To My Three Oldest Friends

We've laughed together, cried together and shared our hopes and fears We've been silly, serious, fanciful, shared our secrets over the years

Three very close friends in my life, each one unique and very different To one, shared childhood woes, to the others, children, husband and present

Though distance keeps me from my childhood friend A quick visit after thirty years renews our connection again

She tells me, at first, it felt like we would be strangers But a few hours together and we're acting like teenagers

We're fifty now, all grown up, but never serious Though hard times when we were children, we can now just be us

My two other friends, in the same town as I Seeing each other often, letting me know I can, on them, rely

To comfort me in sorrow, to joke and laugh over coffee For me to lend an ear, whenever they need to talk to me

I love my friends, each one in a very special way I rest knowing the friendship will grow day by day

Though we may sometime be separated Our hearts will always be integrated

Wherever we go, whatever we do This friendship won't change, because you are you

by Brenda Beaton, Nov. 8, 2007

by Brenda Beaton, Nov. 8, 2007

 

 

A Thank You to Everyone

"...making others happy makes us happy ...we are loved human beings"
— Shawn Hooey

With the swiftness of a galloping horse, racing the speedway, this new year is already flying by. As I get older, time is even more in a hurry. Today, the ninth of Jan. 2017 has voided already eight of its three hundred and sixty five days. "En wij vliegen daarhenen," and we fly thereto, my father would say, probably quoting the bible, but whereto do we fly? And why be in such a hurry to get there?

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Living in a home like I am, I see enough of where my friends wind up after a fast and exciting ride in an ambulance with lights ablaze and sirens screaming.

Perhaps the discomfort of rheumatic arthritis plaguing me the last few weeks preventing me to sleep or type, made me feel powerless to enjoy the 'freshness of the new.'

I feel better now, after straining my potholed brain for something pleasant and uplifting to think about, and it did not take me long.

My daughter Janice drove me for my appointment with the doctor, and did most of the conversion with him as well, asking intelligent questions, which I was not able to do as eloquently as she did, besides, I would have forgotten the questions I was going to ask him anyways. What a pleasure to have someone with a business brain in my corner.

On the advice of Janice I received permission from the doctor to use a heavier dose of prednisone, which makes that I am able to sleep now, and type with my one finger as well. A word of thanks to the doctor. And to Janice.

Instead of taking me straight home, my daughter drove me around familiar and unfamiliar places in Abbotsford; she even drove me right over the mountain. The valley was just as breathtaking beautiful as I remembered it. Thanks again, Janice.

A few days before this she and her husband Erwin took me along to the funeral of Gerry van Rijk with whom I worked on and off twenty years ago. He was one of my best friends. He died of Alzheimer at Menno Place, where I live also, but my home is in one of the an 'independent living' buildings called The Pavilion, while Gerry lived at the residential care unit of Menno Home. Gerry's wife was called Anne just like my wife Anne, both were born on April 20. They were more than friends, as Anne van Rijk said : "We are just like sisters." She passed away shortly after my Anne, who was only 72 when she died.

Gerry's family welcomed me warmly. For that I too am thankful, and for their friendship. Have a good one Gerry. Or, 'until we meet again.'

Several good friends in Delta, Abbotsford, Vancouver Island and Holland have died last year but I escaped thus far, which makes for a curious feeling - sad for the loss and thankful for being bypassed. I made many friends at Menno Place, young and old, and made some very dear friends as well, one of whom encouraged me when I was ready to threw the computer through the window, she is mainly responsible for me keeping the course in writing and for that I am her genuinely thankful.

On the way to my unit I meet two cooks coming in for their shift, one is short, the other tall, both lively and lovely. They are good cooks making the saying true: "Mennonite girls can cook!' They stride with the same gait, which is fast and long but not hasty or over done, controlled fast would better describe it, I like to call it the Menno walk. I don't think they are of the Mennonite faith, even so, everybody receives the same respect, and a warm and friendly 'thank you.'

When I open the door to my room a pleasant surprise awaits me - standing on my desk I find a cup of Tim Hortons coffee and a special cup of oatmeal porridge, with fresh berries on top, which has been my breakfast fare for years. There is no name of a giver though, who is the generous giver?

My neighbor Herman Veeneman turns out to be my well doer, but his story gets even better. The real giver is one of several young women, originally from India, working for Tim Hortons who both Herman and I like. It is sure comforting to know that I'm not forgotten there either. A note of thanks to be delivered by Herman V. is on the way.

In a prior story, which I consider one of my best, I wrote about the tradition in our church of singing Ere Zij God at Christmas morning and since I don't go to church anymore because I gave away my beautiful red KIA Sportage, (which happened not to be red,) the one thing I would really miss, was singing that song, since I had sung it for more than eighty times among several congregations.

Well, one of our activities was decorating cookies, which we were allowed to eat as well. There were only about a dozen of us 'kliederen' messing with the decoration, when the recreational instructor, who stands six feet - two inches tall, (1.85?) in stocking feet, rounded up a dozen and a half female students of the local University, who were volunteering at Menno Place, to join us. They were interested in stories about our youth in the Netherlands, when one of them asked me if I knew a dutch Christmas song and would I sing it for them? A light went up in my mind and I said if Maaike would sing it with me I would.

Maaike Kooistra was game and together we sang that old Christmas song Ere Zij God a Capella.

"Now we were evangelizing too yet," said Maaike, a widow who recently joined us at Menno place and was born in Berlicum, Beltsum, as we called it, which is only a stone's throw away from Hijum were I was born! In that way I was ahead of the church because it was a few weeks before the 25th of December when this happened. And so the tradition I thought was in jeopardy, with a little kink continued. Several thank you's here.

I am proud that this year I called my brothers Anne and Frank in Barneveld and Ede before the feast days and also John in Delta and Durk in Williams Lake. I think it is a first of several years because I am forgetful in the second degree. I did apply for for a new head but so far no luck. I give myself a pat on the back.

The greatest surprise and joy to me was ha ha! Ester, from Drachten? Anyways from Fryslân. She burned my computer out with more than forty comments after I posted a photo of my Pake and Beppe from the heather-fields under Donkerbroek. Your great-Beppe Aukje would have been proud of you, Ester.

Many years ago in the very beginning of the 1950's she asked your pake Bertus' brother Bernardus, to make a family register, 'to keep the family together,' as she put it, which Bernardus did, but you shook the sleeping great-great-grandchildren of her up with your additional info and enthusiasm!

Thank you Ester, and everybody joining what pake and beppe began when they got married in 1897 - the SMID FAMILY as we know it. Thank you all for showing so much interest! Happy 2017! It surprises me that all of you in our 'old country' are so good in the English language.

Note 1: The three sons of my uncle Bernardus, (brother of your Pake, Ester,) Fokke, Auke, and Jan are also very interested in the Smid generations. One of them had us related with it "Koninklijk Huis,'' you could get a lot more information from them. Fokke has sadly shortly ago passed away, but one of the others, Jan, lives in Delfzijl I understand, he is the twin brother of Auke.

Note 2: I think they will hold another 'neven en nichten' day nephews and nieces day this summer, according to my brother Anne from Barneveld. Might be good to look into this. They are very nice people!!!

And for now we have come to THE END as my daughter Jacki would say at the end of her stories, when she was in grade school. Love you!

A Christmas in the Summer

As young teens our 'top hits' were Jeruzalem and 'Ere zij God.' Glory to God

We sang Jeruzalem everywhere -in school, at work, or in our minds while biking, but never in church.

Little church of Schokland

Little church of Schokland

 

'Ere zij God,' Glory to God, on the other hand we sang in church exclusively, however, only once a year, on Christmas morning. After the service, the congregation as one stood up, making a noisy clatter as some two-hundred pairs of wooden clogs hit the floor as a prelude to the long awaited song.

The organist presented the tone height, held it for two long seconds, (in which he threw open a few more registers) and then the congregation broke forth like an held-back arrow at last being released by the marksman, shooting for its target.

On top of our lungs, with one voice, we joyfully shouted 'Ere zij God, Ere zij God, In de hoge.'

Glory to God, Glory to God, In the highest! Followed by a prayerful 'Vrede op aarde,' Peace on earth, Moving onto 'In the mensen, Een welbehagen.' Into people, a delight. Closing with a solemn Amen.

'Ere zij God'is taken from Lucas 2:14, when a multitude of angels praise God with the words of this song after one of the angels announces the birth of the Savior.

The tradition of singing Ere zij God at Christmas went with us when we immigrated to Canada, but after a few generations our offspring wanted to quit the tradition, not because of the song but of the language it was written in - Dutch. Some preachers, without roots in the old country were not so secretly supporting that idea and sometimes tried helping it along by forgetting to mention it on the bulletin. That happened to a former minister of us who, after delivering his Christmas sermon tramped, as was his tradition, straight for the outside entrance to shake hands with his flock as they filed past him.

Except, not a soul moved. After a few anxious moments one brave woman started to sing the first chant of the disputed song 'Ere zij God.' The congregation and the organ joined immediately the brave woman, and according to the the first ones out of the door, so did the preacher. Yes, in Dutch.

Some years later we met a baker in the city we were then living. He was a large man with hands as big as shovels. When he shook hands with you, which he liked to do with a grin on his face, you felt it. That was the reason I tried avoiding him on Sunday mornings.

There were still several things too Dutch for some to have a place, or were taking place in the church, for instance the church-organ. That grand musical instrument had to make place for a piano, which after some time got replaced by a fellow playing a guitar. The psalms of David were replaced by chants on an overhead screen. The worship committee deemed it necessary to get a small version of house organ to accompany the piano. Our baker, retired now, had become an elder, and during a consistory-meeting told the preacher in no uncertain words to get rid of it 'because I hate it.'

“It's not an organ, it's not an piano,” he said, “all it is, is some sort of a tingle-tangle, only good for the scrapheap,” but the tingle-tangle stayed.

Then one sunny summer day the old baker passed away.

“Even the strong ones fall,” the liberal preacher said in his funeral sermon. The church was packed, heating the church building considerable. The fans were whirling at top speed while doors and windows were opened wide, still the heat was scarcely bearable, however, according to some conservative members the message of the preacher had been a good one, that was at least something positive on this hot day, one of them remarked.

When after the service the baker was carried to the open front door by members of his large family, a peculiar sound drifted over the congregation, who were already following the family on the way out but thus far no one paid heed to the unfamiliar sound, as all were anxious for some cool air, but when gradually the sound did penetrate they realized that it was the sound of someone playing - the tingle-tangle? Without the support of the piano? But they were stunned when they recognized what was being played on the little tingle-tangle. Ere zij God? On a funeral? And in the middle of summer?

The congregation, after some bewildering moments, caught on fast, and sang their hearts out, being led by the granddaughter of the departed baker doing the playing. After the last Amen all were united in thinking how appropriate it was to honor the departed baker by singing Ere zij God.

Had the baker himself been able to hear his granddaughter play that day, he likely would have said

"Well, I'll be darned, that girl is going places yet. On the tingle-tangle. I would've never guessed."

He was that way.

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Merry Christmas to all of you and happy new year from Menno Place!

The Picture from Ester

My heart started ticking normal again after the contact with Ester, for as much as I can speak of normal, since mine is called a failing heart. What a pleasant surprise to hear from her and that just after Sinterklaas. for the one's that don't know Ester, she is the daughter of one of the four girls of which aunt Lum (tante Lumke) said that they were extraordinarily beautiful. The names of these lovely women are Sjoerdje, Aukje, Rinskje,and Lumke. Aukje Smid married Tjipke Lammert de Wit in 1968.

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They got Tineke in 1969; Eduard in 1971, and Ester in1978. ester is the one who sent this photo of pake Fokke and beppe Aukje with all their children and spouses. The photo was taken in the fall of 1930. Ester married an Eijzinga, and that name brought right away memories into my mind.

My daughters were friends with a fella of that name, I think his first name was Pete. He dated a friend of my daughters Janice 1957, and Debbie 1959, but as relations go sometimes, they became stale, so, Pete and his girlfriend decided to part for a few month and see from there. He drove a fast muscle car and decided to take off to see something of this immense country Canada. My son Len, 1961, went with him as they drove alternately, making it all the way to Quebec and back, but the lovers were not able to re-candle the flame again and went each their own ways. I have three daughters, as Jacki 1965, was the last one. Len died in a car accident in 1979.

Starting at the very top, the baby is  Fokke Smid,  held by my uncle  Jan  next to his wife  Roelfje , and next to her my  uncle Roelof.   Next row down I take everyone except my pake and beppe and three children  From left to right  uncle Daniel,  uncle Sipke and Annigje ,in front of them  uncle Bertus , next to Annigje  Geertje and uncle Anne ,  Jan Houtstra  somewhat in front with  tante Lumke,  behind and between Lumke and Jan my heit  Hendrik  and mem  Jacobje Roelevink  with the white color, to the left of my mem  tante Elske and uncle Bernardus .  In front of pake the youngest child of tante Lumke  Fokke,  with  Johannes  in front,  Riek  leans against beppe. The last three are children of tante Lumke.

Starting at the very top, the baby is Fokke Smid, held by my uncle Jan next to his wife Roelfje, and next to her my uncle Roelof.

Next row down I take everyone except my pake and beppe and three children

From left to right uncle Daniel,uncle Sipke and Annigje,in front of them uncle Bertus, next to Annigje Geertje and uncle Anne, Jan Houtstra somewhat in front with tante Lumke, behind and between Lumke and Jan my heit Hendrik and mem Jacobje Roelevink with the white color, to the left of my mem tante Elske and uncle Bernardus.

In front of pake the youngest child of tante Lumke Fokke, with Johannes in front, Riek leans against beppe. The last three are children of tante Lumke.

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So far you have missed one and that is me. my mother was pregnant with me, seeing that it is past harvest time (leaves are gone of the trees) say October, than mem is two months 'in blijde verwaching' of me.

Again Schokland

Short story by Lex Smid Some pioneers, mostly farmers sons, eventually did obtain a farm, but it was the pioneer worker who really made the mucky polder dry with what onderduikers called the 'sweat spoon', the shovel, to cultivate the sopping sea bottom into arable land, ready for planting and growing food crops for the rest of the country and - of course, for the German Wehrmacht.

Like Schokland a hundred years ago

Like Schokland a hundred years ago

After the thousands of pioneers, onderduikers were flooding the polder. Onderduikers were young men, eighteen to twenty-three years old who had either served in the Dutch army or a semi-military service - the Arbeidsdienst.

The Arbeidsdienst was copied after the military, they marched with shovels instead of rifles slung over the shoulder, imitating Nazi soldiers with their killer-rifles. Though Dutch in name was the service was operated by the German Occupiers who taught the young men to work, with - the shovel. They were taught to dig trenches, ramparts, and tank traps. They were making the young men, hardly dry behind the ears, believe they were being trained for the benefit of their own country, the Netherlands, therefore they showed them also how to plant tree, engaged them in sports, even taught them to sing a Capella while marching, like real (German) soldiers.

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The real purpose was to teach them the Nazi doctrine so that in a few months they were ready to put in practice what they had been taught - at the Eastern Front (against the Russians). Of the 60,000 men so trained only a handful took that challenge and the rest went instead in hiding. Many young men were scared to death to go into hiding, and should be, because it was no fun to leave their disciplined pre-war home without a job, support and without rationing coupons.

Going underground was definitely an easy thing to do as firstly everything was rationed, from food to clothes, practically everything could only be obtained with coupons, and onderduikers, now without a valid address, were outlaws and were not issued rationing coupons.

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Being money-less, with no income on top of not having rationing coupons and not being able to return to their parents' house, they had to find a place where people were not welcoming them with open arms. They were viewed as today people might view the homeless, which in fact they were. They were hunted by a special branch of the German army, the Green police (the Ordnungspolizei (ORPA)). If caught, they were seldom shot, but the likely-hood did exist, or deported to Germany. Their benefactors were severely punished as well. Strange as it may seem there were still people who, perhaps begrudgingly, took the poor souls in, often for as long as the duration of the war.

Many found their way to the polder, so many that the polder got the name 'onderduiker paradise'. However, many of the young newcomers were not used to the hard spade work and started to hate the polder, they would gladly escaped from it. The regulars, including the pioneer-brothers Jan and Hendrik, would have liked to see them go because onderduikers were not known to be hard workers. The pioneers were working hard because their work was paid by the meter in contract which was established by the 'golden-gang'. The golden-gang was made up by young, and strong married men working at top speed digging trenched and ditches, and from their physical achievements the price per meter was calculated. Most onderduikers were single.

My father belonged in such a gold-gang, at least for awhile.

The gangs with older (slower) workers did, of course, never reach the top wages that the gold-gang received, and the gangs that were blessed with a few onderduikers among them, who were in the polder only because they were quite safe from the Nazis, receiving good food and a bed, did not care (or were not able to) work hard, saw their wages drop as well.

Protesting? No one, and certainly not the onderduikers wanted to rock the boat for fear of a raid by the Nazis, which was not uncommon. Those raids were called razzia's!

Secrets of Schokland

A series of short stories about the island of Schokland by Leffert Smid Why do I put so much effort in the history of this little island Schokland, when there are histories galore waiting to be written for instance? It has to do with a dutch song I remember only parts of.

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One of the reasons I scrambled through the stories about the Northeastern polder and the little former island within that polder, Schokland, is that I can't wait to get on with the sweet little tale about that young maiden who lived in that polder-land between the colourful flowering flowers and the fragrant roses of the polder-land. Before I dig myself a deeper hole than that I find myself in already, I admit there was no sluice or mill, no flowering flowers or even sweet smelling roses. The polder was as bare as a Calvinistic church pew. This happened in the winter of 1953, only eight years after arguably the bloodiest war in history, yet - yet there was a darling young woman living across the road from that little island with many secrets, an island that not many years later was deemed so important that it became famous throughout the world.

Schokland one hundred years ago, starting the plank way from one island to the other

Schokland one hundred years ago, starting the plank way from one island to the other

The second reason has to do with my father, Hendric Smid, a polder pioneer, like his brother Jan, and also of my wife Anne's father and, and thousands of one-tooled craftsman, the men with the shovels, the bats, the ground workers who really changed the mucky sea bottom only good for reeds into what it became - dry land, ready to be cultivated by men and machines in order that crops could be planted.

The creation of the new polder was a feat of engineering which never before was contemplated, therefore recognition and credit must be given to the Dutch engineers, who were wearing the same rubber boots the pioneers were wearing and were not disdainful to include the 'lower' workers, at least not in the pioneer time, recognising that it was the ground-workers putting the finishing touches on the entire operation by getting rid of the surface water through digging trenches, ditches and canals by the strength of their arms with the tool they knew how to handle - the bats. That was called the 'ontginning' the reclamation of the sea bottom.

The third reason is that there are so many surprising stories about the island of Schokland, most of them I was not aware of but others that slumbered in my mind and in my old age sprang to life again, and that from a world away.

If only I was able to master that computer, my enemy, who gives me grey hairs, if only I had them. However, my one-hundred year old friend, Klassen, born, as he said, a weakling baby in Siberia would say, 'I do what I can as long as I can.' He walks without a cane or walker, twice as fast as I do.

So give me some time, we will yet get to my dear wife Anne.

Patience -

Patience -

Patience....

Pioneers

My parents showed never any tenderness in front of us kids. I saw them kiss only once in my life, when my father left for camp Blokzijl in the new polder, seventy km south, for seven weeks at a stretch.

Workers arriving at the barracks in the new polder (in 'Sunday' clothes!)

Workers arriving at the barracks in the new polder (in 'Sunday' clothes!)

His bike was loaded with a suitcase packed with a few sets of (long) underwear, several pairs of knitted socks; suit, shirt, and tie, (and shoes for going to church;) two pairs of work pants and a few blue work shirts; a towel and a wash cloth, a piece of Sunlight soap for washing his clothes and his face; his Sunday hat, shaving kit, and the tool of his trade, his shining bots (shovel) like a saber fastened on the bike.

“Now, behave yourself, listen to your mother and, I will soon be home,” then planted his left leg on the bike peddle, took a few short steps to move his two wheeled horse, swung his right leg over bike and suitcase, making a soft landing on the seat of the bike. One look back to wife and children, a wave with the hand, and together with his brother Jan, father was on the way to the barracks of kamp-Blokzijl, seventy km south, just within the almost dry new polder, where they were going to stay to work for seven weeks on end, including weekends, leaving mother to care for herself and five children.

It was a summer day in 1940, a good day for bike-traveling and for the first hour the brothers were exhilarated by the freshness and beauty of their province of birth, Fryslân. Uncle Jan was not a talker but this time started a discussion about something he seemed to have some problems with. As they were the first workers to start in the new polder, they were called pioneers, and as pioneers they were first in line to get a farm in that polder.

Polder workers' keet (Kate) lunchroom, in front the bosses

Polder workers' keet (Kate) lunchroom, in front the bosses

“Do you think Hendrik, that that is going to happen, that they will give us our own farm?” Father had no doubt that what the 'Hoge Heren,' (the Men in High places) had promised would honor, and just thinking about working on his own farm made him warm inside.

“Can you imagine Jan how that will feel, to work on your own land and not have to listen to a miserable farmer? We both have four boys in our families to help when they grow up a bit, and there will always be one among them who wants to take the farm over when we retire in Huizum of Appelscha.” His brother Jan did obviously not share that feeling yet as he said “Or retire in the poor-house.”

'When we were close to our destination, Blokzijl, we witnessed something strange' father told me once, 'workers were arriving from every direction, the closer we came to camp-blokzijl, the more workers moved towards 'the kamp,' on bikes, with shovels and suitcases attached, they walked faster and faster as if they wanted to make sure to be there before the others got there before them. Some took shortcuts through the fields, half walking, half running. It was so weird. And for what? I don't know.'

Ditching by shovel, brother Frank owns a bats, a shovel like that yet

Ditching by shovel, brother Frank owns a bats, a shovel like that yet

When they were herded the following to their work station in the New polder they were surprised that there was still so much water on the endless field. They were told that they, the new workers were going to change that by digging trenches to collect the surface water and feed it via ditches to sub-canals, from where it was to flow to canals wide enough for freight boats to pass. The water in the wide canals was pumped into the Ijsselmeer, the Ijsel lake. The brothers looked at each other and the endless watery plain. Uncle Jan used sometimes a short sentence before he would state something profound.

“Hendrik,” he said, “it is here, sak mar sizze,just like it was were we came from, only worse.” He grinned at his brother an went on “before you and I retire in Huizum we have to do an awful lot of digging.”

The first man the walk to the island of Schokland through the reed covered sea bottom

The first man the walk to the island of Schokland through the reed covered sea bottom

Trenching under the watchful eye of a gang boss

Trenching under the watchful eye of a gang boss

Brothers in Poverty

Two brothers, Hendrik Smid, my father, and Jan Smid, my uncle, with limited education, left home early in life to make their living as farm-hands in strange villages. They worked hard and saved hard to better their lot, as they could not go any lower on the ladder of opportunity than working for a farmer in Fryslân. As children we heard heard horror stories from our fathers.

Uncle Jan, two years older than heit, married Roelofje Huisman and heit found our mother-to-be - Jacobje Roelevink, whom he married in 1930. Both brothers invested their savings in buying a small grocery store, and both went broke after only a few years. First uncle John and a few years later, in 1935, heit.

That happened in part because of the terrible economical times, the hungry thirties, and part of the fact that though they were hard workers, they were less cut out for business. Uncle Jan tried his luck in the farthest corner of the Netherlands, in Limburg, where good money was to be made in the coalmines, but they didn't hire.

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After a time of bitter disappointment he returned to Fryslân and became our neighbor in Hijum, at a time that heit was struggling to keep his small investment afloat and worked in his spare time for farmer Pier Jippes digging potatoes, by hand. Uncle Jan joined him there and because they worked well together, they made a few times even more than twenty guldens a week. When the potato season was over, the brothers were unemployed again, and work was even scarcer toward wintertime, when unemployment went skyward as high as thirty percent, and Poverty was a regular and lasting visitor.

On their walks from one and of the village to the other, while talking about politics, religion, and miserly farmers, all the while smoking an empty tobacco pipe.

“This is no life,” said uncle Jan. “A man wants to work and there is no work. Do we all have to die first before Colijn finally does something for the poor worker? (Colijn was prime minister of the country and belonged also to the same church as both the brothers were members of. Heit defended Colijn, actually the PM was his hero as he was the party-leader of the Anti-Revolutionary party of which party heit was a member also. His brother Jan, though a regular churchgoer, was more of a socialist.

“Colijn,” he said once, “should have his leg twisted out of his body and be smashed with the bloody end for his snosterburger.” Uncle Jan was very forceful in his talk while heit polished it.

“You must think of principles too, Jan.” he cautioned his brother, but uncle Jan replied “My kids can't get a full stomach with that garbage.” They were politically far apart but knew that they were forced now to work at a Colijn made-work project – which in Fryslân was in the cesspit of watery clay outside of the sea dikes.

The work was hard. And dirty. Very hard and very dirty. Heit once said, “The slaves in America have a better live than we have.” Some workers thought that there was a political reason behind the work being that hard, that it was designed so the workers would be too tired to make trouble. There was a justification for that thought. All over Europe was an unrest that in many places had led to revolutions, and dead tired workers have no energy to cause trouble. Hard to figure in our time, but this was during the hungry thirties, in the Netherlands known as 'the crisis' years.

One group was to shovel the heavy wet clay into wheelbarrows, held by the next group who wheeled the barrow over narrow planks for a few hundred feet or more, 'your arms were sore from holding the load of a wheelbarrow heavy with wet clay, and at the end of that distance you had to take a run onto a ramp with an upward slope four or five feet high. So, when finally on top of the summer dike you were able to dump the load. That was how a summer dike was built, designed to stem the fall storm waters from flooding the newly won land.'

When a barrow slipped off the plank everybody behind him came to an abrupt stop and had to wait until the loaded barrow was pulled back on the plank again. All the time the weight of the load was hanging on your fingers, your hands, your arm, and your shoulders. Then you had to start up again, sliding, falling, and cursing as you went. 'Yes, cursing too, said my father, who I heard never swear.

Anyone protesting the inhumane working conditions were 'tamed,' like a dog. He was quickly separated, humiliated, and made inactive. His wife was made scared to lose her grocery money and lean on her husband as well, and in that way he would tone down and apologise. The protester was turned into a docile loser, licking the boots of his masters. He was 'tamed.'

The fortunate ones still having a job on dry land saw their wages cut by ten percent, then again by ten percent, sometimes by a third time from their already low wages. And the unemployed? They were sacrificed on the capitalist altar, hung between spades and shovels, only to be used when needed.

My father once said “Some of the old men were already dead-tired at morning coffee-time.” He was talking about forty-year old's. He himself was thirty-one then. He said “I think the slaves in America had it better than we had.”

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"The still wet North-Eastern polder with Schokland far in the distance was not much better than outside the dikes of Fryslân, but we were promised more money. They kept their promise – with working hard we could earn 40 cents/hour instead of 29 !"—father

Then the German Wehrmacht rolled over the Dutch neutral border, at the same time that the North-Eastern polder was ready for cultivation, needing ground-workers, thousands of ground-workers to dig trenches and ditches for drainage of the entire polder, all of its 60.000 acres, and then finally a flicker of hope began to shine in the tired eyes of the two brothers. The year was 1940.

THE FIRST EIGHT GENERATIONS

Sometimes small things have a big impact on one's life, like the woman who I meet mostly every morning when I have breakfast in the Home bistro where I reside. Everyone in this home is friendly, so is she, but besides that she wishes me, with a friendly smile, a good morning, then lightly touches my shoulder. I am for more than eight years a widower and don't get touched by a woman-hand much. A lot of men, myself included, who find themselves in the situation of having lost a wife, miss that physical female contact. Some men feel a female touch as curative care, others feel it as a medicating sensation, even a cure-all, still others feel the touch of a woman as something pure and simply as wonderfully pleasant. I have felt it all.

Copy of birth certificate of FOKKE SMID my grandfather

Copy of birth certificate of FOKKE SMID my grandfather

During a sleepless night, which thank God very seldom happens, I was was busy with those thoughts, and on a rare occasion when I received a visit of my minister, or pastor as he likes to be called, the good man was unfortunate to ask me what had been the hardest thing that I had to give up in my life. I want it be known that I really like this pastor, and haven't got the slightest notion that his reason for this question was a malicious one. I answered him that there were three things that, for different reasons were hard for me give up – two of them were of my own choice, drinking and smoking, and the third was because of a circumstance and definitely not by choice, sex. That was when my dear wife Anne had passed away. The pastor was taken by surprise of me mentioning the intimate relationship between male and female by an old man like me, I think, and quickly turned to reading a part of the bible, a part that had very little to do with sex or the lack of it.

Why bring that subject up anyways? I will tell you. Five weeks ago I received word that the husband of one of the sisters of my wife had passed away in the Netherlands. He and my wife's sister were a loving couple and I wondered how she was coping with that loss. Then my thoughts wandered to my father when he became a widower and the number one concern seemed to be his lack of being able to brew a cup of coffee for himself, while I suspect that that was not the only reason. I was trying to formulate a comforting letter for my sister in law, but did not have her address. I called several times but got no answer, and yesterday via a a widow of Anne's cousin in the US, got a call that Anne's sister Ida had passed away as well.

Then I thought how important family is and how little we know of one's pains and problems, and how short the time is that we can be a comfort to each other. And now I go on with the little I know about the the first of the SMID generations because it is good for the future generations to know where they are from, knowing that their lives are also like 'a blink of an eye,' a very short time, in which to put a hand on someone's shoulder.

THE FIRST EIGHT GENERATIONS

1 Gerben, *1578 - ? is the first of the Smid generation. His wife is not known. We only know that he had at least one son whom he named Wytse Gerbens. The second name is after himself while the s behind Gerben denotes son, thus the name Wytse Gerbens stands for Wytse the son of Gerben. The year of Gerben's birth I have not entirely guessed, but calculated the average ages over ten generations which amounted to 32 years which I added to the birth year of his son Wytse Gerbens, of whom we know a little bit more.

2 Wytse Gerbens, *1690 - ? He was born in the small village of Terwispel in Fryslân. Who his wife is, we don't known, and neither when he died.

He rented his farmstead and land 1728, faring well, so that in 1732 he was already owner of two equal parcels of land, situated between two roads. He was considered a well to do farmer with 6 people over 12 years old, likely he and his wife and four sons. His taxes were assessed at 52 guldens and 19 cents.

He had at least three sons, of whom we know only Pieter, Hendrik, and Gerben, there must have been one more son , but the fourth child over twelve years could also have been a daughter. The only one of the three sons we know something more about is Hendrik.

3 Hendrik Wytses *1716- ? X Trijntje Johanna Postuma ? ? from Gorredijk. After the wedding the young couple are going to live at Lippenhuizen on the canal. Hendrik is a farmer but also a baker. They receive four children who all are baptized in the Dutch Reformed church.

'They are pleasant people who like a glass of wine,' is written of them.

They have one son, Johannes Hendriks.

4 Johannes Hendriks Smit1764-1876, X Wietske Hendriks from Terwispel. He takes, as the first one of our generations a family name, namely Smit. (My wife Anne chided me about this, saying her name, Smit, was the thru one.

4 Johannes Hendriks Smit1764-1876, X Wietske Hendriks from Terwispel. He takes, as the first one of our generations a family name, namely Smit. (My wife Anne chided me about this, saying her name, Smit, was the thru one.

Johannes is from Terwispel. When the mother of the bride is asked to sign as witness it appears that she cannot write, so she signs with a cross, which is then witnessed by an official, in order that the wedding can go on.

Johannes starts as a skipper when he is still a bachelor but does not very well, in the tax register he is mentioned as 'a skipper without any material possessions.' After his marriage he follows in the footsteps of his father as he dumps the boat and becomes a baker, and like his father he is not shy of a stiff drink. They are a happy and cheerful family. However, good times do not last very long in the heather community. Dark clouds loom again as the economy slows down, hitting the already financially unstable heather dwellers; still people must eat and Johannes Smit does not send them home without it. Though his clients severely promise to pay, they do not come forward with the cash since they haven't got it to give, which makes that Johannes loses his bakery, his second venture. He then the whole kitten-qua-boedel, including his family, to Wijnjeterp where he tries his luck as a small farmer.

Johannes Hendriks Smit joins the army around 1817.

Johannes and Wietske get four children, one of them dies very young and one out the survivors is Hendrik.

5 Hendrik Johannes Smid 1797 - ? X Grietje Sipkes de Boer 1802 - ?in 1795

6 Sipke Hendriks Smid 1831 - 1882 X Antje Roelofs van Houten 1833 - 1871in 1857

7 Fokke Smid *1869 – 1949 X Aukje Slofstra 1873 - 1956 in 1897

8 Hendrik Smid *1904- 1989 X Jacobje Roelevink 1908 – 1975in 1930

9 LEFFERT Smid *1931 - ? X Anne Smit *1935 – 2008in 1955

10 Janice 1957, Deborah 1959, Leonard 1961, Jacqueline 1965

11 Mark Dustin Alexis Dylan

11 Jesse Tyler

12

Rylee

Rylee really did her very best to loosen up our rusty bones; she made us work out while we were sitting in a comfortable armchair in a semi-circle around her. It was a pleasure for me to engage in this activity.

“Sit up straight” she commands. We sit up straight, roll our shoulders backward and down, pulling the chest upward, as straight as our body allows.

“March your feet.” We march.

“Move your arms like Popeye.” We imitate Popeye while eyeing Rylee for the right moves. Wow, she makes for a great Popeye. But here she is, asking difficult questions, but gives the answers as well.

“Why do we fall? We've lost our balance, so we must quickly counteract to resist the fall; that is why we do these exercises, right? Prevention is the best medicine.”

 It's not all old people at Menno Place!

 It's not all old people at Menno Place!

There is something about Rylee that intrigues and mystifies me; I really couldn't put my finger on it what it was. It had to do with her smile. Her smile is not ordinary. At one time I thought it to be mischievous, and part of it is, I think, though not in a negative sense. Sometimes it is a fleeting smile, then it is a lingering facial expression, that is somewhere between lovely and sweet, but bewildering to me. One time I thought that she really smiled at me. And so we sit for half an hour taking preventive medicines from the energetic twenty-four year old and love it. Meanwhile Rylee is searching on her Apple-thing for the next torture, to be applied to our unwilling bodies, which rightfully should be administered to humans half our age.

My wife dragged me one time to Paris France, where we 'did,' among other things, the Louvre and walked by the famous painting 'the' Mona Lisa. I was familiar with the painting, but seeing it face to face, I was not greatly impressed. Walking by the very famous Lisa, her renowned smile did not move me, but the smile of our fitness instructor did. Whereas the 'enigmatic and mysterious' smile of Mona Lisa left me cold, the smile of Rylee stirred and baffled me, and I wondered why.

And than the secret manifested itself – the smile never FAILED to appear after a single word which she stretched to 'relaaax.' I waited for her to say that word again and did not have to wait long.

“Hold that position for five seconds. Five, four, three, two, one”, (and there it was,) and - relaaax.” Her smile was like a Boston pizza with a generous topping of the finest Dutch Gouda cheese and the sweetest Hawaiian pineapple, with a touch of a wicked Italian sausage. Bon appetite!

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Rylee, now a personal few words. I have learned MORE from you than how to wiggle my toes and pull the ears over on the other side of my head, even though without your exercises I would not have been able to.

You were sharing, without mentioning it outright, what makes YOUR generation tick. I came closer to understanding my grandchildren and their generation in which they and you live. You are a wonderful person, blessed with many gifts, one of which is the God given smile you so eagerly shared with us.

I thank you yet for taking us on a bus tour to the unforgettable Westminster Abby in Mission in which the monks so solemn and melodiously chanted; the deliciously tasting sandwiches and coffee in the park on that beautiful sunshine day; and for the most interesting tour through the Abbotsford museum.

During that bus tour you showed your many talents of organising and directing; I thank you also for sharing your plans to travel the world, young people style – carrying only a rucksack as baggage, without a planned destination, now that, as you put it, 'you can swim across a lake and climb a mountain,' not waiting until you have made money but are old and have to walk with the help of a walker – like us.

I THANK GOD that our paths were allowed to cross and wish you on your grand trip Gods nearness and comfort as HE, I'm sure will show you HIS WORLD. Now we have to say goodbye.

Goodbye is an old Germanic-English blessing which means GOD BE WITH YOU.

So, when we now bid you goodbye Rylee, we really say GOD BE WITH YOU, till we meet again.

Potato Seekers

Today we had potatoes, as part of our lunch. Small potatoes. Some not bigger than a marble.

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Potato harvesting during the hungry thirties (de crisis jaren) The men in the picture are not known to me.. The potatoes might be borgers of eerstelingen. (Check with brother Frank.)

When I was a little tyke and mother wanted me out of the way for an afternoon, my father took me sometimes along to the field where he worked, in contract, harvesting potatoes. By hand. Mother had then at least one less to look after. I was four years old then, my sister Aukje was three, brother Frank* (Fokke) one, and - mother was pregnant with baby Jan (John). We didn't know at that time if he was a he or a she of course. Had he been a she, her name would likely have been Durkje, after mother's mother, and brother Durk's name might've been Jan. This not necessarily pure speculation, because name giving went by rules and was taken very serious. My mother was 26 at that time, had thus three children and one on the way, therefore had still lots to look after, even when I was out of the way for a few hours. She also had to tend the little grocery store they owned, however the store likely did not take up too much of her time since they shortly after went broke and sold out to Foeke  Bijma, who operated the business for several years.

What I wanted to tell you though, was about the potato harvesting I witnessed my father doing. He worked on his knees, since potatoes do not, like apples grow on trees, but more like peanuts are found in the ground. The potatoes not only had to be scratched out from under the heavy clay, but had to be sorted according to size in three different baskets - one for the large potatoes, called consumption or eating potatoes - one for the medium sized, the seed potatoes, - and one for what they called the kriel, the offal, or waste potatoes. Kriel were a nuisance to the farmer because, if left behind, they, like a seed potato would sprout and become a new plant – only an inferior one.

It was also a pain in the but for my father, since the farmer would inspect the field for kriel and if he found too many, might deduct some off father's wages. Kriel potatoes were only good for one thing – feed for the pigs.

So today we had kriel potatoes as part of our lunch. My father, were he still alive would have shaken his head in unbelief. 'Well, well, my son is eating kriel, and he thought he had immigrated to a country overflowing with milk and honey. We had it bad during the hungry thirties but we never had to resort to swine feed.'

Potatoes as far as you can see

Potatoes as far as you can see

Smid Generations

This time not a story or fairy tale, but some facts about our forebears of the Smid line, which goes back to the late 1500th's!

1 GERBEN Around 1585 a baby saw for the first time in his life into the eyes of his mother. Who she was we do not know. Her child's name however, was Gerben, and that is all we know about our first known forefather. The baby Gerben in time got married with who, we again don't know, but became the father of at least one male child, whom he named Wytse Gerbens, (the s after the second name stands for son, in other parts of the world the name would have been Gerbenson,) thus Wytse Gerbens was the a son of Gerben, our first forebear, who was born approximately in 1585. The reason that we do not know for sure that date we can blame on those who destroyed the baptism records of the Roman Catholic church.

2 WYTSE GERBENS,1690- ? , from Terwispel, between Drachten and Heerenveen in Fryslan, X (stands for married) ? from ? They had at least one son Hendrik Wytses. The name of his wife again is unknown.

3 HENDRIK WYTSES, 1730- ? from Terwispel, X TRIJNTJE JOHANNA POSTUMA 1760 - ? from Gorredijk; they got four children, Antje, Johannes, Willemke, and Tjerkje.

4 JOHANNES HENDRIKS SMIT, 1764- ? from Lippenhuizen, X WYTSKE HENDRIKS, 1678 - ?, from Terwispel, in 1795. They got also four children, Hendrik Johannes, Jan George, Jan George, and Tsjitske. Jan George died very young so the following baby received the same name.

5 HENDRIK JOHANNES SMID, 1797- ? from Lippenhuizen, X GRIETJE SIPKES DE BOER, 1802- 1876 fromDuurswoude, in 1826; they got six children, Betje, Wytske, Sipke Hendrik, Grietje, Janke, and Johannes.

6 SIPKE HENDRIKS SMID, 1831-1882 from Lippenhuizen, X ANTJE ROELFS van HOUTEN, 1833-1871 from Haulerwijk; they got five children, Grietje, Hendrik, Roelofje, Betje, and Fokke.

My grandparents, Fokke Smid and Aukje Slofstra

My grandparents, Fokke Smid and Aukje Slofstra

7 FOKKE SMID, 1869-1949 from Duurswoude, X AUKJE SLOFSTRA 1873-1956 from Haulerwijk, in 1897. they got nine children, one daughter and eight sons, Lumke, Sipke, Jan, Hendrik, Anne, Bernardus, Roelof, Daniel, and Bertus.

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8 HENDRIK SMID 1904-1989 from Donkerbroek, X Jacobje Roelevink 1908-1975 from Mirns- Bakhuizen, in 1930. They got seven children, Leffert, Aukje, Fokke, Jan, Sipke, Durk, and Anne.

9 LEFFERT SMID, 1931- ? from Hijum Fr., X Anje Smit, 1935-2008 from Zeerijp Gr., in 1955. They got four children, Janice Ida, Deborah Grace, Leonard Hendrik, and Jacqueline Audrey.

10 Janice Ida Smidborn 1957 in Winnipeg, Man. Canada married in 1981Erwin van Diermen, born 1957, from Victoria BC. They have five children, Mark, Dustin, Alexis, Dylan, and Tara

11 Mark Leonard van Diermen born 1978 in Richmond BC,marriedLaura Leigh, they have three children gen 12

11 Dustin Tijmen van Diermen born 1982 in Langley BC, married Denée Kerbrat, they have four children, gen. 12

11 Alexis Elisabeth-Anne, born 1988 in Langley BC, married Aaron Toews, they have one child, gen.12

11 Dylan Erwin, born 1988 in Abbotsford BC, married Natasha Mollison, they have two children, gen 12

10 Deborah Grace Smid, born 1959 in Vancouver,BC, married in 1979 Randy Williams, born 1958,

from Vancouver BC. They got three children, Katie Anne, Christopher John, and Megan Elyse, gen. 11.

They divorced each other and then remarried.

Randy married Nena Sadavol, theylive in Mexico, had one daughter together, who tragically passed away.

10 Deborah married Allan McLeod, theylive in Devon (Philadelphia)USA.

11 Katie Anne, born in 1980 in Vancouver BC, is in a relation with Peter Bushell. They have one boy, Lennin, gen. 12, who is two years old, and named in part after my deceased son Len.

11 Christopher John, born 1982 in Vancouver BC, is up to now single.

11 Megan Elyse, born 1988 in Vancouver BC, married in 2016 with Justin Nodecker from Hope BC. They have a daughter, Georgia Mae, gen. 12, who is two.

10 Leonard Hendrik Smid, born 1961 in Vancouver BC, died in Boil Alberta in 1979

10 Jacqueline Audrey Smid, born 1965 in Vancouver BC married in 19 Allen J Nielsen, born 1964 in

Vancouver BC. They got two children, Jesse Daniel, and Tyler Allen, gen 11.

11 Jesse Danielborn 1988, is not in a relationship so far, or am I mistaken Jesse?

11 Tyler Allen born 1991, is thus far in no relationship either, as far as I know, love you both

9 AUKJE SMID, born 1930 in Hijum Fr., X MARTEN HEIDA born 1929 in Echten Fr., they have six children, Jacobje (Cobie), Jan, Hendrik Anne, Ruurd Pieter, Fertile, and Femmigje Elisabeth, gen.10.

9 FOKKE (Frank) SMID, born 1934, from Hijum Fr., X HILDA van LEYEN, from Hattum Neth, they got three children, Ellen, Hendrik, and Esmé, gen. 10. Their children aregeneration 11, and their children are gen. 12. Frank will further straighten things out.

9 JAN (JOHN) SMID, born 1935 in Leeuwarden Fr., X SAARTJE (SARINA) van HEYST, they got three children Howard, Linda, and Beverly, gen. 10. John can figure it out further.

9 SIPKE (SIDNEY) SMID, 1937 in Hijum Fr., X AUDREY van der HOEK; from Richmond BC; they got four children, Audrey, Jacqueline, Hendrik, and Paula gen. 10

9 DURK SMID, born 1944 in Oosterzee Fr, X ANTONIA STAM from Zwolle, Neth.; they got their first child, Henrietta, in the Netherlands, the other four in Canada, Henk Allen, Sandra Jacqueline, Corwin Jason, and Marcel, gen.10. The children of gen. 10 are gen. 11(duh), and their children gen 12

9 ANNE SMID, born 1946 in Heerenveen Fr., X Froukje de Vries 1946 from Ens NOP in 1970, they have no children.

Most of this information I have from uncle Bernardus Smid, who got his knowledge from his brothers, including my father Hendrik Smid, and we know that even though our father was great in many things, in accuracy he was as bad as I am. Therefore, allow for mistakes and omissions. The reason I went through all this work (trouble) is to find out how many names Beppe Aukje Smid nee Slofstra every night brought before the throne of God, as was mentioned many times by her daughter and sons, and how long that would take her.

Uncle Bernardus estimated she had including the in-laws about three hundred to petition but that was mentioned several years after grandmother's dead in 1956, anyone born after 1956 are of course not included, for she never knew them. Beppe was a very loving person, she was a great mother and grandmother, and after her dead one of her sons said that 'a mother of Israel' was taken away from them. What he really meant with that exactly I don't know, but since everyone did concur with that statement proves that he could not have stated it any better.

I have only included the line from the fourth child of my grandparents, Fokke and Aukje Smid, the line of Hendrik (and Jacobje Smid,) gen. 8; the army of cousins that are not counted, (the offspring of my father Hendrik's brothers and sister) would fill many, many more pages, and will only be mentioned as they appear in future stories. When Henrietta, the oldest daughter of Durk and Tony Smid, gen.10, got married, I calculated that by the year 2000, a century after my grandparent's Fokke and Aukje Smid's (gen. 7) wedding, beppe Aukje Smid (in-laws included,) would have to have 2000 names to bring before the throne of grace. So far I have not been able to locate those notes.

The Day the Trees Came Down

Once there were two crows. They were black. Very black. Both of them

Looking at them you could not tell them apart. Still, there was a difference, because one of the crows was a female, and the other was a male. Of course, the crows knew not only who they were but also what they were. They made not a big deal about it, but still there were certain customs they followed.

Kawika and Kawka                                 

The she-crow, whose name was Kawika, would never be the first to fly away from the tree, but wait for the he-crow, whose name was Kawka, to alight and then follow him and if she was in the mood to race she might even pass him. However, if she was nesting, she would remain on her eggs. Kawika was the one to find a place where to sun for both of them and she also carefully would choose the nesting site, and direct her mate to provide building materials for her nest when she wanted to start a family, and that day would soon arrive. The weather was spring-like and urges told them that the time for procreating was near. They were happy with each other and contend with nature and were sunning themselves on top of the the highest tree.

From their elevated location they were able to see the quiet water of Mill Lake and the entire city with scores of streets crisscrossing the township. They were able to see the busy highway with a steady stream of cars and trucks navigating east and west with many accesses leading into the various parts of the city. However, they missed the small caravan of trucks as it drove rapidly towards the entrance to Menno Place, where it stopped right alongside the tall Douglas fir-trees, with the sunning spot of the crow family on top of the highest one of them. Kawka sensed danger and alerted his mate. He quit the sunning and frantically moved his upper body up and down, loudly voicing his frustration, and when he saw a man in a tub at the end of a movable pole swaying his way up along the tree, he panicked and took off with Kawika closely following him.

The man in the tub at the end of the pole carried a loud sputtering chainsaw in his hand with which he cut the limbs off the more than hundred year-old tree. After that he revved up the chainsaw till it screamed as he cut across the trunk of the centenarian tree and in less than a minute the top of the big tree, including the sunning spot, waved momentarily like a drunk and then flopped down, making the earth tremble.

Six of the eight trees graced the hospital for as long as the building had existed. They were all between fifty and sixty years old, but the two end trees were well over a hundred. One by one the man stripped the trees of their limbs, and when the old trees were denuded he cut off the top parts of all them. The once proud Douglas firs, who lived to such a mature age were reduced to stumps, resembling dead totem poles. The final humiliating act happened when the trunks also were cut and fell, one over the other, never to rise again. A flock of geese did a fly by, loudly protesting as they went. The old man leaning on a cane wearily witnessed the last tree coming down. He had tears in his eyes.

Chief Executive Officer of Menno Place, Karen L. Baillie; Menno Place

A lady with a position at the estate walked by. She talked to the old man. All this had to happen she said. City officials had strongly recommended them to remove the trees, on account of some underground lines being disturbed by the trees’ roots. She told him that she believed that god had protected them from an impending disaster.

The old man took a deep breath and began to see their point among the other points, but his own point, which was, that an effort could have been made to relocate the gas lines. Then more good-looking women arrived as if from nowhere. One of them carried a large camera. She took pictures of all that was going on, they actually turned out to be beautiful photographs. She even made the old man look good as shethe-day-the-trees-crows-ii took his picture together with the lady with the position. It did create more spots for parking, the old man conceded, but Kawka and Kawika made made their home at the competition. Also with fir trees. Some say higher trees, but then, people just talk.

 

The Strength of a Woman

Brenda Beaton and Durk Smid, my brother, are married and live in Williams Lake. For both of them it is their second marriage, as their first partners have passed. They communicate mostly by written words as Brenda has a rare form of Alzheimer, which make it very difficult for her to speak and her hearing has equally deteriorated. They are deeply in love with each other and face not only their hardships together but with optimism and faith in God.

Brenda, whose mind is not affected, has written some moving stories about her eventful life, in which she for forty years took care of two severely mentally handicapped sons as well. She was kind enough to let me read some of her stories in which she writes about her hardships and her victories. Her stories, coming right from her heart have moved me deeply. I wanted to share them with you. Here is the first one. (Lex)

Brenda, the author of THE STRENGTH OF A WOMAN reading my stories

Brenda, the author of THE STRENGTH OF A WOMAN reading my stories

 

The Strength of a Woman by Brenda Beaton Smid

AS I GAZED THROUGH THE WINDOW of the jewelry store, my eyes settled on the little vase in front of the display. With its gold trim on top and shades of teal, royal and navy blues, and gold in the pattern, it was beautiful. Strong and delicate all at the same time. It instantly reminded me of my Grandmother.

Elizabeth Matlock died several years ago. Named for me, I had, from my earliest memory a special love for the woman. Grandma had the soft, warm arms and bosom that I curled up into many times over the years.

I remember asking my Mom that I want to write a letter to Grandma. I was four years old, my letter was contained with E's and O's. A few weeks later I received my first letter from Grandma!

When I was nine, I was lucky to go to Grandmas'. I stayed for a week, just her and Grandpa.

No two brothers, or my other three sisters, just me.

We played scrabble.

Grandma had been crippled with a very rare disease in the late forties after her last child was born.

The doctors didn't know much about this disease called Myasthenia Gravis. My Grandma was the only one in Western Canada. Her leg muscles were very weak, voice was gravelly and with drooping eyelids. She was the doctors guinea pig,many times she felt worse, with hives all over her body.

Elizabeth was bedridden many times. My Grandpa took over the jobs from her. After of many years and much experimenting and new medicines, Elizabeth was able to stand and walk, using a cane.

I remember how Grandmas' steps were taken so tenderly, slowly, and with thought behind each one. Though Elizabeth looked delicate, she had a very strong will. I loved to listen to Grandmas' weak voice because there was always something to learn,and I didn't want to miss anything that Grandma had to say.

Years later, my Grandma had to be strong again when she she learned she had breast cancer in 1970. She did what she had to do. She passed away peacefully, in 1997.

I took my eyes away from the vase and smiled softly, then continued on my way.

By: Brenda Beaton Smid

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The Reason

The hot missionary, thrown in the native’s cooking pot, felt quite comfortable in the cool water, not realizing that there was a fire under the pot, slowly raising the warmth of the water. It did not alarm him as he did not notice the gradual rise in temperature until he noticed heat bubbles coming to the surface and the water started to boil, but by then it was too late, for by then he was cooked.

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It was not the water in the pot creeping up to me, but old age. It was obvious to me when I passed my eightieth birthday that I was on my last legs, the thought of ‘the end ‘which had in my middle years troubled me did not terrify me now as I thought more composed about it; so, the inevitable end was now closer than it ever had been, but I had no deadly illness I was aware of, and with the help of a great doctor I felt I was doing quite well. Perhaps I was given time to leave something behind for my offspring, and for some friends, though most of them have passed already.

The children felt that the time had arrived for me to sell my home and find myself a home to retire in. Amazing how great minds think alike sometimes. I had arrived at that conclusion as well but via a different route, especially since my dear wife had passed away five years before.

I lived in a comfortable house which we built twenty-five years ago, halfway up on the south slide of Sumas Mountain, overlooking the great Sumas valley dotted with numerous dairy and chicken farms, divided by green grass meadows and yellow cornfields, as far as the eye can see, right into the somber American mountains at the horizon. Under an often blue sky it was a picture never to be erased from your mind.

My wife Anne designed our ‘retirement home,’ which turned out to be a house with a lot of ‘firsts’ and ‘only's.’ It was one of the very few houses on the mountain where you could ride a wheelchair from the street, through the front door into the living room, without the obstruction of even one step. The reason that I built it like that was that I saw three of our friends eventually winding up in a wheelchair and even one step would hinder them from entering our house. One friend had lost a leg in a car accident, the other had both legs frozen off when his airplane crashed into a lake up in northern BC, and the third one had a clubfoot. All three of them are dead by now.

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Every room except one of the bedrooms had a view of the valley, including the majestic Mount Baker of the United States. The west side of the house had no windows in order to retain privacy from the neighbors and therefore we needed no curtains. The house featured a large sundeck off the living room, and the generous sitting room was built circular shaped, with its ceiling three feet higher than the rest of the rooms, giving it an appearance of a merry-go-round.

The part I liked the best was the round living room jutting out from the rest of the house into the south-west corner of the irregular building lot. Standing inside at its farthest protrusion, it gave me a feeling of standing like a captain on the top deck of an ocean liner, cruising down the mountain.

The site was beautifully landscaped, and anchored by a towering ponderosa pine tree, higher than our multy story home. It was also the only ponderosa tree in Abbotsford, as far as I know. I loved the house and the site it was built on, which was selected by my wife Anne, and I never tired of it. The family feasts and gatherings were held in this house, which the grandchildren knew as grandma’s house.

Why then, in spite of all these happy family times, did I so willingly agree with my daughters to leave it? I’ll tell you why. Both Anne and I had lost a lot of money by investing it in the wrong place, shortly after we started to live permanently in Abbotsford. We did not have our eyes open when we should have, though in our defense, the perpetrators who took us to the cleaners belonged to a very well-known Christian Church. Anyways, the upswing was that we lost our financial backup and for that reason I did not wind up in Menno Home by design but as a result of careless investing.

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The house needed repairs inside and out, including a new roof, a new sundeck, and extensive landscaping, estimated at a cost of one hundred-thousand dollars – which I did not have.

However, I was sitting on a lot of money in the form of a mortgage-free house. Selling that house meant that I had to rent another place to live, and for me there was no other place to do just that than Menno Home. There is a story as to why.

When I sixty years ago as an immigrant landed right in the middle of our great country, in Winnipeg, I started working for a precast concrete company. My working partner there was a French-Canadian who was good enough to teach me English, which was great because I hardly knew one word in that language. What I did not know was, that he taught me the basest and vilest words in that great tongue, and he proved to be very knowledgeable in that specialty, but he also told me something that, after sixty years, I still remember. He said, ‘if you have a Mennonite as your neighbor, you will never be hungry.’ I have never forgotten these words.

I promised myself that the time at my new Home would not be spent by inactivity, neither by going out with ‘guns ablaze in both hands', but using only my right-hand index-finger steadfastly pressing the keys of a computer, I will do my best to produce some stories about people around me, and at the same time share some of my own thoughts and beliefs.

I hope my finger will hold out.

Goodbye red KIA

I always wanted a red car and when, after a slight accident, I totaled my Ford Suburban, Janice, (my daughter) and I set out to look for one. We found this cute red KIA Sportage, easy to get in and out,

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in the KIA sales room, just what I was looking for and fell hopelessly in love with, but it was over my budget and we marched from there to the used car lot to find everything going our way again - a brand new looking seven year old duplicate of the one in the showroom. We looked at each other and said without hesitation, this is it! and purchased it. Janice took a picture of the beauty and the proud owner,me, beside it, and sent that image directly to her sisters. Later I called daughter Jacki telling her of my happy purchase of the red Sportage when she said after a slight pause

"Have a look again at your car, dad,” which I did and to my horror saw that my red car was blue! And had been blue all along, according to Janice, who never prevaricates, like all the sisters.

One early morning on my way to Tim Hortons for breakfast I had an accident with my blue KIA. One front wheel dangled off the axle, and the passenger side looked as if a steam roller had gone over it. My thoughts went to what the thoughts of my son Len might have been, who died in a car accident thirty-seven years ago. Perhaps he had been unafraid as I was not afraid, only bewildered, but Len, our only son was dead and I stayed alive. I wondered about that, but my friend said 'your work has not been completed yet' which makes me think 'was my eighteen year old son's work finished?'

Janice and Erwin and their sons will check the car out and sell it, distributing whatever they get for it among the grandchildren.

Shortly after John and I as immigrants landed in Transcona Manitoba, we purchased a one or two-year old pale green, two-door Chevy for about two thousand dollars. We lend the largest part of that amount from Germ Veenstra, a bachelor, who offered us a loan at 6% interest of what we were short. Germ had purchased a house which he rented out to a dutch immigrant family, while he himself lived in the free standing garage. He looked after himself, including cooking and washing clothes, however in bachelor style. He took a fresh afternoon for for ironing his clothes for instance by firing up the potbellied wood-stove in the middle of the garage with two small irons on top. When the irons were hot enough he might start with ironing his Sunday shirt, of which he ironed only the collar, not even the shirt sleeves since they were hidden under his jacket sleeves anyways, which he took of just before he went to bed.

We were allowed to take the car immediately home, since we had paid cash with the help of Germ's loan, but how to get our prize home? I was 22 and John 18, both virgins in the art driving a car, and to make matters worse the vehicle, like most cars in the early fifties, was not automatic but a standard.

We managed to get it off the lot and from thereon trouble started. Both of us were very eager to take the reins of our new horse but their was only place for one in the drivers seat. I argued that I, as the oldest, should have that privilege, which John countered that the youngest should have an equal chance. We finally agreed to each drive the length of five telephone poles on the side of the road, after which we'd stop, not to switch horses but drivers.

With the privilege of driving comes an obligation to have a valid drivers license. We were not that good drivers yet and I was not at all sure of my motoring skill, so like in the beginning of the 1800ths under Bonaparte Napoleon, when young men were called to serve in the army, some of them, special the well-off, would take a ramplesant, one to replace him, usually a poor young man, whom they

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would royally pay for that service. So I took a ramplesant to the country side where licenses were easier to obtain and have the ramplesant do the drivers test for me. That cost me a cup of coffee and a piece of pie, fifteen cents. Was that cheating? It sure was, but justice prevailed in the end, since we lived on the fringe of the city of Winnipeg we had to do the tests all over again. I got mine but my brother failed.

The government buildings in Winnipeg have two sets of very wide concrete stairs in front, totaling some thirty steps. When John and the driver examiner were poised to go down those steps, and the steps were icy, (it was in the winter) the examiner slipped and fell down the steps, probably hurting himself. John could not contain himself and had to laugh. Which the examiner saw. Luckily he had not broken any bones and took the exam anyways. It did not come as a surprise to us that John failed.

Georgia Mae

… and then there was Georgia Mae...

My wife Anne and I raised one stalwart son and three wonderful daughters.

Those three daughters, together with their spouses, made us grateful and happy with nine grandchildren - three beautiful young women and six healthy young men, whom together with their spouses or partners made us still richer with eleven great-grandchildren - ten healthy boys and three adorable girls. The youngest one of the girls, who is not that little anymore as she tries, like any woman would, to make herself even more beautiful, ta-rah, roll the drums!! – meet my great-grant-daughter Georgia Mae!!!

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Megan, the mother of Georgia Mae, and I were having a coffee in the Menno Home bistro about a year ago when her baby was just short enough by only half a centimeter to walk under the cafe tables instead of going around them, without hitting her little head. It pained me to see her not missing a beat as she walked under the table on one side, and appeared on the other, without any discomfort as if it was the most normal thing to do.

On a table in the corner sat an older woman in a wheelchair trying to get the attention of the little adventurer who did as if she was not aware of her. But in time she ventured under the table to the old woman and was well rewarded with sweet talk and hugs after she landed on her knee. The lady was ecstatic with the little one on her lap. The man accompanying her told us that his mother was 103 years old, and blind.

“She will remember this as long as she lives,” he said.

Meanwhile Georgia May just goes on, leaving sunshine in her wake where ever she goes.

When she was of elementary-school age, Megan Williams, little Georgia Mae's mother, and I sometimes walked a trail along the Sumas canal. We passed a bridge over a small stream which was dry in summertime. One spring-time we watched salmon fingerlings swim down the stream on their journey to the Atlantic ocean via the mighty Fraser river, only to return after four years to exactly the same spot where they were spawned, which is still a great mystery and wonder of nature.

We wondered about how these beautiful sleek fish, without an older leader to guide them, or a map to consult, never having gone to school, could find their way back to Abbotsford from across the immense ocean.

Megan and I were there also when a remnant, (only about 5% make back) who had started four years previous, were returning in the fall, but now had to climb the mountain in a creek bed which was in places totally without water. When they hit a water-less spot they literally fishtailed on their bellies to get from one little water pool to the next one, where they rested, sometimes for days before proceeding again to the final small gravel-bed where the female fish in a last heroic move fishtailed once more to make a slight depression into the gravel in which to lay her eggs, after which the mail salmon immediately fertilized them.

After fulfilling their last duty to nature of procreation, they died, their bodies carried down as far as there was water to carry them, and than the eagles would come and have a feast.

One time we climbed right down to the waterline of the canal where the wary salmon, on their up to mountain, were only inches away from our feet. It was easy to touch them. We witnessed all of that on several trips together down that trail so close to our house.

Megan has since grown up into an intelligent and beautiful young woman and mother, a person I love dearly, who is now showing Georgia Mae the trail we used to walk, she tells me.

She, together with the father of Georgia Mae, Justin Nodecker, decided that Megan would be a stay at home mother, to give their baby all the time she needs. As Justin works very long days, the weekends are exclusively for the three of them to enjoy, a lot of times which they spend with Megan's sister Katie – Anne, and Justin's family.

Justin and Megan are getting married Saturday , September 17, 2016 in Hope BC.

My congratulations to all three!

The Second One

Since august 2016 has passed and I am still alive, I am now older than my father was when he passed away.

But – WHAT NOW?

Like my father would, I try to answer with a story

Jonathan Klassen, (not his right name)

I met Jonathan at the fish and chip place where you can find him every Wednesday- evening at 5pm with some of his relatives, eating the more expensive halibut, because it's not as fishy tasting as the cheaper cod, he tells me.

Jonathan is five weeks shy of 100 years old. He does not use a walker or a cane when he is on the move, and his pace is more like a jog than a walk since he is always in a hurry. Every day he drives his wife on a wheel- bed from the hospital to his room to entertain her. A bad fall broke her hip which could not be repaired because her bones were too brittle. Mrs Klassen, who is mentally as good as anybody, is 97.

Jonathan - “My father, who lived in the Ukraine, refused to go into the Russian army, because he was a conscientious objector, so they send him as far away as they could in the bush in northern Siberia. My mother found a shed about a mile away from where my father was put to work. I was born with the help of a neighbor's wife acting as a wet-nurse in that shed because there were no doctors or hospitals. I could not breath very good they tell me, actually I was a weakling. The wet-nurse said to my mother 'I don't know if we can keep this one alive, but I will stay with you as long as it takes,' he smiles weakly. She stayed a month with my mother to keep me alive.

Now I take care of my wife, I walk her from the hospital uphill, to my room every day. It's getting more difficult every day, but she is a good wife, I enjoyed her, for more years than many others. I enjoyed life very much, still do. You do what you can - as long as you can,” he smiles.“O, my goodness, it's time to get my wife, the church starts at 2 o'clock.” He breaks into a trot, without cane or walker to take his wife to church.

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THE BEAUTIFUL WOMAN AT THE BUSS STOP an addition to the story SO WHAT NOW

a very short but important story by Fertile (Lex) Smid

In between my front window and the hospital across the street is a bus stop located equipped with a comfortable bench under a glass roof for the convenience of bus travelers. There is most of the time seating available since the traffic to and from the hospital and our old folks home is a lot less than that of a department store or a restaurant. And even though I live on the second floor of my apartment my living room floor and the street are on the same level, because the road makes a one story deep dip eastward, which results that the living room floor of the first story at the east end of our building is also at the level of the street.

The foregoing has little or nothing to do with the story of which I have a hard time to find a beginning with, other than that the reader considers pleasing me with a visit, in which case you are heartily welcome. I haven't even begun to tell you that this story is about an attractive young woman sitting on a bench, waiting impatiently for a city bus to come by. The bus didn't come, but I did.

When I, behind my walker, arrived at the bus stop I noticed two things, one – that the young woman sitting on the bench was very beautiful, and two – she was jumpy, nervously looking eastward for, what I guessed, was the city bus. Which bus did not show up, no matter how far she stretched her neck to the east. I greet everybody, including beautiful women. She glanced me over and then I saw a third thing – a pair of eyes so beautiful I had ever seen before. Jumpily turning to the east again she said in a voice sounding of silver bells

“You have arthritis.” I was flabbergasted, how did she know? But there was more to come.

“You don't have to have arthritis,” her voice still pealing, while twitching her head hunting for the bus again.

“Drink a gallon of water every day and your arthritis will be a thing of the past.” The musical melody of her voice was definitely comforting. Then the bus arrived, she lightly jumped into it and out of my life for all I know, leaving me behind, alone with my painful rheumatoid arthritis.

Her advise to drink water I found too easy to even try, but after some serious pain I gave it a try. Not a whole gallon, but a few cups. I have not drank a full gallon a day of the cheap drink yet but made a start anyways and you know? the pain has gone enough that I can sleep.

 

 

 

Jonathan of the story SO WHAT NOW? and THE BEAUTIFUL WOMAN AT THE BUSS STOP together furnaced the answer to the question So what now? Not only to do what I can as long as I can, but together with that – listen to everyone so that I may learn as long as I can.

Father, I think I got it. Now if I could only outsmart that computer.

That is the lesson for me today, and for the future, as long as I will be given – to do what I can as long as I can.