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Family of the Heart

Gentle Readers,
I left Nell last week gazing up into the eyes of the man she would follow anywhere and do anything for, so I really should be writing about what happened next.

Patience...that will follow next week, but my fingers on the keyboard won’t take me there yet.

Perhaps you will remember that the winter of 1947 was bitter and wretched and how Nell returned to the Netherlands that September. She returned to England in 1948 and married Chris, her handsome guardsman, in November.

Those events were where my lens focused last week, but there were other relationships forged between 1947 and 1949 that have to be written into the story, for they were ties that taught me all I ever needed to know about friendship.

In Rotterdam in September 1947, after 9 months of being a nanny and cook in the Krausz household in London, Nell worked through the winter in a typing pool. Today most young people might wonder what a typing pool was: it was a group of secretaries, available to assist any executive without an assigned secretary, with necessary typing. It was in that office that Nell made friends with Mies Kulman. Mies Kulman had a cousin who was also named Mies, and to differentiate between them, Mies Kulman was known as Little Mies, and her cousin was known as Tall Mies. Tall Mies's life was to be woven into ours as our beloved Tante Mies. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Little Mies wanted to go to England and she asked Nell to go with her. And so, always ready for adventure, in April of 1948, Nell crossed the North Sea for a second time, this time with Little Mies. They went to Farnborough Hospital in Kent, where they were employed as domestic workers. They started working in the nurses’ rooms; then were promoted to working for the Sisters, and then the Head Nurses, who all had their own apartments. They also worked for the Matron when her personal maid was on holiday, which was the height of honour!

One of the friendships Nell made was with a teenager from South Shields, in the North East of England. Her name was May, and Nell and she became fast friends.

May spoke with a soft, lilting Geordie accent. Her short, wavy, blond hair framed a lovely face in with blue eyes. Her stunning fair beauty contrasted with Nell's thick dark brown curls and blue eyes.

As they did their housework, the rooms rang with laughter. Nell and May shared a sense of humour and fun then that has never left either of them.

Tall Mies followed her cousin to England in March of 1949 for a few months before she got married to Uncle Bart and she too, became a lifelong friend of Nell's.

Tante Mies (“Tall Mies”) and Auntie May never met each other, since Auntie May was there in 1948 and Tante Mies in 1949.

This photo is of me with Tante Mies in Rotterdam in 2006.
In the photo below, taken in October 2008, I am with Diane, Auntie May's eldest daughter, whom I have known all of my life.

Tante Mies and Oom Bart didn't have children of their own, but Tante Mies's sister Fred, did, and her eldest daughter, Ingrid, and I have been friends from early childhood. Ingrid now lives in British Columbia. I have flown there for the weddings of two of her daughters. We will always be connected by a bond as close as family.

Tante Mies was the epitome of elegance, with perfectly manicured nails, always painted red or orange. She wore her long black hair in a loose bun and the flat in which she and Oom Bart lived was beautifully furnished with velvet chairs and drapes and richly coloured glass ornaments.
Oom Bart's eyes twinkled with mischief and he loved to spoil Robert and me.

Auntie May, too, was elegant and sophisticated. My memories of her special perfume lingered in my memories of childhood and now it is my signature perfume, the only one I wear--Aromatics Elixer, by Clinique.

I learned from both of these friendships that true friendship is forever and the ties are as strong as blood. Our families are bound together into the second generation, over sixty years since two Dutch and one English girl, met in a hospital in Farnborough, Kent.

Since Nell, my mum, carried both of these friendships into her new life with Chris, I couldn't go forward without writing about them.
Next week, what happened next to Nell and Chris.


Angcat said…
Belinda, I am waiting, and patiently. Thank you for this interlude in the story.
Friendships are so important. It makes me think of both my parents and their life long friends.

My Mum has a fun story about a dear friend who moved to Australia. They had wed close in time to each other, here in Canada, had both got pregnant around the same time, and unbeknownst to each other, had little girls and named them both Angela.
They only found this out when they mailed each other letters with the news.
Kindred spirits I think.

Looking forward to next week.

Love Ang
Friends are the family we choose for ourselves - relationships that give strength without taking strength. Awesome ... good way to build suspense.

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