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In Those Other Lands

Caroline VanTongeren Mertens

Copyright © 2017 Caroline VanTongeren Mertens

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Photographs courtesy of Caroline VanTongeren Mertens

Formatting by Debora Lewis arenapublishing.org

Dedicated to my tenacious, joyful Oma & steadfast, cherished Opa.

I love you both with all my heart.

Table of Contents


Chapter One

Batavia, Island of Java, Dutch East Indies, 1925

Batavia, Java, Dutch East Indies, 1924

Chapter Two

Hilversum, The Netherlands, 1925

Bandung, West Java, Dutch East Indies, 1926

Bandung, West Java, Dutch East Indies, 1927

Chapter Three

Batavia, Dutch East Indies, 1927

Soekaboemi, Java, Dutch East Indies, late 1928

Soekaboemi, Java, Dutch East Indies, early 1929

Soekaboemi, Java, 1930

Chapter Four

Hilversum, The Netherlands, February 1932

Amsterdam, May 1932

Chapter Five

Semarang, Central Java, Dutch East Indies, January 1933

Semarang, Central Java, Dutch East Indies, July 1933

Medan, Sumatra, 1935

Batavia, Java, Dutch East Indies, June 1936

Chapter Six

Batavia, Dutch East Indies, late 1937

Batavia, Dutch East Indies, 1938

Batavia, Dutch East Indies, December 1938

Chapter Seven

Batavia, Dutch East Indies, January 1939


Chapter Eight

Hilversum, The Netherlands, 1939

Hilversum, The Netherlands, December 1939

Chapter Nine

Hilversum, The Netherlands, January 1940

Chapter Ten

Hilversum, The Netherlands, February 1940

Hilversum, The Netherlands, June 1940

Chapter Eleven

Hilversum, The Netherlands, Summer 1940

Hilversum, The Netherlands, 1941

Chapter Twelve

Autumn 1941

Hilversum, The Netherlands, January 1942

Chapter Thirteen

Driel, The Netherlands, March 1942

Hilversum, The Netherlands, April 1942

Chapter Fourteen

Hilversum, Spring 1942

May 1942

Hilversum, Summer 1942

Chapter Fifteen

Hilversum, December, 1942

Hilversum, The Netherlands, 1943

Chapter Sixteen

Hilversum, late summer 1943

Hilversum, late summer 1943

Hilversum, Autumn 1943

Chapter Seventeen

5 December 1943 / SinterKlaas Day

Hilversum, The Netherlands, early 1944

Hilversum, The Netherlands, spring 1944

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Hilversum, November 1944

Chapter Twenty

Hilversum, early 1945

Hilversum, Spring 1945

Chapter Twenty-One

Hilversum, June 1945

Chapter Twenty-Two

Hilversum, July 1945

Hilversum, end of August 1945

Hilversum, March 1946

Chapter Twenty-Three

Hilversum, the Netherlands, April 1946

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Hilversum, September 1946

Hilversum, Autumn 1946


Chapter Twenty-Seven

February 1947 — Hilversum to Dutch East Indies

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Menado, Sulawesi, early 1948

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Padang, Dutch East Indies, 1954

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Hilversum, the Netherlands, December 1959

Chapter Thirty-Four

Delta Street, San Gabriel, California, Spring 1960

Chapter Thirty-Five

Delta Street, San Gabriel, California, Spring 1961

Chapter Thirty-Six

Delta Street, San Gabriel, California, Spring 1963

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Delta Street, San Gabriel, California, Spring 1970


Author’s Note

Reading Group Questions



Chapter One

Batavia, Island of Java, Dutch East Indies, 1925

Diny Dekker’s curious Mam loved to lounge on the front portico, dreaming long beyond their four o’clock tea time, resting in a creamy gown, leaning back on the soft orange and yellow swirled cushions set against her round-back wicker bamboo chairs. Cornelia Dekker stirred a cube of sugar into her black tea with a silver spoon, then quietly sipped. She glanced at her tiny boisterous four year old daughter Diny, eyes full of love, closing them into an almost squint, with a dimpled smile and a nod of her head, a gesture of deep, unswerving love between them.

“A double-wink,” Mam called the act of affection.

Diny tried to wink back, but usually just closed both of her eyes and giggled, and then her passionate mahogany eyes became alight in enthusiasm, eyebrows raised as if she had entered into some mischief. She spun around, her white linen dress fluttering, and bent down to pull her socks higher. Diny’s earliest memories contained these family moments surrounding their wicker rattan table, resting on bamboo chairs, sipping tea, or eating meals.

Mam took little Diny (as they affectionately called her) into her arms and rocked her gently, whispering, “A little D, on my knee, this is my Dee-knee.” She straightened Diny’s large black bow atop her head. Diny’s eyes searched the expansive sky for colorful birds, her brown cocoa eyes smiling and twinkling and gentle.

“You live in Batavia, buh-tah-fee-ya,” Mam sang, “in the Dutch East Indies, In-dees,” and Diny’s eyes were transfixed on Mam, the round serene face hovering cozily above her each day. In the unflappable early morning tranquility, Mam transported Diny for a pull-along walk in the Kinderwagon, the little cart rumbling along as she introduced her daughter to the garden paths near their home, flourishing tropics surrounding them.

The air still cool and unsullied, Mam delighted in the simplicity of the morning, remarking, “The day has only just started, Meisje!” She was her mother’s sweet little girl, and felt the hospitality of Mam’s radiant gaze. “Remember, Diny, all of God’s wonderful adventures await us each new day!” Mam laughed into the cerulean sky.

In her buoyant endeavors, Cornelia also assumed the return of daybreak each morning must have precluded any particular conflicts, trials, and inevitable frustrations, an unavoidable part of any life, even life in a paradise landscape. Yet her infectious optimism pervaded.

Their garden offered shade and respite from the balmy tropical heat, as the front of their home contained their voorgalery, a covered open veranda. The entire space of a three-sided enclosed covered patio — with one open side — offered the open texture of the outdoors, accompanied by an enclosed coziness to replicate the comfort of the more formal Dutch sitting room in their home. This opportunity to embrace the outdoor living coupled with al fresco air revitalized Mam’s spirits and Diny’s liveliness.

Mam strolled to an enclosed area of the veranda, slid a round record out from its paper covering, and meticulously placed it in the gramophone. She moved the arm onto the disc, and aligned the vertical needle with the beginning of the record. As classical music played, Mam clapped joyfully while Diny alternately danced around the front yard and ran to her for a hug.

In the sultry warmth, and in keeping with the traditions of the island women, Mam wore a light colored kebaya, the traditional Javanese blouse-dress, which flowed and provided coolness paired with comfort. Some kebayas were made of silk or thin cotton, with a brocade or embroidery in a floral pattern. Mam added embroidery to her clothes, laboring meticulously over a simple yet elegant piece, demonstrating her intricate work to Diny as an example.

While strolling in the market, she tried to dress according to custom, so she often paired the kebaya with a sarong covering and preferred a floral pattern of embroidery around the edges of those simple bold-colored cotton outfits. Mam carried her accordion fan and waved the pretty paper at her smooth, round face, and fashioned her long caramel-colored wavy hair pulled up into a sweeping bun, off her neck, to offer respite from the heat. Her arms were thin but strong, and her frame curvy from blossoming into womanhood, from carrying, birthing, and nourishing two children. Her fragrance of lavender came from small glass bottles lined on her vanity. Mam allowed Diny a drop of lavender perfume on her neck for Sundays they attended church service.

During morning tea and coffee break, called koffietijd, as Diny’s dad Pieter Dekker labored in his lieutenant leadership role in the police department, Mam, whom Pieter affectionately called Cora, sipped tea, while using a fork and knife to eat ripened fruit or jelly toast on a dainty porcelain plate, as the bamboo chandelier swayed gently above her.

Diny played on the stoop and hummed or sang, her tiny fingers swirled shapes into the dirt, with her companion a stuffed bear, or a waving baby doll, which she pulled around in a bamboo cart-on-wheels. Little brother Huibert napped in his pram in the shade, beside a wooden-carved room divider. He smiled as he slept, still a tiny boy at the fresh age of two, a moment in his busy day to cease his lively demeanor. Their living room was an open extension of the front of their home, set outdoors, to experience the grandeur of lush mountain views and blue sky.

In their Dutch East Indies homes, verandas opened to the front of a home, for inhabitants to observe the life ahead of them; assembled with scattered wicker chairs, colorful cushions atop, and bordered by roll-down bamboo mat draperies meant to enclose the room during monsoon season. Covered, enclosed porches provided a cooling respite from heat and served as their main living quarters and their primary gathering area for entertaining guests.

Morning and afternoon koffietijd coffee and tea breaks were taken in that location, together as a family, along with evening meals, called tea. The veranda remained in the front of their home and stopped abruptly instead of wrapping around the perimeter of their entire home; the front was sectioned off with carved wooden room dividers, with ferns and other greenery occupying the inside of their verandas, a general cohesion with their jungle-side homes.

Diny’s Mam preferred local foods and teas, fish and produce, all of which were readily available at the local markets in town. Stalls lined with canvas overhangs threaded chaotic city streets, and each stall was particularly colorful, with unique orange and red vegetables, greens like lemongrass, chili peppers, scents of the bunches of aromatic herbs, fruits, and intense spices; the specific fragrances of this region of southeast Asia.

Street vendors silhouetted the edges of the market, offering their hot flame-grilled kebabs; seafood and noodle soup; or wok-steamed meats, and an intermittent dance. Only on special occasions were the children permitted to sample food from one of the vendors, as Mam was not certain their tiny stomachs could handle such a spicy delicacy.

Each morning after breakfast, the tall and impressive Pieter Dekker exited their home following a round of kisses from Cornelia, Diny, and Huib. Pieter’s commanding frame towered over others, his dark hair curled on the sides from humidity, his bright blue eyes underneath dark brows and his mouth moving below a thick, caterpillar-like mustache. Cornelia pulled him into a gentle embrace, her green eyes shining as she smiled him off to work.

Each morning he journeyed into town for his role as a Lieutenant of Police, Second Class. After laboring all morning at his police work, in meetings and business, he returned home for lunch, to join the family for the daily hot meal at 12 o’clock noon, followed by a nap. A habitual nap time meant respite and refreshment for their spirits, as consistent, tropical heat exhausted them. (Monsoon season was most of the year, with about 38 centimeters of rain each month.) Then, after his nap, Pieter returned to work from 2-4 o’clock, at least, sometimes later, or perhaps working on papers at home in the evening.

During the non-rainy hot season, humidity seeped into their spirits and exhausted them, sticky skin sweating from the constant sultry dampness. Amidst the dry season of July through November, the heat was more bearable without consistent storms. And at 4 o’clock, they took turns enjoying an invigorating bucket-shower in the garden, using the large butter tin to pour cool water over them, cascading as a wonderful and refreshing reprieve!

Pieter’s promising beginning in the police department gained momentum, his love with Cornelia swelled solid and accomplished, their affection blossoming in marriage. Pieter’s greatest joy each day encompassed spending time with his beloved wife and their two children.

During dinnertimes within their peaceful veranda, Diny’s father Pieter requested they use glass plates, placed on a freshly-ironed white tablecloth, and Diny stroked the cloth with her small hands, tracing blue floral patterns around the edging, an embroidery project from Cornelia’s newlywed days. Diny’s parents spoke quietly yet affectionately, while using their blue porcelain teapot and delicate cups with saucers.

Diny was always cautious with their precious glass collections, fearful of damaging their antique heirlooms. The delicate flavor of the yellow orange-colored mango — a pungent and fragrant explosion within her mouth, coupled with syrupy undertones — was one of Diny’s favorite fruits to enjoy in the shade on those delicate plates, the sweet and aromatic fruit an interval from the tropical air of the Dutch East Indies. Or Dad allowed Diny hagelslag, chocolate sprinkles, on her buttered toast, only for breakfast. They always dined with forks and knives to remain cultured, Mam reminded her, as civilized citizens.

The Dekker family emigrated from the Netherlands to the Asian Pacific nation of the Dutch East Indies, cultivating their love for the Emerald Girdle, as the verdant island nation was affectionately called. Their country’s location was a series of more than 17,000 islands, only about 6,000 of which were inhabited, situated north of Australia and south of countries bundled together by land borders: Siam and the countries combined to inhabit Indochina, and across another sea to the northeast, the Philippine Islands.

Indie was fortunately situated amidst a paradise of ecosystems, including sea and coast, with expansive beaches, sea grass beds, coral reefs, coastal mudflats, and mangroves. Indie was one of the Coral Triangle countries with the world's greatest diversity of coral reef fish with more than 1,650 species found exclusively in eastern Indie.

Living only a few kilometers from the equator afforded year-round mild, balmy temperatures and a comfortable climate, with lush forests and fertile fields. Volcanic ash had been dispersed for millennia, expressed into the air from more than one hundred active volcanoes interspersed in mountain ranges, pushing soil upward, heaving fields in the volcano ring of fire.

Such a colorful, vibrant culture felt unpioneered, undeveloped, and preserved in beauty and enchantment. It was tucked away from the rest of the world at times, as untamed wilderness. Academic, cultured Europeans pursued the uncultivated habitats of tigers, birds, reptiles, elephants, orangutans, leopards, and rhinoceroses and cut through thick forests, with monkeys spotted roaming along shorelines and splashing in the water.

The multitude of tropical islands served as a backdrop for enterprising advancement in the long-successful spice trade, government work and public service, or education, among other endeavors. Some Dutch were traders, sailors, or adventurers. Perhaps they considered themselves sojourners, setting forth to procure a fortune before returning to Europe. Others fashioned a life in Indie, enthralled with the people and charmed by the islands.

The spice and shipping trade of the Dutch East India Company, Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC, originally held a monopoly on procuring spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and mace, exporting at a high price to Europe and beyond. Later, the company added other financially profitable crops, such as tea, tobacco, coffee, rubber, cacao, and sugar, which absorbed the surrounding territories with their influence and dominance.

At the least, a varied cultural and atmospheric presence on the clustered islands provided warmth and relief from the long, cloud-filled Dutch winters in northwestern Europe. For other Dekker family members, the privileged realm of the spice trade lured them to employment in the import-and-export sector. They would begin the trend of generations of the Dekker family drawn toward simple life on the islands.

As a matter of words, the Malay language was studied intensely by Dutch scholars, then adapted and transformed during the earlier days of the Dutch arrival; they added key words, phrases, and colloquialisms. Prior to the earliest Dutch settlement, little of Malay was formally understood outside of traders and academics, but for greatest success in the country, the Dutch realized the need to learn the language and culture.

The Dutch took to spelling the words with a phonetical recognition, in which the words were written exactly as they were spoken, providing easier training for their children. The language “Melayu Pasar,” literally interpreted as “Market Malay,” was the common language during colonial times and indirectly influenced many of the other island languages.

In general, Indie consisted of a layered society, and as such, social status was dependent upon one’s heritage and skin coloring, which consistently astounded the Dekkers, as they sought to treat all around them with the welcoming love of Christ.

In the early evening hours, following work and tin-bucket shower, and after 4 o’clock koffietijd tea and coffee break in the veranda, Pieter meandered around their extensive backyard garden, near the anthurium plants and mossy rock walls, smoking a pipe. His time alone was usually outdoors; in moments of serenity or refuge he spent pondering, in substantial thought.

“These gardens are my sanctuary,” Dad reminded them, “and a holy place to meet with God.” He winked at Mam, who blushed.

Their garden, which housed a sense of adventure among the flowers and trees, was their playtime delight, and an escape for their father: a place of refuge and haven within his yard. His greatest moments of inventiveness, along with an invigorating rest, he told them, were found amidst the swaying flamboya trees with red blossoms, bougainvillea sparkling forth with violet blooms, or other florals of crimson or cobalt.

Waringins — banyan trees — looked like beige ropes woven together. The thin contorted branches twirled and meshed together, sometimes a dozen parallel branches wrapped as one unit, as though a thicker, more permanent vine. The banyan branches spread farther in scope, roots knobby and reaching heights stretched out to the heavens, as though they were praising their Creator.

Rubber trees swayed nearby, stretchy and bouncy in the tepid breeze. Bamboo, orchid, teakwood, sandalwood, and ebony all lined forests and backyards. Banana trees, with thick long green trunks, and wide-leafed palm branches served as a verdant canopy over the growing clusters of green banana fruit, with a red blooming flower below as a velvet bow adorning the newest crop. Such a diverse garden greeted them, blooming about their world with remarkable enthusiasm, and Pieter was drawn to his gardens, and to the sanctuary he discovered.

Pieter’s considerable height carried him above crowds, with dark, thick hair swirling high and puffy on his head, and stunning blue eyes a surprising contrast to his olive-colored skin. His thick, wide mustache sometimes hid his mouth’s expression, or offered an additional mysterious disposition to his commanding presence.

An embrace from Pieter encapsulated Mam’s frame, his bellowing voice whispering, “Cora!” to his beloved; his large ears heard the tiny rustling of Diny’s running on the fallen palmetto fronds in the yard, and his broad arms easily held Diny, bouncing her on his knees, or his expansive hands grasping her tiny hand for a leisurely neighborhood walk.

In the garden, he silently meandered through the tranquil, muted estate, and from the coolness in the back of their home, Diny barely pictured his tall, sturdy frame through the greenery. Each step was full of confidence and certainty: a steady, poised presence.

Sometimes she followed him, quietly tiptoeing behind his long strides, her small bare feet smacking loudly on the stepping-stone path. He undoubtedly heard her pursuing, and humorously pretended to not pay attention, allowing her the delight in a following game.

Then, almost dramatically, Pieter spun around, detected Diny watching him, and smiled with a nod, tipping his pipe in the air, a small salute to his eldest child. His laughter could be heard throughout the estate, another joke allowed for amusement. Diny also chuckled jovially at her gentle bear of a father, revealing her dimpled cheeks, with her short hair twirling in the breeze, as she returned to the table to play bikkelen, her jacks game, and touwtje springen, jump rope. Later, her father identified the increasing wind and invited her to fly their colorful kites together. The sky opened up to their entire world of Batavia, and for Diny, these were the happiest moments a childhood could contain.

Within the coziness of their veranda, the Dekker family found relief after work, and if the weather was mild and welcoming, they lingered beyond their meal, watching the languid sun drop behind the trees and into the horizon. Their veranda served as an outdoor sitting room, a portal into the beguiling wilds of the tropical rainforests, while still enclosed by three walls, into a nook. On the veranda behind their dining table, an expansive bookshelf lined a wall and housed stacks of books. There were imported Dutch hymnals and ancient European poetry, various religious tomes by Chesterton or Moody, and cultural books about the Dutch East Indies by Louis Couperus. There was also the searing book criticizing the exploitation of Indie, entitled Max Havalaar, by Eduard Douwes Dekker (no relation to their family, they speculated), or his pseudonym Multatuli, along with Dutch poetry by P.C. Boutens.

Cora collected painting book compilations from Rembrandt, Van Gogh, or Cezanne. On the top shelf housed bottles and decks of playing cards intended for lively after-tea games. On a lower shelf, stacks of records piled higher throughout the years as background music to their lives. Musicians such as Schubert, Handel, Bach, Mozart, and Brahms felt like traveled friends, and music full of Wagner’s operatic movements, Beethoven’s dramatic overtones, and Vivaldi’s cheerful violin melodies in The Four Seasons orchestrated their activities.

Come, my friends, ‘tis not too late to seek a newer world.”

~Alfred, Lord Tennyson

When Pieter Dekker and Cornelia Chiela van den Bout were married by-proxy on 17 March 1920 in the Netherlands, Pieter had already journeyed ahead on a ship to Nederlands Oost Indie — which was also called Netherlands East Indies — for his job as a police officer, his career there launched on the islands already two years prior. From their first meeting in Corneila’s hometown of Hardinxveld, to their riverside courtship and eventual engagement, Cornelia — whom Pieter affectionately called Cora — demonstrated her fondness and devotion toward Pieter with her embrace.

Pieter hailed from the northern Friesland village of Kollum. He was brought up by exacting, traditional parents — Reverend Jan and Gerdina Dekker — in a meager farming community, small hamlets of farms strung together in the sparsely populated landscapes of the far northern province, the outer stretches of the Netherlands. Sea water etched the land, and farmers navigated temperamental weather forming off the North Sea. Livestock grazed gently in the green and fleeting summer, then bore down under the burden of a heavy and dreary winter.

The language — Frisian — differed greatly from Dutch, with eight dialects containing varying intonations, so even within Friesland at times, language became a barrier, an isolating prospect unless citizens knew Dutch alongside their native Frisian language. Pieter was raised by a successful Christian Reformed Church pastor and his faithful, gentle wife. High expectations were placed on a pastor’s family, and Pieter knew well the spiritual manner of leading a family.

Reverend Jan Dekker originally hailed from a small northern Frisian village called Andyk, had lived and served in Kollum as a Reformed Church minister since 1896, and published a number of short theological works alongside a pair of poetry collections. He became a noted member of the Frisian Forests, as for 25 years he wrote the lead article for The Free Frisian, the weekly newspaper of the Anti-Revolutionary Party.

Meanwhile, Cora was raised in a strict and thriving Protestant family, quickly learning a sense of duty, loyalty, hard work, and tradition in the family. Her steady father Huibert van den Bout and her compassionate mother Pieternella Jannigje den Breejen raised Cornelia along the Merwede River in Hardinxveld (east of Rotterdam, near Zwijndrecht), an idyllic location for serene picnics. Villages contained brightly-colored buildings and red roofs, and immaculately maintained public gardens for the enjoyment of all citizens.

Cornelia’s parents married on 19 May 1893, at ages 26, and 22. Cornelia was born ten months later, the oldest of five children, with Adriana, Jannigje, Rokus, and Piet two, four, six, and fourteen years after her. Cornelia’s outgoing, boisterous mother Pieternella raised the five children, while tranquil, introverted father Huibert van den Bout captained a riverboat along the Merwede River, navigating his own sense of adventure on the waterways.

The Merwede originated as the Rhine River in the Swiss Alps before flowing through Germany, passing along the metropolis of Cologne, westward toward the Netherlands, and funneled into various smaller rivers, such as the Merwede, before emptying into the North Sea near Rotterdam. Wooden ships creaked and groaned, serviced by strong, iron-like men. Just as windmills captured a breeze to funnel water up and away, ships like the 1904 Flying Dutchman harnessed wind via canvas sails, with a skipper and his mate for sailing. That same drive for exploration Cornelia inherited would undoubtedly inspire her own journeys.

Pieter Dekker seemed to inherit a sense of restlessness from previous generations, from his forbearers who searched for heritage through travel and new landscapes. With the First World War ending and the cessation of fighting came renewed hope for rebuilding Europe. The Netherlands had escaped much of the devastation by remaining neutral in the war, allowing both sides to access land and resources, with the anticipation of remaining unfettered. Thus, with the war’s completion, both Pieter and Cornelia resumed their long-desired dreams of venturing to the Dutch East Indies to raise a family together, with Pieter embarking as the first in their Dutch heritage to relocate to Indie for his role as a police officer.

After their by-proxy wedding, Cornelia bravely traveled alone on a ship sailing across the world to join Pieter. Her only suitable cause for venturing forth in such a far-flung manner was marriage, and as she boarded the ship bound for Pieter, she was already married to him — indeed, felt connected to him, her gold ring moved from her left hand to her right. However, Pieter Dekker was sadly unable to attend his own wedding. Instead, in his place, one of his male family members, his brother Jan Wolter, served as his stand-in. Jan Wolter contributed to the “by-proxy” aspect of Pieter and Cornelia’s union by arriving at the City Hall and answering all the questions in lieu of Pieter.

The ceremony appeared polished and formal, as other Dutch weddings: a bride, and a groom, accompanied by a handful of witnesses. Both Pieter and Cornelia’s families were present, attending two wedding ceremonies: the first in front of a judge in City Hall and the second in front of God within a Church. Yet the primary difference was merely that the groom was thousands of kilometers away, absent from his wedding.

The simplicity of the matter was Pieter’s new career was Cornelia’s only boat passage to join him. A young woman could hardly travel alone to Indie unless married and her husband employed in the location of her arrival, prohibited from a lengthy solo journey to the Far East, so their by-proxy wedding remained sufficient until she arrived for the Indie church wedding.

During the City Hall wedding reception, Cornelia visited with the van den Bout and Dekker families and placed a framed photograph of Pieter on the table next to her dinner setting, as her husband certainly belonged at his own wedding reception! Gazing at Pieter’s photograph reminded Cornelia of the peculiar adventures they would embark upon in their life together. Batavia, as their lively Dutch East Indies capital city had been named in 1616, offered all they could possibly desire, including mystery, a fragrant tropical climate, education, and opportunity to succeed, along with progress and Dutch innovation through canal systems and culture; yet was remiss for the presence of their immediate families, and most modern conveniences.

Several months later, when she arrived in the Dutch East Indies, Cornelia and Pieter were married before God in the Kwitang Church in Batavia. Their first year of marriage was filled with settling into a simple, yet hearty life in a place they affectionately called “Indie,” a location in which neither Pieter nor Cornelia had been raised.

The northwestern country of the Netherlands would always stand symbolically as the land of their bloodline and heritage, and hold tremendously dear memories and relationships with family who remained there. For a diminutive country of only 300km long by 200km wide, the spirit and perseverance of her people compensated. Pieter and Cora utilized the Netherlands as home for their exploration, for their adventures. Their relief from the tropics would be to the Netherlands, once every six years, for a six-month period of rest, bookended by three-week boat journeys to and from their destination.

For a pyramid of generations, the convention of marriage and life nearby the family had been a customary way of Dutch life, with each son inheriting his father’s vocation. Thus, Pieter’s step away from Friesland became disconcerting to his father, but he soon learned his brother Gerrit would receive the mantle and retain their farm, bringing relief to all. Likewise, Cora’s brother Rokus was expected to carry forth the riverboat captain career of their father Huibert.

Pieter and Cornelia’s love traveled through jungles, over stormy seas, and into an adopted, yet affectionate land, which required as much improvisation and faith as any prior challenge. They respected opportunities and cherished this life together, with Batavia as their new home.

As a port city, Batavia’s importance was steep, serving as the capital of the Dutch East Indies and a location Pieter knew would always remain central to the police force. Teeming with possibilities and vibrant enthusiasm, Batavia’s streets were filled with nearly half a million people, including more than 30,000 Europeans.

With 17 cities boasting populations over 50,000 and their combined populations numbered 1.87 million of the Dutch colony's 60 million scattered throughout thousands of islands, the Dutch influence remained strong.

Some Dutch settled in the islands for trade or governmental employment, and others for the languid year-round tropical atmosphere. After being raised in Kollum, Friesland by loving parents Jan and Gerdina, who were married 3 Nov 1892, at ages 34 and 20, respectively, Pieter sought to step outside the docile farming community of his youth. His parents were gentle yet hardworking, farming their land from sunrise until sunset, yet they welcomed the rural, bucolic lifestyle afforded them. Their large age difference never seemed a problem to his well-matched parents, both of whom remained faithful and dedicated Christians, unified as team and dedicated to the church in their community where Jan was also a minister.

As the oldest of five boys, Pieter quickly learned and assumed the leadership and responsibilities he was required and gladly secured. His four brothers Jan Wolter, Cornelis, Gerrit, and Nicolaas were younger by 3, 5, 14, and 21 years, respectively. He had little knowledge of Gerrit and Nicolaas, and he determined to visit them whenever possible. He decided the northern province of Friesland too small and ordinary for his grandiose ambitions, and he was unwilling to carry forward the farm his father managed or the role of Reverend in tending souls; so brothers Cornelis and Gerrit sought a life in farming while Pieter headed south for further education.

After graduating from University in Amsterdam in his early twenties (around the time his youngest brother was born), Pieter received excellent police training in the Netherlands — including Amsterdam’s Police Academy — and later was commissioned as a contender for Head Commissioner of Police. He relocated to Dutch East Indies in 1918 and attended the Soekaboemi Police Training Academy in the Javan mountains before being placed in Batavia.

Pieter and Cornelia were married before God in the Kwitang Church in Batavia on 17 March 1920, ages 27 and 26. Both had matured beyond youth and eagerly settled into domestic felicity, keen to begin a family. When their oldest child Gerardina Margaretha Dekker was born on 20 July 1921, their entire world was located on the island of Java. Appropriately named after Pieter’s mother Gerdina, their little Gerardina would someday grow into her loquacious name. Diny was born into a balmy ambiance during the clipping winter trade winds of July, in an environment which witnesses little variation of season. Neither winter nor summer was too different, merely more or less humid and rainy. Diny’s entrance surged into a new generation of growth, change, and discovery, in the generation springing forth after the First World War.

Her native blood-line had never explored the magical lands of the Spice Islands, preferring the security of the Netherlands. Her island of Java was a bustling and prosperous opportunity for her family. Batavia purred as a dense and congested city, amidst change or alteration. Crowded market stalls lined colorful, busy streets, with vibrant vendors, animated people full of life and ideas, offering delicious fragrant food, or exquisite bright fabrics. In the complicated labyrinth of streets and side alleys, men on bicycles drove customers around on pedaled taxi carriages called becaks, to work, school, and meetings.

The maze of activity initially appeared exhausting to foreigners, who had been drawn to these islands for hundreds of years. Some were lured by the improbable possibility of fortune or prosperity, while others hinged on the reality of a welcoming climate to raise a family in an outdoor environment. Others had been born and raised on the islands, although their skin tone revealed a different heritage, a lighter skin, more like the color of crushed ginger or turmeric, their roots in Europe. Those raised on the islands, their bloodline traced back to Java’s early days, appeared the color of cloves or cinnamon.

Within this economic, cultural, and political center, a variety of Dutch families lived, happily transported to this world. Their hearts intermingled with the islanders, some Dutch married Indie islanders and reared blended families with a new heritage of their own creating. The Dekker family heritage stretched back into the Netherlands, long settled in places in the northwest like Amsterdam and Hilversum, south like Hardinxveld, west in Rotterdam, to the north in Groningen, Kollum.

Diny soon preferred exploring outside and watched tiny yellow butterflies flicker in the sky while local monkeys amused her. Black colored Siamang Gibbon monkeys frolicked on shorelines, splashing in the waves like enthusiastic toddlers. They were prevalent on her island of Java, and numerous on the northwest neighboring island of Sumatra. Diny became accustomed to monkeys jovially undulating in the trees, swinging on long limbs, balancing on impossibly thin branches, swerving throughout the forest tops, and accelerating into the wind on the uppermost breezes between jumps and arm stretches, like flying. Monkeys mingled with local crowds, searching for food, or danced around in the market square, though vendors remained too preoccupied helping customers to notice.

On 12 August 1923, Diny’s little brother Huibert was born, and her love for him and pride in her dear younger broeder swelled as they grew together. Named after Cornelia’s resolute father Huibert, she called him Huibje, and he blended well with the family unit, his easy-going temperament a calming balance to Diny’s enthusiasm. Mam often commented on what a tranquil baby her Huib was, full of peace, with luminous hair and a round face and ears that stood profoundly from his head, much like his amiable same-named grandfather.

Huib’s pleasantness offered Mam a sense of equilibrium in her home and life with two small children. Mam’s morning habit involved sitting outside on their wooden picnic table across from her children, keeping her kebaya cool before the heat of the day. She situated their table on the lawn in the midst of flowering bushes, away from the house, a place of learning and delight.

“Today will be glorious, my little Grietjes!” Mam stroked Diny’s cheek and indeed, she was her mother’s little doll. Huib joined them, and Mam held out her hand for her son as they settled into study. Huib started out on Mam’s lap in her wooden armed chair, before he fully awoke to the day and joined Diny on the learning bench.

The dew comforted and cooled them, their school lessons in the shade of the trees a blessing before the air of the day became too humid and sticky. At times the children remained in their night clothing, long sleeves and pants a comfort against the momentary morning chill. Huibje and Diny leaned forward, propping their arms on the table, listening as their Moeder read Bible stories telling them about Jesus and all the heroes from the Bible, like Abraham, Moses, David, and Samson. Mam excitedly relayed stories with facial expressions and animated voices to convey emotion behind each lesson.

Cornelia steadily sat beside them in a crisp white short-sleeved tunic, her kebaya, a simple necklace and only her wedding ring as accessories, her frame poised at the edge of her wooden chair, legs crossed neatly at the ankles, simple indigo slip-on shoes barely covering her toes and extending underneath her feet like elegant slippers. Such soft house shoes kept their marble floors clean. She pulled her hair back neatly into an upswept bun and gently reminded her children of God’s goodness and grace toward their family, urging Diny and Huib to place their trust in Jesus, as he would take them on life’s grandest adventures. Stories like Joseph’s sounded true but miraculous, but could be real if they trusted God.

Mam’s endearing look and smile provided Diny her deepest encouragement, as her total enrapture with Diny evidenced each day. Diny felt no memory of loneliness in her first years, only the genial face of Mam, the buoyant laughter of Dad with his caterpillar mustache, and tenderness of connection with soft, temperate Huib. Mam and Diny adored Huib’s tiny wiry hugs and deep voice, sweetness and gentle spirit pervading, compassionate eyes inviting and soothing.

When Mam shared the story of baby Moses found in the river bushes, spared by God’s grace in Egypt, she told them each baby was a miracle, and they agreed. Some afternoons, while Mam watched Diny and Huib play together, she sewed their clothes, her foot pacing quickly on the pedaled sewing machine, the Indie carved wooden stand swaying merrily with each row stitched. Mam bought colorful material from the Batavian stores, woven by local women, and created masterpieces for her children. Evenings were filled with gatherings around the piano, as Pieter sang Psalms, while Cornelia played the piano. Other moments, both children sat on Dad’s lap, encapsulated in the moment, while Mam played and sang for their enjoyment.

Batavia, Java, Dutch East Indies, 1924

Pieter Dekker’s work as Lieutenant of Police provided amply for their family, and his job required spending time in the Stadhuis Plein, their stately Batavian City Hall, where the spice and shipping trade of the Dutch East India Company, Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC, administered their empire two hundred years prior. The era which encompassed the domain of the spice trade was affectionately called The Golden Age, and the VOC governed there, in the location where their City Hall was now situated, and the building swelled with a sense of history, perspective, and place. Pieter strolled along the south-east sections of the ancient port, with the old cobblestone square clappering under his feet. Sometimes as he arrived at the Stadhuis, the City Hall, the bell tower rang noisily, as he arrived for his meeting.

In other moments of entrance, the sturdy white building stoically and silently towered above: formal and imposing on those who entered. Tall palm trees lined the front of the building, swaying amicably toward the red-tiled roof, and Pieter felt regal while entering past white columns into the building. Sometimes his hands clammed and his breath quickened as he proceeded to the offices where he conducted his business. An uneven sense of nervousness manifested deep inside, often without proper escape. The whirlwind of an emotion swirled within Pieter’s body, yet his stature remained confident and steady, and his nervous demeanor not noticed by others. His eyes masked doubt, remaining perceptive. Pieter matured into his leadership roles. Sometimes merely observing others provided opportunity for new knowledge.

During his meetings, Pieter’s shining blue eyes scanned the room, viewing diplomas, awards, and pertinent group photographs. Events marking the influence of the VOC lined the walls, and provided witness to the events of the era, even to the dissolution of their monopoly, signaling the end of the Golden Age, and the remnants of those predecessors as influenced unto their current government.

Pieter saw beyond the corruption and bankruptcy in the prior system of the VOC, which brought ruin and defamation at a time when their influence might have persuaded the world of charity, goodness, and aid for others in need. Yet the financial fluency and success which elevated their status eventually became a hindrance to the VOC as they stumbled through the veils of prosperity, blinded by greed, and hypnotized by the illusion of power.

Later, in empty rooms after police officers exited meetings, Pieter lingered, scanning photographs, staring into the eyes of the men who lived two hundred years prior, those whose efforts at growing an industry resulted in the ability to empower those Dutch leaders to raise up a country of their own imaginations. He speculated, Where was the mentorship and the genuine, selfless leadership of these generations?

As Pieter considered, he realized their shipping enterprises and spice and tea fortunes — and later, destruction — could have been reversed had kindness prevailed, had decency for humans remained the priority. Perhaps they ought to have offered recognition to every worker, no matter their position in the company, no matter their race or ethnic origin. Therein remained an undeniable thorn, a hindrance in his flesh he would surely battle his entire career, the imbalanced matter of ethnicity. There was the superficial politics of color, one he wished to break away from and transform for tolerant, kind, and free future generations. He heard rumors of those before him, the anger and spite flowing through their veins, the cruel and dishonorable actions that surfaced every generation, without decency toward fellow humans.

Certainly, Pieter wholly opposed slavery, favoring equality, forging strong friendships with Indie coworkers along with other foreign travelers of many other ethnicities. Pieter observed a man, not a race; a person, a soul, a life filled with joy and hope. He enjoyed friendship with a Siamese man who lived up the street, along with a Filipino fellow who lived near his office. Such friendships developed out of an organic sense of companionship, and Pieter sought to discover the personalities of his companions, as they were all connected as humans, no matter their race. He knew those men were strong leaders in their communities, yet the current Dutch government would never elevate a non-European’s status to any senior leadership position, due to ethnicity; the inequalities were unjust, blatant examples of discrimination.

As Pieter surveyed the awards and accomplishments on the walls of the government buildings, the meticulously neat appearance of the offices, he hypothesized at his predecessors’ ability to establish an infallible outer shell, a sense of entitlement stemming from perfectionism and pride; a sheen, a veneer. Those before him established a dominant colony: — a monopoly — without a genuine compromise with the locals who carved their lives and homes on these islands for generations preceding the first Dutch ships entering the rustic ports. Those enterprising Dutch transplants from two hundred years before succeeded in numerous ways that ultimately benefited the world. They were worthy of applause, as they abolished cannibalism, slavery, widow-burning and head-hunting, and provided valuable assistance by means of education and healthcare.

Through their efforts, the VOC created a railway system, steamships, postal and telegraph services. They created various government agencies, all of which served to introduce a degree of new uniformity across the colony, and specialties included an intricate port trading system. The VOC invented stock and a new form of coin, chartered a spice trading authority, and established treaties with the rulers of Asian nations. Dutch colonialists formed a privileged upper social class of soldiers, administrators, managers, teachers and pioneers. They lived together with the “natives” as some derogatorily called them, but the white Europeans — usually Dutch — were always at the top of a rigid social — and racial — caste.

Pieter pondered the VOC. Treaties were at the cost of local customs and culture, and the happiness of the lives of these local islanders. Certainly, the local Indies islanders were the casualties of such a power force, their simple, joyful lives invaded by these commanding, authoritative Dutch explorers. Pieter shook his head sadly, disappointed for the actions of his fellow countrymen and the tension often felt with locals. His daily life was surrounded by lessons for any who would enter a leadership role, if only he listened to the stories and learned from poor judgment, while amply praising those able, generous leaders who went before him in generations past.

After Pieter’s business at the Stadhuis Plein, he wandered down the hill to his police station, the feel of those old, worn stones from the Dutch settlement a tangible link to the past. On his journey back, the Hall of Justice loomed nearby, and he guessed at the ongoing hearings and the supposed justice of the trials inside. The Hall celebrated the ability to provide those on trial with a fair, accurate hearing. He hoped this new generation embraced the courage to endure and persevere in the face of hardships, and for the Truth to shine.

During an afternoon koffietijd break, Pieter traversed sidewalks along market stalls, stopping in Café Batavia for an unhurried cigarette and cup of coffee mixed with boiled milk. A dash of cinnamon on top for flavor reminded him these islands were full of spices. He might have a jovial discussion with his Malaysian friend who worked at the Café. If they had a chance to discuss life, Pieter sat across the desk counter while they discussed family, activities, and plans for the month, his mind actively seeking to form a Malay joke.

Later, while sitting on the stoop outside of the Café enjoying an after-coffee cigarette, Pieter gazed into the distance, and observed the spacious, thriving city filled with twisted curves; the Ciliwung River cut through the middle of the city, surrounded by spaces of poverty from such a distance unseen, only a patchwork collection of colors. Before him huddled a mass of commerce. He perceived thick mangrove forests, humid swamps, down through the end of the valley, which spilled the Ciliwung River into what the locals called the Tanjung Priok — Batavia’s bustling western harbor — and the sparkling sea beyond.

The Ciliwung River flowed through Batavia yet originated in the local Javanese village of Puncak on the highlands of the volcano Mount Gede, West Java, and flowed down through the valleys and villages, into the bay. Each summer, for a luxurious month away from the bustle of the swelling city, the Dekkers escaped to the mountains for a family holiday, and Pieter recalled the area where the Ciliwung River sprang up, and Diny asked to find a swimming tube to ride the river back down to home to Batavia and out to the Java Sea.

Chapter Two

Hilversum, The Netherlands, 1925

On 4 March 1925, the Dekker family arrived in the Netherlands to enjoy six months of respite and renewal. Once every six years, companies offered their staff a Furlough, which included a trip to the Netherlands via a three-week boat journey, a six-month holiday, and another three-week boat ride back to Indie, all paid by the company. Such a generous gift of an extended holiday was a respite for employees. They had left their families in the Netherlands, and the great distance to that country meant they rarely saw their loved ones. Cornelia’s family retired from Hardinxveld to Hilversum, while Pieter’s family lived in Amsterdam (after relocating there from Kollum in more recent years after Gerrit inherited the farm). Neither family could afford such a long trip to Indie, so they all eagerly anticipated the Dekker family’s arrival.

Plus, the tropical heat of Indie exhausted those who were not familiar with such a humid environment, so escaping the constant muggy atmosphere offered the lungs and heads a change. Upon their return to Indie, Pieter would be transferred elsewhere, as the Dutch government liked to move police officers into new promotion roles immediately following Furlough, as though the refreshing holiday invigorated their senses and capabilities. So the Dekker family received leave, and Pieter would return ready to bring all his energy into the new job.

The Dekker family eagerly prepared for Furlough, as Pieter organized his office, typed lengthy reports, and met with the man who temporarily covered for him on the police force. Cornelia readied their home to be vacant for six months, and gathering gifts for their family, such as elegant Indie linens and fabrics, carved wooden items, and of course, spices, which were available locally and more expensive to ship across the seas. In anticipation of their arrival, Cornelia’s dear mother faithfully knitted much of the warmer clothing they would need in the Netherlands during their Furlough, such as winter hats, mittens, and scarves.

The three week boat trips to their holiday, and later back again, were a highlight. They all loved those boating voyages and would comment about them with nostalgia. What a marvelous and wonderful childhood their children were afforded! And having the opportunity for extended time with their families was a special benefit, away from the stress and daily routines of work.

Their route away from Indie’s main port in Batavia entailed crossing the Indian Ocean, cutting through to the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal, up through the balmy Mediterranean, through the narrows of the Strait of Gibraltar. From there they sailed up the sun-drenched coasts of Spain and France and past Belgium to the Netherlands. This was their means of travel, as there were no commercial airplane journeys.

The Dutch cities they encountered were new and foreign to Diny, as she encountered her first experience away from the jungles and toward her bloodline. The Netherlands offered towering, crooked, gabled houses, great warehouses, masts of ships entering port, manicured landscapes, and windmills harnessing the air and water on farms. Trees were lined along clean, straight streets and winding canals, all “full of oddity, courage and industry — the pluckiest little country on earth.” — Mary Mapes Dodge, author of Hans Brinker or Silver Skates.

The first several days required their re-acclimation to the temperatures, reacquainting with family, and reintroduction to culture and manner in living. Their lives varied with extremes of tremendous depth of friendships and lifestyle from one continent to the other.

The Dekkers began their holiday at a refreshing break at the North Sea, where Diny lounged on a blanket spread on the sand in Den Haag, watching bicyclists move smoothly along the paved paths beside the soothing water. The family relished picnics Hilversum’s Boomberg Park: bread, meats and cheeses, fruits and sweets, and tea in carafes. They embarked upon an interlude of escape to the Swiss mountains for a chalet retreat, and again to the Dutch coast, embracing the cooler seaside and foggy morning mystery.

As spring’s thaw arrived to the Netherlands, her capstone and signature style of tulips bloomed gloriously. Those varieties of tulips radiantly gleamed with distinctive blush and vibrancy, each indigo, cerulean, and scarlet petal a unique blend of swirling colors, the vermillion shaded with undertones of ambers and rose. They spent Saturday afternoons in March and April in friends’ fields filled with expansive patchwork quilts of colors, arranging the rainbow in hues unseen before in flowers, except in Indie, with flowers Diny found no names for, and birds that fluttered closely to them and then away, their feather patterns unlike other birds she had discovered in Indie.

Diny and Huib loved the little snoopjes Oma Dekker stored in her Amsterdam cupboard, treats like Hopjes (coffee-flavored hard candies), Babbelaars candies, and spiced cookies and spekkoek, a thinly layered spice cake, made with butter and many layers of cake and a level of creamy butter filling between each cake layer. Oma called her beloved grandchildren Grietjes, and their hair snarled underneath her embrace, which smelled of lavender and mothballs.

Meanwhile, Opa Dekker could be heard from down the hallway, upstairs, or even outside in the townhome’s courtyard gardens, with a loud, booming voice and gregarious laughter, his hand coarse from decades of farming, knees calloused from prayer, his arms still strong and capable, his back straight, his legs ready for racing. Oma prepared the koffie and tea, with Diny begging Opa for a teacup of coffee. She was resigned to drink a child-appropriate tea instead.

Times with grandparents emitted a “gezellig” time — a “warm, cozy togetherness” — which was more of an inviting, welcoming feeling, than a word to explain the action, always with talking and laughing. She felt gezellig in a friendship, during a meal, or in church. The word transcended place. Feeling gezellig could translate into any experience drawing people together.

Pieter and Cornelia enjoyed three nights away in Paris while the children stayed in with Opa and Oma Dekker in Amsterdam. During those special times together, Oma taught her eldest grandchild to sew. Diny wanted to assist Mam with creating clothing for the family, and someday, for a family of her own. As they sat together on a wooden bench, Diny could not reach the pedal of the foot-cranked sewing machine, but Oma helped pump the pedal, slowing during difficult turns, allowing Diny mistakes in stitches while bringing an embroidered pillowcase into some kind of shapely form, an arrangement of flowers and vines swirling around the edges.

Oma was gentle and patient, her voice quiet, yet she seemed pleased with Diny’s first sewing creation and reminded her they had the entire summer to gain preciseness and a feel for the machine, to learn the personality of sewing. As Diny matured, her hands would expand, and her mind would come alive with sewing ideas. Oma’s tender love and praise encouraged Diny, and provided enough confirmation to continue in her apprenticeship with Mam.

While Diny sewed with Oma, Huib played ball or read with Opa Dekker, drawn to his vibrant enthusiasm and zest for life. Both Diny and Huib loved to sit on Opa’s lap as he read books to them with a lively voice, animating each character. Huib tried to mimic Opa’s booming vitality, as they both shared a particularly vivacious effervescence and joie de vivre. They were inseparable during their visit; Opa smelled of pipe and soap, and carried Huib on his shoulders outside to offer him a unique look at the world.

When Dad and Mam returned rejuvenated, the family continued visiting others that summer, including Mam’s parents, Huibert and Pieternella van den Bout, who lived in Hilversum. Oma van den Bout always kept stroopwaffels and Queen Wilhelmina peppermints close by, and they baked together on snowy days, Diny swirling-in eggs, and Huib scooping in the flour at just the appropriate time. Diny cracked eggs delicately, yet bits of shell escaped her hand and settle into the mixture. Oma scooped them out swiftly, moving on from a small error. She heartily reminded them a bit of egg shell just added fiber to the mix, and they giggled together. Oma instructed them on how to bake a brown sugar nut tart and round smooth almond cookie-cakes with a nutty, vanilla essence, which reminded them of SinterKlaas Day celebrations every 5th December. The gezellig family togetherness warmed Diny.

Cornelia’s father excitedly offered to play with his eager grandchildren in the backyard, kicking a ball or helping them learn to ride a bicycle, a calm balance to Oma’s passion. If Oma needed the children more actively entertained, Opa helped by taking them on a walk to the park, where playing on swings in brisk spring weather brought bright spirits and rosy cheeks.

Their summertime together was languid and fiery; the heat of the sunshine was loveliness and not officious heat. If the weather raged too overwhelmingly hot, they escaped to the coast for an afternoon, the refreshing sea air calming and soothing them. Diny splashed Huib in the North Sea, and they created villages made of sand, using a bucket and shovel Mam brought along, either under the umbrella or in the full scope of the sun.

They ran together along the thin layer of life where the foamy water churned in bubbles on the beige sand, that fleeting moment which constantly changed and altered. Sea creatures effervesced in that layer of water, scuttling down into the sand when water receded. Even messages of love written from Dad to Mam were erased with the water’s high tide velocity, rubbing away the words, yet they remained ingrained upon Mam’s glittering face. In the lush haze of the coast, foggy mornings burned into an alluring afternoon charm.

A special feature of remaining in the country for summertime on Furlough included an opportunity to visit Pieter’s younger brother Cornelis and his wife Sietske in the north, in the Friesland province of Groningen. Dad was born in that area, in Kollum, and marveled at the quaint villages and family farms in the surrounding countryside. While brother Gerrit and his wife Etje had only recently inherited the family farm in Kollum, it was too miniature for visitors, although they might luncheon there occasionally.

While Tante Sietske and Oom Cor did not yet have children, their nurturing love brought encouragement and delight. As farmers in Groningen, they raised a variety of animals, with horses, which Dad and Mam relished riding together. Diny’s excitement escalated, as she thought about how her younger brother Huib, just a toddler, would appreciate chasing chickens, watching sheep grazing the pasture, and observing pigs eating slop in their stalls.

Dad suggested Diny was too young and small to ride a horse alone, so she was resigned instead to watch her parents ride. She leaned along the wooden fence, while Huib sat on a stool next to her and politely folded his hands, contentedly watching from the sidelines. Each time Dad showed off his equestrian skills and brought his horse to a standing, commanding position, Huib clapped joyfully, cheering and whooping from the fence.

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