The Stuff of Memories


I just created a new page, titled Emigration / Immigration. It took a while, but after six years in I realized that that might be a good one to have. Anyway, as I was looking through some of the early pictures taken in our first house after I moved to America, for a featured picture on the new page, I came across the one above. Actually, this is cropped from a larger picture that  I took to show the ugly blue paint and the built-in corner cabinet phenomenon.

At the time it was kind of random what I had on those shelves, but looking at it now, I notice that–seen from the emigration perspective–it’s actually an interesting time snap.

The tins are Dutch tea and cocoa tins, mostly. The big one on top was one from my mother’s collection. I got rid of most of my empty tins much, much later–that’s another story–but not my little cocoa tins. I actually bought them before I left, and they’re full of cocoa. Yes, present tense, twenty-three years later. It’s too hot for hot cocoa here.

The photo on the left is of T and me, and it was taken during one of my Christmas visits to Texas while we were living an ocean apart. The other one is me, taken by my dad for T. I look sassy, and–I realize now–pretty darn good, wearing a sweater my favorite aunt in Australia knitted for me. It has gum nut babies on it, from one of my favorite children’s books during my first emigration, to Australia. Of course, since I emigrated to South Texas, I never wore it again. Too hot. And soon too small as well.

The small wooden box on the second shelf is my great-great-grandmother’s sewing box, made for her by her husband. The pincushion on top is almost worn through, but I still use it. I started a family tree in My Heritage a few years back, and I have since learned that, before my grandmother moved to Utrecht–a full day’s cycling away–and her brothers emigrated to America and South Africa, her relatives in Broek op Waterland, in the province North Holland, pretty much lived within the same 30-kilometer radius for centuries.

In the Netherlands I used to be a chain tea drinker. As soon as I’d finished one pot, I’d put water on for the next one. Now I rarely drink hot tea anymore. Too hot. But I do still have my tea cups.

Behind the sewing box is a glass lamp in the shape of a candle. Too hot for that, too, but my best friend–since we were fifteen–gave it to me, so I keep it.

The brown thing depicting a soldier on a horse is a speculaas pop, a traditional Sinterklaas cookie, in this case made in an antique mold. It was also a gift, from a colleague and friend at the police school, whom I’ve long since lost touch with. Sorry, Bebbie. It’s hard to keep relatively newer friendships going when you emigrate. Maybe more on that some other time, too. Anyway, I varnished the pop to preserve it, but after a year or so it got moldy and soft anyway, so I had to throw it out. That’s what photos are good for, I suppose.

The little Baileys bottles are empty, but they reminded me of my first college year in Deventer, where I discovered Baileys at the Steile Trap, a bar all week and the library school bar on Wednesdays, and where I danced all night to The Police, the Commodores, Pink Floyd and the best darn reggae ever. Also, my dad worked for an advertising agency, and for a while Baileys was a client, so he regularly got free bottles of Baileys and little Baileys glasses. He also got me a train station billboard Baileys poster, which I had in my student room.

And the doll. I’ve written about Sinterklaas, and how it’s a different holiday from Christmas in many ways. One of the differences is that a lot of people give smaller, and often self-made gifts for Sinterklaas. I was always creative as a kid, and the weeks before Sinterklaas were my busiest in that department. When I was around fourteen, fifteen, I made a lot of character dolls. For friends’ birthdays, and for several people for Sinterklaas. This one I made for my mother. A few years later she didn’t want it anymore, so she gave it back.

Somewhere halfway college my creativity kind of died out. Or rather, I used it in my job, as a librarian. But one of these days I’m going to make a doll again. I’ve been saying that since 1981, though…


2 responses to “The Stuff of Memories

  1. All those memories! Btw I’ve saved a bunch of those tin cans too, and a while ago I got some more, but it’s different when you just buy them, when you got them ages ago or they were ‘in the family’ they have their own story.

    Btw doll making. Do you know Amigurami? Check out this lady:



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