Grandfather’s Birthday Present part 2

Mary was the second daughter. She had been separated from her husband (at the expense of the state!), and was now expecting her fourth child, before the decree was finally pronounced. She did not like the idea of the armchair. It was like Dirk to propose a thing of that sort! No one forced grandfather to sit on the springs of the old chair, and besides, was it not grandmother who had worn away its seat by constant use! Grandfather had said so a dozen times. If the whole family were going to give him a present, it should be something useful, and not stupid. Now, a winter coat, a warm muffler, a pair of gloves or some good stout slippers—these would be practical, and not nearly so expensive.

The greatest fuss of all

Piet and Frans, neither of whom had contributed anything to the family exchequer during the past year and had paid many visits to the pawnshop, had had to be helped out by grandfather. They made the greatest fuss of all, and were irrevocably set against the Bible, the arm-chair, and the winter coat. They had grandiose notions (without the wherewithal to realize them), and spoke of decorating the living-room with bunting and spruce, while grandfather was asleep and figured up the costs of a generous supply of raisins and brandy and gin.

Henk was the youngest son. He had recently signed up for service in the East Indies, and though he had long since spent the last of his premium money, it was his idea that the problem of deciding on a present (there were only four days left) should be solved by giving the old man a photograph of the entire family, children and grandchildren all together in one group. That would be a fine thing for everybody—especially for Henk himself, when he was far away in the Indies.

After some discussion, this proposal was accepted, and the next day, which was a Sunday, they all went to the photographer’s and posed. Not one member of the family was absent, and even Toon, Jet’s husband, who had left the hospital the night before with a thick growth of beard, managed to be present. The women—Mary, Truns and Jet—sat on chairs in the center of the group; the men—Dirk, Piet, Henk and Toon—stood behind them, Piet on the extreme left with his year-and- a-half old son, and Henk, in his new uniform, on the extreme right, with Santje, the youngest of Jet’s squalling infants. The other five grandchildren knelt on the floor against their mother’s knees.

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