Memories my Youth by Hendrik Smid
translated and edited by Leffert Smid
Lieuwe Jonkers wanted to fight Sipke, but when the inevitable fight finally happened, Sipke came up on top. Lieuwe vowed revenge on the younger Jan, who was waiting for him, but a real fight never materialized.
Jan was detained quite a bit, at which occasions he was to write a hundred or more lines like - I may not fight in the schoolyard. The teacher meanwhile went home for tea, after locking the school up. After some time he came to check Jan’s progress, but the convict had escaped, through the window of the boy’s bathroom.
Cornelia lived on the other side of the woods. She was a bit off. She startled mother as she just stood in our living room, watching mother giving me a licking. I was five.
Kay, as we called her, took pity on me.
“Sweet little boy, are you abused here?” And I through my tears said “Yea.”
Kay took me by the hand and soothingly comforted me while eyeing accusingly at mother, who was very uncomfortable with her being there. She did make tea for Kay and offered a cookie, Kay drank the tea and gave me the cookie.
All the time I sat quietly on her lap while she admonished mother, how could she hit such a sweet, innocent boy, she should be happy to have me. I agreed with her whole heartily and stayed on her lap until she decided to go home.
Beppe [grandmother] came.
That could mean only one thing - a new baby. It was an exceptional cold winter, o, was it ever cold. The little potbellied stove in the living room was red hot and still the frost on the windows would not thaw. Neighbours were concerned and one said
“That poor little popke of Fokke and Aukje might freeze to death in that little house. Brother Bernardus did not freeze and grew up to be a strong man.
Beppe liked me.
She had lost most of her teeth so she couldn’t eat the crusts of the bread anymore. She cut those neatly off and gave them to me. She stayed for quite a while, because the winter stayed very cold, the roadways were too slippery to walk and Beppe never learned how to bike. Hardly anybody owned a bike in those days. She promised me that I could come with her.
Finally a hog salesman came by with horse and wagon, and Beppe got a ride with with him. I was not allowed to come. I still see the wagon with hogs and Beppe leaving, I stared after them until they disappeared out of sight. It was a bad day for me; I was left alone in the unending heather fields. Alone- with a broken promise.
April the 13th 1920 my grandmother died, ninety years old. She was buried the 17th of April, which was my mothers birthday. My sister Lumke married on that date.
The Old Age Pension law was established just before, so my beppe got the benefit of that for a little while yet. I also paid social insurance premiums and have done that for about fifty years.
At this time the payment for pensioners was five guilders per couple per week and three guilders for singles like my widowed grandmother.
She had to sign for her three guilders, but since she could not write, she marked a X on the spot. Grandmother was a skipper’s daughter and had never gone to school. She had never learned to write, not even her name.
Father was visiting a neighbour near Gallows Mount, when he heard a strange, loud noise coming from above.
“Thunder,” the neighbour thought. “But the sky is clear,” said Father. They left their coffee and went to investigate, and see there... the house is on fire.
They tried to get out what they could, some clothes, a few chairs, but the house was gone.
Father came home with the oldest boy, who stayed at our house for six weeks. By that time the place was so much repaired that they could live in it again.
An investigation of the cause of the fire was held and who had been at the property that night? Right, Fokke Smid. Two man of the constabulary approached father, asking if this was the Smid’s place. “Yes,” said father “It is, and I’m Fokke Smid, and what can I do for you, gentlemen?” One of them says,
“So you are the man who caused that fire at Geert Hofman’s.”
“What did you say,” said father, and the man repeated what he’d said before, only a bit less certain.
Father immediately rushed the policeman and grabbed him by the throat. The other one tried to separate them but had a hard time, because father had a good grip on him and was determent not to let go. After the two finally were separated the two policemen took off. Father never heard anything about the case until a year later. Father didn’t walk away from a fight.
A year later, Geert Hofman talked with another neighbour about the fire. They still didn’t know what had started it, but Geert said that Fokke Smid had visited him that night with a freshly lit pipe of tobacco, and that he probably had lit it in the lee of the haystack.
The other neighbour told father, whose temper flared up. The two of them half walked half ran to Geert Hofman, who seeing them come, tried to hide.
“I didn’t mean it like that” he cried, “I didn’t want you in trouble Fokke, you even took my son in and gave him board and room for six weeks.” Father calmed down and they shook hands right then and there. That was as far as father would go, forgive - yes, but forget - never.