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Archive for March, 2005

Bad Influences

Posted by Mummy Dearest on Mar-31-2005

Edwin ( ek), of course, was perfectly on the mark when he asked me the other day- after my peckish remarks about bugs in food- if I ate shrimp. He was so on target that I don’t know if I responded to him at all : shrimp, of all sorts and varieties, is my second favorite food. Scallops being the first. But I suspect that scallops are my favorite simply because I really can’t get them here. They are the lost love, becoming more attractive every day by their scarcity. Shrimp, I could eat three times a day. Day after day after day.

I confess : I am an arachnidoholic.

And yesterday, I finally succumbed to my shameful vice and spent 11 euro for a kilo bag of raw ( but frozen) Black Tiger Prawns. About 4 inches long apiece, I told The Father that we could spread them across a few dinners. A knowing smile on his sad face, The Father raised no objections when I threw them into our shopping cart.

Today, I used half of the bag making up some Paella. I was going to use only a third, but I found myself tossing just one more into the bowl to defrost. And however Paella is supposed to be, we make it with salmon, shrimp and crab. Because we like salmon, shrimp and crab. So maybe it is not Paella. Maybe it is just rice with seafood.

But oh, oh, oh, did I like those big old Black Tiger Prawns. I’m already thinking of different ways to cook them, how I want them in a rather light garlic sauce ( from what I’m learning, I’m thinking this will involve something like boiling shrimp gonads down into a slightly syrupy fond and then adding a glug of some liquor from Outer Mongolia)- not too heavy on the butter or cream and- this is how I know I am keeping very bad company indeed these days: I want them served with a scattering of fresh ( are you ready for this ?) watercress.

Watercress. I once lived for 6 weeks on packaged soup and toasted bread with jam..

Watercress. Who in their right mind craves watercress ?

New Friends

Posted by Mummy Dearest on Mar-31-2005

Go and throw rice at Denise. She is about to take off for a land far, far away to live happily every after.


At least, I think that this is my old Denise….

Johanna Barbara

Posted by Mummy Dearest on Mar-30-2005

The Father’s paternal grandmother was a bitter, unpleasant woman. One of the few people that she was kind to was The Father. He would walk two meters over to where she lived- for his father was the youngest son and so got both first dibs on the parental home-in fact, was fated to live in it -after he was married, and the task of caring for his elderly parents fell to him and his wife- and play cards with her. She loved playing cards.

His paternal grandfather was the jolliest man The Father ever met, always cheerful, a cigar in hand. But Oma- grey skies all over.

The other day at the grandparents, for Easter, The Boy asked The Father if he had any cousins. I laughed and said that he had fifty,and that half were named Henk and the other half Jacques. Even The Father’s mother had to laugh at my joke, for within these large, Catholic families, the children are all named after family, in a set pattern : first born son – Dad’s Paw, Ma’s Paw. Second Son, Ma’s Paw, Dad’s Paw. And so , The Father has a slew of male cousins named Henk, after his mother’s father, Hendricus. On the other side, the same thing occurs, but after The Father’s paternal grandfather, Jacobus.

So, why wasn’t The Father named after Jacobus ? He was the first born son of his father, that should have been his name. Set in stone.

But The Father’s father was the baby of a family of six- four boys, two girls. The girls, Joke ( pronounced Yo-Ka) and Barbara died young, before The Father’s father was born. We have a few pictures of Joke ( Johanna) and one of Barbara, little girls with dark hair and somber expressions. Hey, it was the twenties.

But they died before they hit double digits and left their mother a bitter woman. I suppose that I would have been so as well.

So, when The Father’s Mom was pg for the first time, she goes to the Queen Bee, and asks, do we really have to name him after Opa, name a boy some variant of Jacobus ? There are already three little boys in the family named after him. And the Queen Bee said, could you name him after Joke, after my little girl ?

And so The Father is named after a little girl who died before she was ten, a little girl whose official name was Johanna. Johannes- not a hard bridge to cross. Johannes is The Father.

When it came time to name our children, we followed the accepted traditions of our catholic environment : The Girl is named after my mother, The Father’s mother and an Aunt of mine ( well, half-aunt, I don’t have any real aunts) Sarah Adriana Veronica. The Boy is named after The Father’s father, my dad, and my dad’s middle name : Petrus Thomas Michael.

And The Baby. The Baby’s real name is my wicked step-mother’s – Maryann- and those two little girls- Johanna Barbara.

I have always had a soft spot for these two little girls, who died young and broke their mother’s heart.

So, we are at Oma’s and Opa’s for easter, having a great time. For some reason- out of the blue- Opa brings a ringed binder out to show The Father . In this binder are the papers that explain- in detail- the costs and arrangement for his funeral. It contains the costs and expenses of maintaining the grave sites of The Father’s Grandparents. Dit, dat, dit dat- it costs a lot, really to pay for a real grave in the Netherlands- like about 300 euro a year.The Father and I had already volunteered to pay for the graves of his paternal grandparents, not knowing how much it was. But as The Father’s father read through these papers, and as The Boy entered the room and became upset by the discussion, I couldn’t bring myself to close the conversation- I had to know : what about Joke and Barbara ?

I would have paid for their graves, those little girls I named The Baby after, stiff price though it is- if you add things up. But they told me that after paying for the graves for 80 years, they stopped. The graves were cleaned up. When I asked what cleaned up meant, they simply shrugged and said that now Joke and Barbara were resting in their hearts. They didn’t mean it in a bad sort of way. Just a practical sort of way. 300 euro pp per year adds up.

And so the two little girls are gone. A scant handful of photos and The Baby to remember them.

This why I want want to be buried next to Mummy Dearest, back in Concord.


Posted by Mummy Dearest on Mar-29-2005

I think that I am Spring Cleaning- or something like that. Not that I am actually cleaning, but I find myself very desirous of having our house in order. Of some sort.

Everyone knows that The Father and I- at the age of 32, when many buy a starter house – bought a house far above our means. Many people, so I am told, actually budget in decorating when they buy a house. But I wanted a house that I would never, ever have to leave. Not- of course- unless I wanted to. I didn’t want a house that would one day be too small, too common. Nope. I was looking for a house to- very frankly- die in. At 32. A place that I could live in for my forever.

We did not buy a starter house. We bought space, the most space that we could afford, not a penny for curtains in sight. And for ten years, every penny we had went into rebuilding our space, not for curtains.

And now, we have rebuilt it all, space up the gazoo. Now I want end tables.

Now I want curtains.

I have walls, I have outlets, I have floor heat, I have fancy , schmancy electrical systems. Now, I would like some furniture.

Maybe a rug, here and there.

And lamps. I’m oh-so-tired of looking at dangling, naked light bulbs.

And yes, once again, I should like some curtains.

Consenting Adult

Posted by Mummy Dearest on Mar-28-2005

Three years ago, or something like that, a backhoe pulled into our backyard. In the process of digging a foundation for the kitchen extension, it destroyed every plant in our yard. This is our yard today : when a dandelion opens, the children come running to me in excitement, reporting that we have flowers.

I lost all of my roses and though Mr.Jo tried like the dickens, I lost my lilac. Now you know that this must have been some special lilac, for both lilacs and the color purple were Bucky’s favorites and I usually avoid anything that reminds me of Bucky. But that lilac- every May the yard was drenched in scent, especially in the evenings, especially after rain.

It wasn’t a tree, it was more of a floppy bush with floppy flowers and tiny, smooth leaves. It looked a lot like a Syringa meyeri , but it was about 8 feet high, so I can’t see that it was a dwarf.

Each spring, when lilacs are about to bloom, I go out in search of a replacement. I found one once- I looked at that plant and knew I was looking at my long lost lilac. But it was sold, so sorry, no more available.

Because we had such a long weekend off, The Father agreed to drive me to some garden centers today, so that I could look for my lilac. I wanted to plant two or three by the short wall.

As we walked up and down the aisles at the first garden center, The Father told me that he wanted trees by that wall. Well, I said, the lilacs will grow quite high. No, he wanted us to buy full sized trees, right now, not wait for something to grow. Well, I said, pointing over to some 6- 7 footers, those are trees. No, he said, I want something with leaves on it. Well, I said, it’s spring, they will get leaves. And I once more expressed my loathing of conifers. The only time I want to see one is at Christmas.

I looked longingly at a pale purple wisteria, but decided not to get anything at this place, just move on to the second. As we drove there, we talked. The Father was pretty definite about wanting trees. As we pulled into the parking lot of the next store, we parked right by the tree section. Well, I said, how about those ? ( I think they were linden trees). No, he wants something with leaves, something green. And my inner ear is hearing : pine trees, some flavor of pine trees.

And then, there they were : my lilacs, knee high , pot after pot stretched out in front of me. As one part of my mind was trying to decide how many to get, another part of my mind was chatting away with The Father about how we should do the garden.

Of course, he was totally correct, totally right, he made perfect sense, I had no choice but to agree with him.

And to walk away from my lilacs, leave them standing there.

And then I pouted like a five year old for the next few hours. In fact, I might still be pouting now.

You never know. Could happen.


Posted by Mummy Dearest on Mar-27-2005

We spent today at Oma and Opa’s, in Loon. As always, we first had to have a pastry and coffee. I’m not a pastry person at all, but, at times one finds oneself flung upon the alter of good manners, obsidian knife at one’s throat. It was indeed a very tasty, fluffy thing, but given my druthers, I would have druthered consumed calories of the savory sort.

Then , conversation turned to village updates, the sort that a family who has lived in a certain small town for centuries finds interesting. You know, what Kleine Jan is up to. The Girl took on a comatose stance, I’m used to these updates, I start planning dinners, or wonder what on earth is going on with my computer, the fish tank. In short : I tune out. Every expat learns how to keep a vaguely amused look on their face while their minds travel beyond space and time.

And as we always do, we took a walk out into the forest and dunes which the village abuts . We walked for almost an hour. Truth be told, one patch of sand or clump of trees looks quite the same to me. But here and there on the walk, Opa would point out something to me. Here, he told me, is where the old church in Loon stood, before the sand covered the original village. That was a few hundred years ago.

The Father knows the woods and dunes just as well. He used to lead me right to the place where an old home had stood, right in the middle of what today is a stretch of sand. Bits of manufactured rubble confirmed his information- bits of burned bricks, sherds of coarse pottery.

We walk by an old farm house that is being renovated, and I say : I could live here. Put The Father back by his dunes, the family back into the village that they have been in…forever. The Girl could have Bennie in the yard, I could have a pig.

And I would be totally isolated, out in the forest.

Is that what I want, or what is good for us? I doubt it.

Back at the house, the children look for eggs in Oma and Opa’s yard. And then the children help Oma to prepare dinner.

Sitting in the living room, The Father, Opa and I meander down memory lane. Opa finds himself courting Oma. Every Sunday, he would bike from his village to hers, to her father’s farm. When he opened the door, the cards would already be laid out on the table. And while the women folk sat together and discussed babies and chick shit, the men would settled down to a serious evening of Zwikken.

Opa’s eyes misted over as he recalled those jolly days passed with hands of Zwikken. He and The Father bent their heads together- how did that card game go ? They called Oma over- who, as a chick, never played- and she very precisely told the boys how the game went.

I’m not that fond of games, except for those of the mind sort, but I do have a weakness for card games which are- so I have been told- unique to Brabant. Now, I don’t have a good feel for card games, but today I learned how to Zwikken. It is a three card game, Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks, Tens, respectively 4, 3,2,1, null points plus a trump suit ( other cards are discarded from the deck).

The Father and Opa could play on gut instinct alone: it is an aggressive, bluffing game. But then, they are both salesmen by profession, aren’t they ? I usually play cards very offensively. Later, Oma joined us, and the pleasure they felt in playing this antiquated game was enormous. It brought back so many memories.

For me, by the end of the day I was still groping in the dark, unable to judge the values of non- trump cards ( three cards !), and the importance of where the players were sitting, regarding the opening card. But they helped me out, cheering ‘ Spekken, Spekken!’ to let let me know when to throw out my highest card and hope for the best. ( Spekken in this case meant to pump up the points for that hand. I wouldn’t be surprised if it came from spek, fatty bacon, for they where- in fact- telling me to fatten the pot.

I don’t like games. But I have a weakness for local card games, typical games of Brabant.

I fancy them and want to pass them on.

They are so obscure, and so much a part of a culture which most likely will one day be gone.

Like being able to walk through sand dunes and know what things were there, hundreds of years ago.

Folky, dontcha think ?


Posted by Mummy Dearest on Mar-26-2005

I still haven’t told The Boy that Darkness has gone to that big fish bowl in the sky. He hasn’t noticed, for I cleaned the filter this afternoon and always tuck the fish in early after I muck about with their filter.

My excuse this morning was that I didn’t want to upset him before he took off for JesseĀ“s birthday party ( yes, another non- friend of the loneliest boy in the world). My excuse right now is that I don’t want to upset him before he goes to bed, when he is tired from a busy day and liable to be…fragile.

Yep, I am really in knots about old Darkness. I am oh- meing, oh- mying all over the place.

Which found me asking- to no one in particular, perhaps the cutting board- what is wrong with this picture, as I minced up a tin of anchovies , preparing dinner for this evening.

Bitch and Moan

Posted by Mummy Dearest on Mar-26-2005

In this morning’s paper, I read that the local amusement park has opened it’s doors once again. And- for the first time in twelve years- we did not buy year passes for the family.

It wasn’t a matter of money, although the passes are indeed expensive, but of time : last year we went twice, and the second time was because I bullied it through. Since The Girl was a newborn, we have yearly pictures of the children on one of the rides at the park. The photos cover the walls by our staircase. And now we won’t have photos for this year.

My computer refuses to connect.

Our friend with cancer was here last night and things look bad, bad, bad, but we laughed, laughed, laughed.

And I found Darkness, The Boy’s favorite fish, dead as a doornail in the tank this morning. The fish are dropping like flies and I don’t know why. The water is chemically balanced and I have dosed them with magic potions, sure to cure what ails one’s fishy friends.

I don’t know how to tell The Boy.

I hate today.

Live Update

Posted by Mummy Dearest on Mar-26-2005

Live from The Father’s computer, I have no connection on mine. I don’t know how his can connect and mine can’t, since my computer is the *hub* for our network. Ignorance can be, at times, not bliss.

I hate the fact that I am so very stupid when it comes to computers.

I still haven’t figured out how to WEP our network and still be able to download…stuff.

And these days, in our eensy, weensy little town of 1200 souls, I’m bouncing off of three other wireless networks.

I am feeling very uncomfortable.

I’m just about to fling some filthy lucre about, to solve this dilemma. I certainly can’t, on my own.

And The Father’s old computer doesn’t have spell -check.

The money my parents threw into the wind, educating me.

Can’t spell my way out of a paper bag.


Posted by Mummy Dearest on Mar-24-2005

Yesterday- out of the blue- The Father received an invitation to join a committee set up by the government* which focuses on increasing international trade in mid-to small sized companies. Somewhere, someone has pegged a label on The Father which reads : knows a lot about doing business in third world countries.

And he does.

The Father himself is a bit lukewarm on the idea and I shall confess that I am pushing him to do it. Why ? Well, one of the many feelings that I have for The Father is a boundless admiration for the skills which he has in his chosen field. The Father is a born salesman, a natural. He could sell sand to the Saudis, ice to the Eskimos. Despite this gift, he has always retained a sense of honor and fairness throughout his business career. Well, all right, he did once charge more than he should have for an order of jackets, but they were for the security forces of a football team that, well, The Fatherloathes. The exception which proves the rule.

I am pushing The Father for two reasons : first, because he is so darn smart about how to conduct business in a third world country and secondly, because he has a very strict moral sense when doing so which leaves the people who supply our companies working in healthier environments and earning a better than fair wage.

He once said to me that he could enjoy no profit if it was earned through the misery of others and I think that is a standpoint which should be spread around more.

And yes, of course I’m just busting with pride over the boy.

* MKB Platform voor Internationaal Ondernemen