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Heart Awakened


By Belinda


Next week my eldest granddaughter turns 14 and then another turns 13 in March and another turns 14 in July..."the girls" are growing up. Today I'm sharing a post I first published 3 years ago. It makes me realize how much they will grow up between now and 15, and maybe they already have and I just am in denial!


The five year diary was one of my Christmas gifts in 1962, and I wrote in it faithfully, every day for the next four years. Faithfully, because there were just a few lines for each day, and four years, not five, because by the time I got to 1966, I was writing too much to fit into the small space.


On the outside, just in case the lock was not protection enough, I had written the word, "Private," twice. Inside I chronicled my life, from age 12 to 16.


Tucked between the pages is a letter I wrote to Dad from Holland.


I started the letter, "Dear Daddy, I am writing again to tell you the latest boyfriend news."


"Latest?" I smile. I don't think I'd ever had any other "boyfriend news."


It was August, 1965, a few days before we were to cross the North Sea back to England, and I was about to start my last year at school. I was 15.


Tante Lijda and her family lived in a flat on the outskirts of Rotterdam, next door to an Indonesian family, the Kuipers. I had become friends with their daughter, Eskaline. She invited me to her birthday party, and I really didn't want to go. I was shy and didn't know any of her friends but there was no polite way out.


So I put on a white blouse under my black jumper, or "pinafore dress," and I borrowed some of Mum's perfume--Topaz, by Avon. 


I was unused to parties and unsure how to act, and when I got there, I found that I was the fifth girl and there were only four boys, as one couldn't come at the last minute.


The Beatles' 1965 album, Help, was playing. The tracks included the poignant Yesterday.


One of the girls, Gaby, became the unofficial D.J., and I danced with a boy who was staying at the Kuipers, Johan van Rijn. He was 15 too and had blond hair and blue eyes. He was about two inches taller than me and everybody called him Han.


I noticed that when I danced with Eskaline's brother, Rein, or her boyfriend, Franc, Han glowered at us, but I danced with him for most of the evening, until 12.30, when Mijnheer Kuiper, took everybody home, including Mum, who had been next door at Tante Lijda's. Mum sat in the front of the car with Mijnheer Kuiper, while Han and I, a girl named Marianne, and Rein; squeezed into the back.


When we got to Oma's flat, we said goodbye and I was sure I would never see him again. I knew that he had to leave for Weesp, near Amsterdam, very soon, as he was starting school on the following Monday.


The next day I was wretchedly unhappy. As I washed my hair in the tiny sink in the back room, salty tears mingled with the water.


Then the phone rang and it was Eskaline. She wanted to know if I could be ready in an hour to go for a last tour around Rotterdam with her and Franc, Marianne and Rein, and Han.


No one ever got ready more speedily. My wet hair was rollered and dried, I gulped down lunch, washed, dressed and put on a little makeup. I was so happy to have another chance to see Han.


After the drive around the city we went back to Eskaline's flat and danced until suppertime. Mevrouw Kuiper had made a delicious but very hot, Indonesian goulash. Everyone gulped down water as unobtrusively as possible, while complimenting Mevrouw kuiper on her cooking.


At any moment Han would have to leave to catch his train to Amsterdam. He called his parents and they said he could leave an hour later, but it still seemed like so little time.


We took him to the station and to my disappointment, he didn't even ask for my address. I had a big lump in my throat, that wouldn't go away no matter how hard I swallowed.


Driving away from the station there was an obviously empty space in the car. I kept talking quickly about Mevrouw Kuiper's goulash and avoided looking anyone in the eye, because I would have burst into tears. It was obvious how I felt, which made it worse somehow.


Back at Oma's flat I cried into my pillow all night long, but in the end I decided that it was best that he didn't ask to write, because I was soon going back to England and it would be just too hard to be so far apart. Moments later I decided that writing would be better than nothing.


The next day I thought up a reason to go to Tante Lijda's house so that I could talk to Eskaline. I discovered that the last thing Han had done was ask Rein, who had got on the train with him, to get my address. Then he had called from the train window, not to forget. But I didn't know, and Rein was too shy to ask me. Later, after I had left for home, Han had called Rein from Weesp, to tell him not to forget.


When I got back to Alvechurch, I played the song, Yesterday, over and over, loudly on the record player in my bedroom, crying at the words, which expressed exactly how I felt.


Han and I corresponded for a year; my life a series of highs and lows; chronicled in my green diary; depending on how long he took to reply to my letters.


When I went back to Holland the following year, although we meant to see each other, we didn't end up doing so. The intensity of our "first real love," had cooled, Perhaps the impracticality of it all finally caught up with us. It was a mutual letting go, with no regrets, and only good memories of a sweetly innocent first love.


I threw away Han's letters when Paul and I got engaged, but a whiff of Topaz perfume, or a song from a certain Beatles Album and I am 15, at a long ago party...

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