Memories of my Life by Hendrik Smid # 2
translated by Leffert Smid
I was considered a good student.
My best subjects were drawing, reading and arithmetic, language was not my best.
We fought many times with the kids of the public school, whom tauntedus, children of the christian school 'holier-than-thou,' and we called them 'publicans,' to even the score.
Mother gave us enough fruit to school all right, for we had plenty of fruit our self, but we still stole apples from Bill Kip, on occasion, the last name being a nickname.
Almost everyone in the village had a nickname and we often didn’t even know their real name.
Frou (Mrs.) Kip got wind of it that her apples were stolen by children of the christian school therefore she ordered her children to go to the holier-than-thou school to tell the holier-than-thou teacher that the holier-than-thou devils of the holier-than-thou school had stolen her apples.
The principal of our school found it scandalous for christian boys to steal, handing out harsh punishments. We stopped the practice for a while, but her apples were so tasty, it was hard to pass them by.
(Father showed me where he and his friends hid in a dry ditch to stake out the site until the coast was clear to steal apples again which he called 'hofkjen.') Lex
By the fall Frou Kip picked the apples herself and the temptation was removed, - until the next season. We didn’t see 'hofkjen' as stealing, we saw it more like what Ruth of the bible story did, gathering the leftovers off the harvested fields. That we jumped the gun a little by gathering before the harvest made a difference, I know...
I had a good time with a neighbor boy my age, Hendrik Oost, whose sister was a year older than I was and ignored me completely, but she was the real reason why I went to see her brother and if only I saw a glimpse of her was my day good.
Their mother was a strong disciplinarian, who chastised her children mercilessly at the slightest provocation. One time we teased their older sister, not really bad, but still she cried and complained bitterly to her Mother.
It didn’t take long for Frou Oost to hold court, hear the evidence, pronounce and executed justice at the same time, swift and severe. She hit my friend with the galvanized pail she was cleaning, furious and hard. He screamed like a hog on the way to the slaughterhouse.
“And now you,” she gasped, coming at me, but I didn’t waste any time and ran as fast as I could across the meadow, jumped the ditch, then the fence, and was very happy to be home. I stayed away for a couple of days and had time to think about Hendrik’s sister.
Did I still like her? I came to the conclusion that I still did. That already made me feel good but not much later she got a boyfriend and still later yet the family moved, and then I forgot her.
Our new neighbors, the De Boer’s, also had a son my age, Albert was his name. We read the same magazine with them, which was quite common then to to share a subscription with one or even two neighbors. We got this magazine on Friday evening and I took it to the De Boer’s on Saturday evening, and sometimes got a sugar candy.
Their kids were somewhat stuck up and refused to walk with us to school. We sensed it was because of class-distinction, they had four cows and we had only one at that time, so I very seldom I played with Albert after school. I was very surprised when I was invited to his birthday party.
Hendrik Oost, who now lived at the other end of town, was invited too. The party was to be held in the upper room, and only used for very special occasions, such as a visit of the dominee pastor
Why we were allowed to have chocolate milk in that room I still don’t know. I had never seen such a beautiful room. Anyways, I spotted a big wooden chest in one corner.
Marie, an older sister was to serve us and we decided to play a trick on her and all three of us crawled into that chest.
We heard Marie climbing the steps leading to the upper room, she kicked the door open, and stopped. No boys. Then, with loud cries the lid burst open, and we jumped out of the box. Marie, terrified, dropped the tray with hot chocolate milk, which spilled all over the plush carpet, and so the party was over before it began.
Pake Fokke was born in 1869 in one of the poorest provinces of the Netherlands, Fryslân, and than in one of the most under-developed parts of that province, the Drente-Frisian heather fields, which were equally as poor as the peat colonies in mid - and south-west Fryslân.
During the time that Pake lived, some people still lived in sod houses, (plagge-hutten), which were build with peat or heather sod walls, the roof, build from small trees or branches right from ground up forming a triangle, was clad with sods as well, sometimes obtained by digging them out of the inside perimeter of the hut, to give more headroom to the inside. In that case no sidewalls were used and more height was by deepening the floor.
I am not talking of a three bedroom house with an eight feet high ceiling of course. Lex
Father worked in Germany that year where he stayed for half a year at a time. After about three months mother received a post card, showing a Bavarian man sporting a wide mustache, with the message
“Dear wife and children. It is well with me. I hope with you too. From Fokke Smid.”
“Another one of those mustaches,” grumbled mother, happy to hear something from her husband, whom she wrote to every week. Father wrote after that one postcard no more, since it was then only three months before he would come home anyways, and no need to waste another stamp.
It was remarkable that pake Fokke could write even the short sentences which he wrote to beppe Aukje, since he was illiterate, he was unable to read or write because he never had learned howto during the three years he off and on had attended school.
He taught himself after he joined the army.
When he as a soldier was able to spend time in their garrison city he, instead of going to a cafe or pub, looked for advertising billboards, asked a companion what it said on the board and put it to memory. Back in the barracks he would draw the word out and ask what it said.
“What does this word say?”
“That word says Willem.” Pake then redrew the word Willem and pronounce it afterwards.
“What is this one?”
“Sigaren.” This way he learned, though very limited, not only writing but also reading.
“So, that says 'Willem 1 sigaren?”
“That says Willem 1 sigaren.” Pake's persistence and doggedness and – his great memory taught him enough that he could endure in the world and - write a postcard once a year to his familie.
I wonder why so many Smid's have great memories and writing skills, is it perhaps genes from pake Fokke?
Next time more about aunt Lumke, St Nicolas, and her boyfriend.