MEMORIES of my YOUTH no1
by Hendrik Smid 1904 – 1989
translated from dutch and edited by his son lex smid
Once upon a time, right in the middle of the heather-fields of Donkerbroek, stood a little house with a thatched roof, and in that little house stood a cradle, and in that cradle laid a baby boy.
He had a shock of red hair that stuck out to every side like the spikes of a porcupine.
He was a lively little boy who loudly and with gusto sucked his little thumb.
That baby was I, Hendrik Smid.
My mother was 29 when I was born, my father 33. They already had three children, a six-year old girl called Lumke, a four-year old boy Sipke, and a boy of two called Jan.
It was the 3rd day of January in the the brand new year of 1904 when I was born, and it was bitter cold. It was so cold that winter, that the ice in the canals and the lake was thick and strong enough to skate on, and no matter how hard the potbelly stove in the living room tried to warm our house, it was unable to clear the ice off the he windows.
Almost all my brothers were born in the wintertime when work was not only slack but non existing, however come spring all the wintry suffering was forgotten, when the trees in the orchard behind our house were in full bloom so thickly, it was hiding the house from sight, overtaken as it was by the colorful blossoming fruit trees.
It was a mighty fine sight when the apple, pear and plum trees each added their beauty, making a rag-and-bone* man drifting by our place one time cry out
“This place looks like a little paradise.”
This is how my father started his writing around 1970, the year his wife (and my mother), died while on holidays with us, their children in Canada. It was their first trip overseas, which for mother lasted only fourteen days when she died of a stroke while staying with my brother Sidney and his wife Audrey in their new house in Richmond.
It was worthwhile to visit us at that particular time, as there were four of their sons and their families living in the same area of BC. Durk and Tony had arrived quite recently, Sidney arrived as a single person in Canada, and in time met and married Audrey, then John and myself arrived as single men and were the first of the brothers to arrive via Manitoba.
I returned to the Netherlands to marry Anne, and John and Sarina, who met and married in Winnipeg, were living in BC, where eventually all four brothers and their families found their homes.
Besides those four families they wanted to visit three brothers of father, Daniel, Roelof, and their families in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the first Smid family to immigrate, Jan and Roelofje, in Alberta. They had all the time, because it was close to father's retirement and the State of the Netherlands where he worked for owed him about half a year's holiday pay, which father was not letting go to waste.
How come he was owed that many holidays? Simply because father's generation did not take time off for frivolous things like going camping or to travel to other countries to see things, wasn't Holland good enough to see things? My parents, before going to visit us in Canada had never been outside of the province of Fryslân and the north east polder where they presently lived.
Their entire vacation was planned, beginning a two-week stay at Sid and Audrey's and the next stop was going to be at Durk and Tony.
Because it was Sidney's birthday, Mother wanted to buy a gift for him so Audrey and mother went shopping and shortly after returned with a present, which mother took to their room upstairs where she collapsed on their bed and died.
Mother had had a stroke a week before of which she survived but not this time.
It was not only very tragic to pass away on their holiday but also strange that mother died on Sidney's birthday and some years later Sidney was to die on mother's birthday.
Father did not mention much about the loss of his wife in his later writing but grieved deeply.
He was totally at a loss about what to do, and only later made his wishes known – he wanted to do two things after mother's death,- work for the Salvation Army and have a pet rabbit.
He did not follow through on both his wishes, but what he did do, was to follow a course about writing and he started to write his autobiography. I found his work so interesting, especially the two first books that I decided to share at least the first book. Here follows the first chapter -
I loved that little paradise where my mother taught me to walk, to sing and to talk.
She was a sweet woman, well liked by everyone that knew her, while my father was the opposite, short tempered, ready to fight, even a fistfight when being provoked.
He was away from home quite often because jobs were scarce in our neighborhood, so it was mother who mainly raised us.
She taught us to trust in the Lord, and I’m still thankful to her for that.
We lived five or six hundred meters from the road.
In front of our house was a meadow, where cattle grazed at times.
The meadow belonged to the parents of my friend. My friend and I had to take care of their herd of sheep when they grazed there at times, since some of the spring lambs playfully had jumped through the fence once - into the garden of my father.
That, together with my father’s short-fused temper was all that was needed to create a major disturbance between the neighbors.
A sandy lane along that fence led to a small hill, which was called the 'gallows mount.' It was said, that in medieval times people were hanged there.
We didn’t really believe that, but still, on top of the hill stood a mighty oak tree with branches growing on one side only, well, we figured, wherefore was that then?
And when we once found the remains of a leather shoe under that three, we were pretty sure that it had belonged to an executed criminal.
The lane was called Cadaver lane, because it led to a cemetery.
Once, when I was five year, a funeral procession walked by. It was a very hot day and father and mother carried pails of water to the thirsty mourners, which they gratefully accepted.
When I was about the same age I had to do an errand for my mother and gave me a dime to buy some groceries but I came home without groceries and without the dime because I had lost it. Mother was not in sight, but father was.
“Where is that dime then?” I didn’t know.
“So it’s lost then,” thundered father,” some good for nothing hobo probably picked it up by now. Don't you think that our family isn’t big enough yet, that I should also have to work for rabble and riff- raff as well?”
“Ya, but maybe the good for nothing hobo will meet mem [mother] and then mem will say that it is our dime.” I think even my heit [father] was perplexed with that logic.
Anyways, he had more to do with the size of our family than I had.