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Happenings at 70

Hendrik Bergen


Lots of friends, neighbors and family were on hand to celebrate my 70th birthday.  One of the conversations was about the Willow Springs Bridge project.  This idea came from the “conversations” at the Gallery at Round Top.  Although I have never been to the “conversations,” the idea to create something with the “bridge” theme struck me as interesting.  Promptly I created my “art work.”   I, my wife Joke, daughter-in-law Jeanette and other friends have signed up.   At this stage I will, of course, not show my art work.

However, someone brought up another interesting project given to her in college. What is the smell, good or bad, that you remember the most from your youth? The person who brought this up wrote an essay about the smell of hay and playing in it. Another one said that the smell of her grandmother’s farts was the most significant smell that she remembers from her youth.

After some thought, the fondest memory I have is the fragrance of drying laundry in the house.  At that time, around 1952/1953, we did not have a lawn (about that later), no washing machine nor dryer, not even gas or electricity to use for cooking. Cooking was done on petroleum heaters. Although we had a 4-pitter, cooking took some time. Especially when, like my mother, one boiled the entire “whites.”

To commemorate the memory, I wrote the following:

Laundry Day – A Childhood Memory

I remember when my mother

On Sunday night

In our shed

Started boiling the laundry

My sled upside down

A kerosene burner in between

A kettle with soap and “whites”

On top

Every hour she went out!

To check on the burner

And come Monday morning

The “whites” boiled and scrubbed

On a rainy day

Were hung on lines and rack

Over and around the stove

To dry

On the radio,

a play: “de familie Doorsnee”

And the fragrance of drying laundry

Is what I will remember forever!

Hendrik Bergen. March 10, 2014

“de familie Doorsnee,” in season on Monday nights, was a popular radio play about the daily happenings of an average family in the Netherlands.

Coming back to the lawn, to dry the white sheets, the table cloth and other large objects, one normally sees them drying on lines---good to play hide and seek. In the Netherlands, the practice was, if you had a lawn, to spread them out on the grass to dry in the sun. They would, and some still will, attempt to convince you that the “whites” are drying “whiter” this way than on the line. I am sure it is not the grass but the angle of the sun rays responsible for it. To illustrate such event, see picture, where I recreated the scene on our property. The lawn became “de Bleek,” simply translated “the Bleach.”

There are many good subjects to discuss with family and friends, and some, like this one, are stimulating to the mind and memories.