Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Adriana

Gentle readers,
Last week when I posted on Five Generations, a few faithful readers said, "More please." So I thought that for a while I would post some family stories once a week, on Mondays.

When I think of the mixture of people whose blood runs in my veins, I think that it will be an interesting challenge to write about them and try to tell their stories, bit by bit.

Today's post is titled for the earliest family member that I know much about; my great grandmother, Adriana Paauwe. She lived in a village named Wemeldinge in the southern province of Zeeland, in Holland.
A street in Wemeldinge (photo by Andre Speer.)

Adriana was born in the early 1870's--I'm not sure of the year--and had two sisters, Dina and Saar, and a brother named Piet.Their father's name was Cornelius, and all that I know about him is that he was known as "Christelijk," or a Christian, man.

Adriana became pregnant in 1895, while single, and although the father of the child she was carrying wanted to marry her, she refused. It must have taken great courage to say no to a man she didn't love, knowing what that would mean for her--a scandal and hardship as the single mother of a baby girl she named Kaatje.

She treated the child harshly. Kaatje was brought up to work hard every day except Sunday. On Sunday she knitted black stockings.

Adriana held onto a secret shame, a shame that she shared one day with one of Kaatje's daughters; the granddaughter named for her, my mum's second eldest sister. She wanted someone to know the truth; that the child she bore was the result of a rape. She told Tante Adrie the name of the man, a shopkeeper in the village she grew up in.

Tante Adrie kept the secret until her old age. She was going blind and was living in a nursing home and starting to become forgetful, when she passed the secret on to Mum. She told her that when she found out who their mother's father was, she went to find him and confronted him in his shop. She said to him, "I am Adriana's granddaughter--I know what you did to her." He ws shocked and speechless. That was it; she had nothing more to say to him; just that she knew. I guess knowing the truth is important, especially when someone you love has carried a shame that wasn't theirs for so long.

Adriana became a business woman, owning a barge namd Lena on which she carried cargo from one place to another with the man who loved her and married her later in life, Opa Piet van der Werf. He loved her little girl Kaatje too. His first wife had died by falling from a boat and drowning. Her silver wedding ring is in my jewelery box. They had a little brown speckled dog name Kees on the barge.

As I wrote last week, by the time I knew Opoe and Opa Piet, they were in their eighties and nineties and as brown and wrinkled as raisins. We loved to visit them in their tiny, doll-like house in Zeeland. They slept in a cupboard in the wall, which had a bed in it. We stayed there when Robert was 6 and I was 9. Because the house was so small, we had to climb a ladder into the loft, where we slept on a bed with squeaky springs. I was so scared that I deliberately made Robert frightened so that he would hold my hand for comfort!

Opa Piet had one tooth in the front of his mouth, which usually held a pipe, and when he kissed us it felt as though we were attached to a vacuum cleaner! He would pick pears for us from the trees in their garden and peel them with a pocket knife held in brown shaky hands that would also pat us lovingly on our cheeks.Opa Piet and Opoe died in the nineteen sixties and they ended their days in a lovely rest home in Wemeldinge called Vredebest. I'm glad that Adriana found love and peace at last, and her heart had softened long ago towards Kaatje.

Above is my grandmother Kaatje, in her teens, and below is my mother, Pieternella, dressed in the national costume of Zeeland.









Opoe and Opa

6 comments:

Marilyn said...

Wow! What a treat! I think all these women - Adriana, Kaatje and Tante Adrie - were courageous. What a fabulous inheritance!

I look forward to the Mondays to come, Belinda!

Angcat said...

I love this Belinda.
There are so many stories to be told. What a brave woman Adriana was.
All these lives lived help to form who we are; the good and the bad...
Thank God for His redeeming love for all of us.

ps Congratulations today

Deidra said...

Oh what a wonderful telling of the story. Thanks for the glimpse into your family. I look forward to reading and learning more.

Joyful Fox said...

Thanks for sharing these stories. They sure are worth the telling. What a remarkable amount of courage and honour are found in these ladies. Beauty from ashes, triumph over tragedy.

I enjoyed the photos too, it made the story so much more alive.

I am looking forward to next Monday.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Oh, I'm so glad you are doing this. It's a wonderful peek into your heritage. Do you know much about how she came to 'soften' towards her daughter, did she ever come to love her. I so felt for that little girl ...

Belinda said...

I wish I did, Dave, but I only know that in later years she softened and I believe that she did love her.

Kaatje had 8 children. At the birth of number 5,Adriana thought the birthing was over, when suddenly another baby popped out. There were twins, but no one knew twins were expected. Adriana cried out, "Oh! There's another one," and promptly fainted. :)