I liked going to school.
I even looked forward to September 1.
Weird you say? I agree.
However, I went to camp with the Chiro, not transatlantic like now, not even across the border, not in an army tent and with dug sanitary facilities and the lyrical name HUDO.
However, in No. 9, I myself lived in 15, a best friend who did not smell of sawdust and sheets of bone glue and of hot tar with which a coffin was made leak-proof. No.9 did smell of wheat bread and koekelarings and potting and pâté from butcher Lucien in no.1.
The two of us, however, were playing together a lot and were well on our way to a schizophrenic future : alone we were ourselves, once together we were nuns, performing the strangest rituals that should resemble a mass, with consecration and bell ringing, with sermon and collection with the basket. By dinnertime the extreme clerical weather had been put away for a while and the basket was back on the counter with oven-fresh rocks, rochers as Madame Van Poucke called it.
However, I also regularly went to the VP, the holiday patronage, just next door on the playground of Ste.Barbara. Such VP could later serve as a selection test for Kamp Waes or as an entrance exam for the Foreign Legion. There was a whirligig, because that’s what we called it, but before we could swerve in a seat, hung on chains, a couple of slaves had to run into the rig, circles and circles. And when historians claim that real war originated in Troy, others in 1302 on a coulter near Kortrijk, I claim it was on a playground of Ste.Barbara and even under my approving eye. Because we also came home happy from bickering and torture.
Hopefully my words will not find their way to Tinne Van der Straeten or the fairgrounds will have to operate on manpower from now on to save energy.
And yet I loved going back to school. No, those who were waiting for us there were not figures from Ketnet or from the entourage of Uncle Bob and Aunt Terry. Most of them missed that warm, that warm, which should not be confused with “warmly dressed” because they were, the sisters with their many floors and also Miss Margriet with her many fears, including the fear of the cold.
Expensive tests to determine her acidity were not necessary: the drooping corners of her mouth said enough. The wedding boat might have docked a long time ago, but she certainly hadn’t climbed aboard. Was she also a victim of the then prevailing code of conduct that a daughter continued to live at home and later took care of the parents? Was she also a victim of the obligation in Catholic education to give up after 3 months of marriage? Marriage was allowed but after 3 months they had to hand over their children to a virginal successor. The danger that 6-year-olds came home with the pressing question: Why is our teacher always getting fatter? was nonexistent. The bishop, who himself had remained virginally pure, it was said, wanted to avoid Flemish mothers always having to make up new stories. Because she eats too much and too greedily, there was no one-size-fits-all answer, it was enough to cry or even howl. We were still in the war years or immediately after and were happy with a brown sandwich at home and once a peeled orange at school, so as not to create any chances on a black market for oranges with peel.
Miss Margriet had squandered her chances of a marriage and a family and did not miss a moment to demonstrate that. You could never really find her tidy and if the monthly cycle has an effect on a woman’s mood, then years later I can assume that Miss Margaret must have had a cycle of 365 days. Luckily for her, there were still the leap years…
Miss Margriet always wore blue, dark blue. We never got to see a glimpse of pink from a corset. And a bra, you ask. I suspect that Miss Margriet went through life braless, just like manless and humorless, even more so, that the female withholding tax did not tolerate any statements of support.
However, it became really relaxing for us when we had gymnastics. We started by lifting the left leg, not too high because she also showed everything and it had to remain dignified. Pastor was allowed to peek through the keyhole. Only when the left leg touched the wooden floor of the gym again, were we allowed to lift the right leg. At that time Ste.Barbara was not yet insured against circus accidents. There was no television at that time, Goedele Liekens neither, we didn’t talk about excitement and we didn’t see that Miss Margriet suddenly started rocking faster. What we did see, and what we were also waiting for, were those shit-brown stockings and those wide white elastics that showed a tiny bit of daisies flesh, stark white female flesh bleached as if in javel.
A little later, Miss Margriet proved to us how solid she was on the ground with numerator and denominator, with deciliter and decalitre, with Carolingers and Merovingers to give us the basis of mountains of frustration an hour or two later. Or did she view her tips as information? She gave us the golden advice to take a good look under our bed every night before going to bed to make sure no man was stung… A man! Our entire upbringing was full of women, whether or not wrapped in nuns’ clothes or with shit brown stockings and white elastics, what was Tiste van de Zwarten or photographer Theo or Leo van Georgine doing there?
We only realized it much later, but by then it was already too late: we got a modern bed without legs!
And the frustrations, you ask. We have not allowed them in and after our young lives. You have to deal with frustrations sparingly and follow a diet.