parents were not any less than the 'men in high places' where dad used to pray for, before our meals, when our family as a unit sat around the table.
He was a good father and mother was an equally good mother. I am thankful for having had them as my parents. Very thankful.
When I was young, actually from the time I was born I did have a connection with greatness, since I celebrated my birthday on the same date her highness Princess Juliana of the Netherlands celebrated hers - April 30.
However, the connection became more pronounced when the princess became Queen of the Netherlands.
I had grown to be a teenager and was working as a junior carpenter. I liked working with people other than the one's I grew up with, even people of 'the world,' and realized those people weren't all as bad as we had been made to believe.
Some of them used foul language though, the words were not new to me but very seldom used and only when I was really angry or if I hit my finger with the hammer instead of a nail.
It was true what I had heard that construction workers did a lot of using god's name in vain as well, but what surprised me was that they did not need to be angry or hit themselves with a hammer, but injected a swearword into an ordinary sentence.
This was especially true in Canada, where I witnessed groups of men having lunch trying to outdo each other by putting as many swearwords in a sentence as could be mustered, and enriched them with a variety of four-letter words.
The Canadians I watched had a unique ability to switch, as soon a woman was in hearing distance they reversed to normal conversation. The same happened when children were around.
Did I swear either in Canada or in the Old country? To my shame I must tell you I did. I started working full time (52 hours a week) for the brothers Frankema in de Lemmer, where they kicked me off on building foundations for row-housing. I met a crew of steelworkers there who made reinforcing works for the foundations and some of them were also foul-mouthed.
I liked the men and it did not take long for me to imitate them and once the foreman of the crew said,
“Hey Leffert, you swear pretty good as if you were one of us. It didn't take you long to learn.”
He said it pleasantly, like giving a compliment, but I heard the under tone of him saying 'don't show off Leffert, we like you even if you're Gereformeerd.' I liked him almost as much as my trade school teacher Hoekstra.
I started off by sharing my relationship with Her Majesty Juliana, queen of the Netherlands, and now I must digress to the part of this story, where our relationship became more serious. It was one of these dull Sunday evenings where a few friends and I were hanging out not knowing what to do with ourselves, no girls around and for me the prospect of having to work hard on mixing concrete by hand for a manure pit. To top it off on my birthday, while my friends were going to have a lot of fun with girls at the middle school in the neighboring town.
Perhaps my jealousy was showing when one of the friends came up with an idea for me to send a happy birthday card to the queen since it was her (and mine) birthday.
I was not impressed with the idea but when one said that a letter would be more appropriate and since the queen was sinful rich maybe she could arrange to send me a motorbike so we had something to do. That made me to play along.
The letter we finally all approved of, was something like this -
We scratched the part of - or a girlfriend only because the Queen might think it to be insulting to the Majesty.
We figured that the letter would not reach her Majesty anyways, since we put it in the postal box without a stamp.
How little did we assess the power, the thoroughness, and the love for even the littlest of Her subjects, yours truly.
It took several years. I worked and lived in Venlo, in my beloved Limburg when I received a large envelop with the seal of the Queen's residence on it and inside a letter written by the private secretary of Her Majesty the Queen Juliana to her faithful servant Leffert Smid saying
And today is my birthday. I had more birthdays than my father and in that long line of birthday celebrations I must've had some presents, but I remember only two.
When I was nine I received a pols-stock from my parents which I used to jump over ditches with and in the ditches numerous times.
The second one I will remember is a statement of my great-grand-son Garret to his mother “Super pake is one of my fabourite things.”
Thank you Garrit and thank you, all my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I am a rich man.