by - December 19, 2013

Today is the birthday of my grandmother. It's the first birthday since her birthday that she's not here to celebrate it with us. Although I'm very tempted to crash down and start crying for the rest of the day (or for the rest of my life), I figured that we ought to be celebrating instead of mourning. We should celebrate that what was instead of longing to that what isn't. Although this sounds quite wise (even if I say so myself) it's very hard or even difficult to just do it. To not think about the great lost we've suffered. But I know that something will last if we'll keep her memories and apply it to the now or future. So, without further ado, I want to tell you a little story.

Once upon a time there was the fifties. The fifties was a time of reconstruction and international conflicts. These conflicts withstood the heat by fear, but the new generation rebelled against the established society. The youth wanted to make their own values, to dictate their own lifestyle. This new society, based upon the heritage of the first and second world wars, was grieved in the minds of the elderly and a hunting world for the clueless youth. They tried to make a way for the free-caring, open minded and groovy dressed.

Americanization, being a commonly used term in western Europe, is often associated with this time period. Americanization is inextricably linked with jeans, leather jacket, quiff and motor scooter. Artists became icons (think again American like Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elvis Presley and Humphrey Bogart -the last one being a bit Dutch-). There was also room for Ballroom dancing and of course the virtuous charming (yet with slightly less exciting hips than Elvis) sir Cliff Richard.

Petrus -an employee of car manufacturer Ford- and Marie -housewife- became on the 19th of December 1936 the proud parents of Maria. Maria was their first daughter of four (Corrie, Joke and Rinie). Slowly the love disappeared between the two and they got a divorce. Very unusual for that time. Because of their divorce Maria, as the oldest, was put in charge for the care of her younger siblings.

After her mother had found love again in Henk, the new found family moved houses within Amsterdam. They lived in poverty with not much of latitude.

At primary school Maria outshone in handiwork, but never got the full credit from her teacher. At the age of six she already teached grown ups how to knit. A trade she would always retain.

Maria's been a keen smoker and hard worker from the age of 12. On her resume includes folding patterns for a magazine called Margriet and officework for L'oréal. Her workweek (back then existing of six days) started at seven o'clock in the morning. She walked from the Olympic stadium to Central Station. This brisk walk of about an hour was followed by a long train journey. So it took some time and effort before she arrived at her destination.

Wake up, eat, walk, train journey, work, train journey, walk, eat and sleep. Day in day out, six days long the same routine over and over again. But then Saturday evening arrives and it was time for hobbies and frivolities. As a talented handiworker Maria was a member of a socalled knitting club. But that wasn't her only passion. From the tango to the quick step, her feet came off the floor. She possessed somewhat of a Latin Ballroom repertoire. 

Here you can see on the left my grandpa and on the right my grandma. This picture has been taken on their wedding day. Don't they look smashing!

During the tango she meets Johan Coenraad. Love is in the air and two years later he asks her to marry him. And so it happens in 1957. After their marriage the couple stays at home with Johan Coenraad sr. and his wife Lucia. So, nice and cozy with her inlaws.

But before all this beautifull stuff happened, the two went on holiday together (which was received as scandalous).  They converted Johan's truck into a camper and went for two weeks to France. They stationed themselves besides the roads of France so they wouldn't had to pay anyone for a place to stay. This socalled roadside tourism is now adays illegal, but at that time quite common.

It's the end of the fifties. Maria is happily married and would soon become mother of her first daughter Paula, followed by a son and another daughter (my mum).

The end. Or better said, the beginning of something new...

Happy birthday Grandma!


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