Monday, July 20, 2009




I'm not sure what order these photographs were taken in. I would like to think that the one that appears first here, is actually the last one, but I'm afraid it probably wasn't.

It looks like my brother was happily playing with my beaten up baby carraige, until a battle for possession ensued, which I seem to have won.

Robert was born in 1953, and although I was not quite 3 when he arrived, I remember it clearly.

Oma had arrived from Holland with a suitcase full of tiny baby clothes. How happy Mum must have been to have her beloved mother there in Romsley.

I didn't see Robert immediately because I had the measles. Everyone else was busy in another part of the house with this new little being who was now part of our family. I had intense feelings about this and they weren't very loving.

All too soon, Oma had to go home to Holland and Mum fell into a deep post partum depression. She didn't know what was happening, but her beautiful, thick, dark hair began to fall out and she was deeply unhappy. One day she went into the village chemist shop and burst into tears. The pharmacist not only listened, which simple kindness she never forgot, but he gave her a special shampoo for her hair, and a tonic. He also told her that she would feel better eventually, which gave her hope, the most important tonic of all.

My English grandmother, Lucy, one day came to visit and took me away with her to Hagley. She said that Mum was too protective and that I needed to be less dependant on her. When Mum realized what had happened, she was hysterical with panic. She got on her bicycle and set off after us, but her wheel hit a hole in the road and she flew off the bike. She landed on her head, cutting it open and was taken to hospital.

When Lucy came back from Hagley, it was without me, but she told Mum that I would be fine--I was with Dad's stepfather Peter (a man who was feared and far from stable.) I did come home safely, but I can't begin to imagine the helplessness and utter fear and distress this caused Mum, whose nerves were in a fragile state and who had a fierce instinct to keep us safe.

Mum sang Dutch nursery rhymes to us and the sounds of the language became familiar to us. The next year, just after Robert turned one, we crossed the North Sea to Holland for a holiday. It was April and I was almost 4. We stayed with Oma and her family in her flat on the Schiedamseweg.

In contrast to the lonely cottage in Romsley, we were surrounded in Holland with family. Oma's flat was a gathering place for our many aunts and uncles. Anyone was welcome at her table and she managed to always produce a delicious meal. That memory is deeply imprinted in my mind. I am sure it is the reason that I love our table to be full of people eating a meal that I have prepared.

At the end of April we watched the Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) celebrations in the street below. There was a parade, special treats, and children danced around a street organ playing traditional Dutch folk songs. Everywhere there were orange streamers and some of the girls wore orange bows tied in their hair (the House of Orange is the Dutch royal house.) I had never seen anything like it. It was such a joyful time.

But we couldn't stay. Our life was in England, and after tearful goodbyes, we made the journey back by boat and train, to Romsley. Mum cried on the journey home, even though she tried to be brave. Although she loved Dad, there were some big differences in their views on marriage and family life.

She had first crossed the North Sea in 1947 with a sense of adventure and hope for the future. But now it seemed that her heart would always be torn in two directions.

8 comments:

Marilyn said...

It always seems a special burden, to be torn between 2 places, unsure of where HOME is - where the feeling of home does not match the place.

I feel sad for her experiencing this.

Dave Hingsburger said...

How sad that your mother had to learn that 'love is not enough' ... the hard way. Along with love, there must be kindness, consideration and compassion. I'm curious to hear more about your relationship with your brother.

Deidra said...

I'm reading a book called Sacred Pathways and last night, the chapter I read talked about expectancy. The author shared an experience of expecting God to give him an opportunity to minister to someone that day. It gave him new eyes to see the world and the people in it. It reminded me of the pharmacist who took time to listen to your mom, and provided comfort to her. He's probably unaware that his actions that day were reported to us today, and the lasting impact they have had. Thanks for the reminder to live and relate to this world with expectancy.

Belinda said...

Deidra, I'm so glad that this tiny piece of the story reinforced something in what sounds like a great book. Who knows what might have happened if Mum had not found such a compassionate soul to listen as she poured out her heart. The world of many people might have been a different place. Small conversations, brief moments, can have a profound impact.

Anonymous said...

As a suggestion, you might want to send a copy of this story, or at least the pharmacist's role in helping your mother, to the town council office in Romley. Depending on the size of the town, the pharmacist's family may still live there or someone might know where they are and what a blessing that would be to them to know that his kindness and compassion are still being felt 60 years later.

Cindy B.

Belinda said...

Cindy B. That is a great idea. I plan to go to England in September and I will make a point of getting my brother to take me to Romsley to see if we can track down the pharmacist or his family. Families stay in the same village for generations there, so it is a possibility. I would love that man to know what a difference he made.

Brave Raven said...

Belinda! I love that "a battle for possession ensued" and you won!! I guess I have a healthy level of "Schadenfreud." (sp?) Lord forgive me. ;)

Belinda said...

Yeah, I look like such a meanie, don't I? Well, the truth is out now! :)