Christmas 1942

My mother did her utmost best in the kitchen to prepare a nice Christmas meal, she baked a lot, so now and then it smelled real good. Rasmina helped my mother as much as she could and that was not always easy for her. Although she learned a lot about the European way of cooking from my mother, cooking and baking for Christmas was something different of course.
I dare say that my mother was a real magician in the kitchen, especially while there was hardly any money to buy the ingredients she needed, she just went to her kitchen garden and came back with something she could use.

This year 1942, my parents didn’t look for a Christmas tree, we just had candles but no other Christmas decorations. Only some Christmas table-covers, that was all.
But of course she still had her piano, so she played and Cora, Henny and I were singing some of the Christmas carols we knew.

And then at last it was the 25th of December 1942. It must have been around 12 in the when we started our delicious Christmas meal, sitting there all six happy around the table.
All of a sudden we heard Pa Min calling; “Orang Nippon, orang Nippon” he went to my parents and said that some Japanese military were coming to our house.
Rasmina, Cora, Henny and I brought the biggest part of our meal back to the kitchen.
My father stood up and went to the front door, my mother took Jansje by her hand and they went to the living room. Cora went to our bedroom with a book, she was very scared.
Henny and I stood at the back of the house and so we could see that there were about six or seven Japanese military getting out of two cars. One of them was an officer, he went straight to my father and said that his men had received his order to search the whole house for weapons, so in case my father had hided something, he had better say so right away.
No there were no weapons hided in the house my father told him. They spoke a mixed of Malay and English to each other. The officer told my father to show him on papers and other work about how the plantation was going on. Was there still use that he would stay out of an interning camp? Well of course my father told him that there was still a lot of work to be done.
The soldiers were in the meantime busy looking for weapons even in the most impossible places. They called Pa Min to get them a ladder, placed it in the living room and then one of them climbed up towards the ceiling where he could open a window, he wanted to go further to see what was in between the roof and the ceiling but he didn’t notice that the ceiling was made out of thin bamboo, so he fell on the floor and there was a big hole in our ceiling. We were all frightened and very worried about what would happen next. But the officer stood up thanked my father for the given information called his men together and so they left us. They must have been looking around the house for about two hours and they left a mess behind them.

Pa Min called someone to help him and together they fixed the ceiling as good as they could. My parents were very grateful. Rasmina had started to warm up the meal, so we could all go back to the dining-room and continue our Christmas meal. Very sad for my mother who had done so much work to make this Christmas day a real success. Very sad for my father who realized that he soon had to leave his family.

In the evening my mother sat behind her piano and we started singing our Christmas carols while standing around my mother. Later we ate a special cake she had baked and so there was still a Christmas feeling after all.

It was also our last Christmas as a whole family together. I can still feel that very special warm gathering we had during the 25th of December 1942, because nevertheless the Japanese military visit, we were still together.