Tuesday, 30 December 2014

On 1949 and the timing of wish fulfillment

Some memories from the year 1949. Yes, I do remember Harry Truman being president. The memory is that of a newscaster intoning the name as a man in a hat steps off a plane. It is indelibly linked to tinny music, the smell of french fries, and Popeye the sailor man.
Back then movie meant one thing: Cineac. (Picture from wikipedia.) Dad would take us there once in a while as a special treat. The Cineac in the Reguliersbreestraat, in between the Munt and Rembrandts plein, was a place where a one hour program, a combination of newsreels and cartoons, ran continuously.  The black and white newsreels were part of the overall experience, associated with the anticipated pleasure of the cartoons to come. 
One usually had to stand in line to get in. The narrow street where you waited was home to a number of snack bars, and many of the people patiently waiting their turn passed the time with a pointy paper bag filled with mysterious steamy strips of something. It was years before I got a taste. The air was redolent with the smell of what I now know to have been french fries. 
I loved all cartoons, nay, all moving images. Had I been born later I would have been such a TV addict. Popeye was a favourite because of the spinach connection. The visits to cartoon heaven were partly meant to encourage us kids to eat our spinach, prescribed by the pediatrician. In the spring of 1948 Jaap and I had almost died from an allergic reaction to a pinworm remedy that was later removed from the market. Anaemia was an after effect, hence Popeye.

Now for the wish fulfillment. In the summer of that year, the year I turned 6, I had been obsessed with the wish for a doll house. We did not have children's books but my parents would tell us stories. Some were traditional fairy tales featuring big bad wolves but some were tailor made. During that summer the happy ending of a tailor made story would always include reception of a dollhouse. 

Ah, the perfidy of timing!

The wish became reality on Saint Nicholas Eve of 1949. 
Dad's mother, father and sister had lovingly crafted me a dollhouse. It was a simple wooden rectangle open on top and front, divided into three equal compartments for living room, kitchen and bedroom. The furniture was exquisite. Later Jaap and I played with it lots. But back on that Sinterklaas avond in 1949, there was a bit of an anti climax. I remember people trying to draw my attention back to the doll house and me feeling vaguely guilty. You see, the other gifts included two simple books. I had just learned to read and all I really wanted to do was sit down with them. The cheap little books eclipsed the long desired doll house. I liked the doll house, but I was not ecstatic like I would have been a few months earlier. 
One part was salvaged: The furniture included a little book case complete with hand made books, see here.

The book case is an exact replica of the solid oak case that hung on the wall in our Amsterdam living room. My grandfather had made it for his brainy son. It was gifted to me when we moved away from that flat. My son has it now. I am happy to report to the ancestors that it is lovingly cared for. Opa had carved the miniature books and Oma and tante Betty had hand painted them, some even with titles. The ones on the top shelf have names: Ien, Japie, Miek, our cousin. It is a treasured possession and lives in the healing room.

I wish I could go back in time to express my gratitude for all the love that went into its making.