(In early 1943, the German occupying forces tightened restrictions on telephone traffic. Travel by train was dangerous due to attacks by Allied warplanes, so my grandparents and aunt began writing letters to my mother, who was then 20 and working as a trainee nurse at a psychiatric institution for women and girls, located out in the countryside about 100 kilometres from home in Amsterdam. After my mother's death, I read the 25 letters she had kept for the first time. My grandmother died in 1947, so these letters are my only connection with her.)
Amsterdam, 16 April 1943
What a lovely letter! Keep this up, daughter dear, and you will not disgrace this mother’s pride in her children. You’re learning to adapt to all sorts of situations, which makes you a person with two right hands, bringing to fruition that which languished in your blessed being. I hope and pray you will return from Oldebroek as someone who can bear responsibility fully, because whether you choose to become a nurse or whatever else, you should always be it for 100%. The little things, in particular, demand the most attention. Life consists of little chances and causes, after all. One should also learn how not to do things. This principle has left its mark on my life, particularly in my attitude towards fellow humans. We must (and should desire to!) keep learning our whole life long, otherwise we will end up a failure.
How wonderful that you are braving the challenges of the kitchen and field, but of course you sometimes feel down and lonely. At such times, you may seek solace in the assurance of the warm love of your family. The shining star of your own dear home is always visible, even in the darkness of your loneliest hour.
At one point in my life, dear child, love made me choose an arduous and lonely road. No one will ever understand how abandoned I felt and how all things clashed with my innermost being (or perhaps it was my own character clashing with whatever I encountered). I often wondered whether I was right to leave my dear, little mother and the delightful warmth of the parental nest, only to clash with the world beyond, but those dark days compelled me to fortify my character with steel, so that I could later stand proud in facing life’s trials and tribulations in the place that God had assigned to me.
So you see, my dear, God lets all things work out for the best, if we simply entrust our humble frailty to Him. Never forget this first and foremost, child, because we cannot benefit from anything gained or won in this brief life if our soul suffers damage. First seek the Kingdom of God and His divine justice, and all other things will be thrust upon you, as matters of negligible concern.
Had I intended to write all this? No I hadn’t, but it flows from my pen, so I must accept to as a reflection of that which has grown within me, fed by life experience. Why then would I not convey it to those I love most upon this earth? Perhaps in this way I can, from a distance, make some small contribution to your happiness and encouragement.
Moving on. We expect you’ll be home for Tiny’s birthday. I’ve already arranged this with Matron Boerema. It would be wonderful if you could stay until evening on Easter Monday. Charry is fortuitously also on leave at Easter. She too longs to see you. By then it will have been seven weeks since you were last here. Such long time for my youngest chick.
Dear child, I’m sure you’re revelling in nature’s reawakening there. Isn’t spring exhilarating? I too would love to enjoy it to the full, but there are too many drawbacks, because I cannot travel there and back in one day, even if you were to fetch me at the station with an extra bicycle.
And now I must end off, because breakfast awaits. Goodbye, dear! Write soon to let us know when exactly you’ll be here. That will give me something to look forward to. Do whatever you can to bring some eggs and butter. We ate dry bread all week! No butter to be had. And no Sunday pastry either, but we did have a treat: cake with some lard and margarine and drops of salad oil. Invented by Papa, the miracle worker.
Much love from us all and from your own Mama!
(The miracle worker orders rabbit)
Here’s a scribble from your dad! Nothing much. Just wishing you all my love and a (paper) kiss. Bye sweetheart. See you soon. Your dad.
PS: If you manage to catch a rabbit (never mind the price), the creature would be warmly welcomed (+ butter + eggs + our own little lamb). Matron Boerema will lend you the money.