As eight year olds we roamed the neighbourhoods of our rural village of a few thousand in the Netherlands. Our parents were not as preoccupied with raising us right, or even just raising us; kids seemed to raise themselves in the late fifties. Benign neglect is the word that fits.
One day a band of about eight of us ended up in the leased gardens on the edge of town, where villagers maintained their vegetable gardens to supplement their food budgets. One garden in particular had attracted our attention on previous raids, where a magnificent, old pear tree with the best fruit I ever tasted, still, stood at its centre. The fruit was not quite ripe at our first visit, so we returned. We called that garden “Paradise”. We ate ourselves a belly ache, but it was so worth it. Another garden there was also interesting, as it had a glass greenhouse. Allas, that garden was spoiled for us, when we got caught redhanded in the middle of our raid by an alert gardener in the adjacent garden. On our hasty retreat we, I should say I, broke one of the glass panes. I still feel guilty about that today. Fortunately, we were not identified by the neighbour and I was saved from having to confront the police chief: my father.
I never took a liking to my new grade one teacher. She replaced a much loved teacher who got married and left her employment, as most female professionals used to do in the fifties. I remember having a real sadness about her departure. The new teacher, let’s call her miss Prudence, was not as pretty and warm-hearted as her predecessor. The whole class grieved.
One day in the spring when she had been particularly prickly and her pupils unruly, four of us decided with seven-year-olds’ capacity for trouble and of course not well versed in executive reasoning, that we should punish her. The Dutch have a song to make fun and chastise people in a friendly way by shaming them. We waited around the corner until she left the school yard, on her way to the train station. Here she comes now! There we went, following her at a safe distance so she could not grab us, singing loudly:” Miss Prudence fell with her little ass in the water, Miss Prudence fell with her little ass……” all the way to the train station. While she was waiting on the platform, we sang the tune once more.
The next morning the principal gave us a severe scolding and took us around each class exhibiting us as bad kids. In front of her own class Miss Prudence grabbed my braids pulling them up in the air causing exquisite pain, lifting me as high on my tiptoes as I could manage; tears followed. Ms Prudence was making sure that no child would dare to disrespect her ever again.
She was the first bitch in my life and turned out not to be the last…