It can’t be much more comforting than to know a few particulars about one’s conception. I mean we all can imagine what went on. The usual thrashing and ohing and ahing with desperate and frantic hips seeking each other out, but the actual atmosphere, geographic and locational scenery remains mostly hidden. We were just too small, not much more than an ovum hungry tadpole swimming up the creek without a paddle. Most of us including myself were just too young to remember.
This is my mother’s story of how the tadpole met the ovum and became me.
Ecoutez SVP and get a bit closer to your screen. Consider the snoopy neighbours and close the curtains too. Just in case!
It was during a stormy period during late November 1939, before that terrible war, that my mum and dad went for long and arduous bike trip from North East of Holland at Leeuwarden to Amsterdam via the Afsluitdijk which closed the former Zuiderzee turning it from a salt water sea into a nice freshwater lake on which half of the Dutch population still loves to sail around in, even today.
I was told this story by my mother on a few occasions, always accompanied by a cup of tea and almond cake. The almond cake seemed to be part of this exchange of confidentialities but I have never really understood the significance of it. The almond cake had a soft inner core not unlike the inner core of a pregnant woman. Perhaps that is the missing link! My mother loved reading detective stories especially tinged with romantic interludes.
Anyway, it was still during those ardent first years of my parents’ marriage that I can well imagine, indeed believe, the veracity of my mother’s recalling of events of what followed on that stormy day with both pedalling like mad against the westerly storm howling over this barren tree-less 32 kilometre dyke with angry waves leaping up against the protective clay and rock barrier. Any inattention or lapse in reverence to the elements and my parents could have been snatched by the sea. I would not be here to tell you my mother’s tale of those few minutes of my heroic conception.
My mother told me she had packed a lunch of cheese and jam sandwiches with a crispy apple to be consumed afterwards at Den Oever, on the other side of this unforgiving dyke and about a sturdy two to three hours from their destination. Den Oever has a few kilometres of a reed growing wilderness. Well, wilderness is a strong description for Holland, but in any case a kind of protective barrier against the wind. ”It was there where we stopped and had our sandwiches,” my mum told me, with another bite of the almond cake followed by a sip of tea.
“We had thrown our bikes in between the tall reeds and were well hidden. Your father had put his long woollen coat down for us to keep a bit warm even though we were not really cold having wrestled for almost 4 hours against the storm. Out thighs were tingling and, if anything, we were flushed with all that exercise of relentlessly moving our legs pushing the bike chain around the wheel into our propulsion towards the Amsterdam destination.”
”We needed the lunch and were ravenous, also strangely excited. After the last of the jam sandwich was devoured I took the two apples out and gave one to your father. (Another almond cake bite) Your father looked at me, I looked back, and without even a first bite, we embraced each other in glorious happiness.”
”We were so healthy then”, my mum regaled pensively. We ate the apples afterwards,” she added, as always her practical and economic side prevailing!
“And that’s how you were conceived, Gerard.” “I am sure.”
So, over seventy three years later I can now sit on a saggy sofa with my lovely Helvi, write these words and take long walks with Milo.