Monday, 4 February 2013

A Platform in time. Thoughts on aging.

You know you are getting old when a queen announces her abdication and you remember the coronation of her mother. 

This refers to Dutch royalty. Juliana, mother of the present queen Beatrix took over from her mother Wilhelmina in September 1948. I was 5 years old and remember it vividly.

There was a carnival on an empty field in our neighbourhood, and massive decorations in downtown Amsterdam. The decorations mainly took the form of lights strung along buildings, the way we now see all the time in midwinter. In those drab years immediately post-war it was miraculous. We took the tram downtown to go see the 'verlichting'. The term used translates literally as 'enlightenment', indeed the same term used to describe the 18th century intellectual movement.

We had moved to Amsterdam from Nijkerk, in the country, in the spring of 1947. Our old friends and neighbours from Nijkerk came to stay with us for a few days with their  kids. Gertie was the oldest, my age. He and I were good buddies and planned to get married when we got older. I remember having the mad giggles playing on the guest bed on the floor in my parents' bedroom. After a few years we lost touch with the old Nijkerk neighbours, but I was quite thrilled when I later got a baby brother with that name.

Anyway, about aging in general. I have never understood the desire to lie about age, or the age-denying platitudes that people spout. "You're only as old as you feel." "Age is just a number." And so on.

Age is part of what defines us, much as our place of birth or family of origin does. Born in the Netherlands in 1943, I am young enough to have no conscious memory of the war, but old enough to be marked by the fresh collective memory of occupation and by the time of scarcity that followed. This has nothing to do with health, ability or lack thereof. Age is our platform in time.

When my children were small I would wish I could freeze them for a while at a particularly sweet stage. But then the next stage would bring its own joys. I feel much the same about my own aging. So far, I am enjoying the process, including the need to acknowledge I might need help with certain arduous tasks. At any stage in life, happiness is a choice.


  1. This blog had me nodding and agreeing all the way through. May I say, "Absolutely!" in conclusion? I couldn't agree more. Each age, for me, has had its trials and joys. Each has had wonderful things to learn and experience. I'm enjoying my age. I enjoyed your walk down memory lane :)

  2. This is a timely post for me as well. Recent retirement had me rethinking my whole identify for awhile. But just like with all major changes in our lives, we eventually return to the basic understanding of who we are and who we have always been.

  3. len, thanks for visiting my blog about living in Mexico. I'm enjoying reading your work here, as well. Aimee

  4. My mother always told us of how the Dutch Royal family spent the war years in Canada. I have always been interested in them and Holland, with which Canada has a special relationship since we liberated that country in WWII. One of these days I plan to go to Ottawa when the tulips are in bloom, the ongoing thank you from the Dutch people.


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