The year 1937
Many things happened in 1937! My dear grandfather died and my mother was expecting a baby. And among many other things, I became ten years old. In that period I started having walks with my father on the plantation when I was at home. This was to keep me out of mischief, because I was a very active girl. During one of those walks my father and I met two big pythons; they were crawling over the path when we saw them. Luckily they weren’t going in our direction. We stood still until they were out of sight. I was very scared and for days I couldn’t talk about anything else but those two pythons.
My father bought a car, a second hand Rheo. He had a Dutch driver’s licence but that wasn’t legal in the Dutch East Indies, so he had to go to Malang and pass an exam in order to receive a new licence.
Every Monday morning at 5:30 my father drove me from the plantation to a place called Dampit, and from there I had to take the bus to Malang, where my school started at seven.
He waited until the bus left. I waved him goodbye and called: "Till next Saturday," because then he would be there waiting for me in Dampit.
This bus trip to Malang took around an hour. I was the only Dutch person on the bus. I often sat between chickens in baskets, belonging to the Indonesian women around me, who sold them at the market. It was always very busy and I had to sit in the front so that the bus driver could keep an eye on me. I enjoyed those weekly bus trips and started talking with the women on the bus. Some gave me sweets.
The bus from Dampit arrived at the marketplace in Malang, quite far from my school, so I often had to run to get there in time.
From the moment my father had his Rheo, we went on trips and visited interesting places in East Java. I can’t say often enough how beautiful this part of the world is.
My parents were beginning to make several friends in the neighbourhood and, as it was custom in the Dutch East Indies, we children called our parents’ friends aunties and uncles. Talking about family, we also visited my Aunt Miep and Uncle Pierre of course, but that journey was a lot longer, so we usually stayed for the weekend with them.
We visited several Hindu temples in the neighbourhood. You will find quite a few of those temples all over Java, because many Indians once emigrated there. My mother started teaching Henny, because my sister was not yet healthy enough to go to school in Malang. And of course my parents were preparing for the arrival of my little brother…or sister.
As for me, in Malang things were going to change too. The elderly lady were I stayed was going to have her grandchildren, who were living in Sumatra, come to live with her in Malang, so she had no rooms free for Jos (the other boarder) and me.
As from January 1938 I was moving in with a family named Wildervanck. They had one daughter: my friend Hanneke.
On the 20th December when I returned from school, my landlady told me that I had to go to the hospital, the Lavalette Clinic. My mother was there, and I had a baby sister. The lady had bought some lovely flowers for my mother so I wouldn’t have to go empty-handed. The hospital was not far and, since I knew the way, I could go by myself. The trouble was…I didn’t want to go; I had wanted a brother, not another sister. But the elderly lady became very angry with me and ordered me to go as fast as I could to visit my mother and new sister.
So there I went, ten and a half years old, and unhappy because there was no little brother. I walked very slowly to the hospital, and asked in which room I could find my mother. I found a very happy mother lying in bed and surrounded by flowers from my father, family and friends. I embraced my mother and gave her my flowers. Then a nurse came in and asked me if I wanted to see my new sister. And there she was, a little baby lying in a cradle. I carefully took her tiny hand and asked my mother the baby’s name. She was called Jansje, an old-fashioned name. Much later on she called herself Puck.
Later that afternoon my father fetched me and took my luggage. I said goodbye to the elderly lady and Jos. We drove to the plantation, but Henny was staying with Aunt Sophie and Uncle Niek. My father had taken her there before he went to Malang.
On Christmas morning we fetched Henny and went to Malang to visit my mother and Jansje. My father, Henny and I spent two days with Aunt Sophie and Uncle Niek. Before New Year my mother was back home again with our new sister.
Henny was no longer the youngest one in the family, and she had some problems with this. To me life was great: I was going to a new boarding-house, and to a new school, since my old school would be to far away to walk. It was interesting to have a baby sister and maybe next time I would get a little brother.
Henny and Jansje
My father's Rheo