June 20, 2013
My mother’s sister was a good woman. A good woman is one who buys children soft ice cream between crispy wavers from Dutch Benjamin’s lolly shops. We all know that. Her name was ‘tante Agnes’ or Aunty Agnes.
She was either younger or older than my mother and liked children at times more than my mum. Feel free to think of her either way!
Of course my mother had six and she none. That might well explain that dichotomy. She, my mum, at times felt she might have had too much of a good thing. Aunt Agnes, as far as I remember, always lived in Amsterdam and we first in Rotterdam but after the WW2 in The Hague.
I often wondered how, with war, famine, no gas, no electricity, no food, cold, misery and Wernher v Braun’s V1 and V2 coming down unexpectedly, my parents libido wasn’t at least a bit frozen as well. On the other hand, it gave them moments of warmth and they were in love. In any case, mum ‘unpacked’ four during the war and two more after.
Apart from those ice creams, Aunt Agnes always cut out my favorite newspaper comic strip ‘Eric the Norseman’, saved them up and posted them to me. I used to ask my mother if the latest post had brought me the strips of Noormans yet. (Eric is large and strong, a fine swordsman).
I suppose we all had those aunts! A less endearing aspect of her otherwise loving and caring nature was her obsession with our fingers and nails. She was keen on hygiene and I and four brothers were not. We all traveled through a stage of being totally ignorant of needing water and soap, let alone removing detritus or anything, apart from the occasional splinter, under our fingernails…
She had a demonic attitude to our dirty hands and fingers. Scrubbing them by a hard brush was one of those experiences we suffered. We somewhat reluctantly offered our hands for inspection before mealtimes in exchange for her generosity in ice creams during her visits and lemonade on our birthdays. We never really regretted this hand scrubbing.
Of course, at that stage in history kids still had things like the promise of an ice cream to anticipate and look forward to, sleepless nights just thinking about it. Just the promise of an ice cream would make us behave for days.
Now kids take a few licks of a Gay Time ice cream and chuck it at a frail pensioner trying to cross the road. It also takes a $690.- G5 Tablet with 149 Android Apps for the 9 year old to fold his pyjamas or do the washing up and not say ‘fuck you’ to his grand-dad while giving him a good kick in the crutch. It’s a different world.
My Aunty Agnes was a good soul and her favorite colour was shades of blue with just enough silver jewelry to make her look very smart. Never gold, too gaudy, she would say.
Many years ago she visited us in Revesby Australia and we still loved her even though by that time we were well above doing things for ice creams.
H and I also visited her in Holland after she retired as a school teacher. Towards the end she suffered Alzheimer and at one stage she had put just one of her legs into a nylon stocking but not the other. She noticed herself how the empty nylon leg was just dangling there. She still had the sense to laugh heartily about it. She never took herself seriously.
Aunt Agnes was a good Aunt.