Southbound train from Centraal, 8ish AM
"How do you wrap something up like this?," I thought to myself in my bleary caffienated state. "Okay, so I've got tape and paper handy, no scissors somehow, but it's such an awkward shape, and the books, what do I do with them?"
By Schipol (first stop), I had gotten it all on to the paper, but it took me until about Roosendaal, indeed half the bloody journey, to get it all up and around....I ended up using the whole roll, but it was well worth it. It was a huge one of those soft toy jangly things that you hang up in a cot, plus half a dozen carefully selected Mr Men books, and I got it all in there somehow. It was my present to Simone, newborn daughter of my dear friend B and her new husband M, the first child of any one of my friends that I have ever known.
Goes is about two hours into the south-west corner of the Netherlands, closer to Antwerp, in fact it's on a "three-quarters island" with all the dykes and stuff...Lucky thought it out of the way, and it probably was for a country the size of Tasmania!
I embraced B as she charged in the railway station foyer - she hadn't changed a bit. Out the other side of the station, I was intrigued to meet her new husband, a Dutch sailor that she had met shortly after our two months together on the ship. We had all lived in such close quarters that I figured I'd recognise him, and as soon we shook hands, we almost said at the same time, "Yeah, I know you"!
We drove back to their tiny cottage by the canal and had a great afternoon, catching up on a whole year, and I finally got to meet little Simone, a whole one month old, such a placid little baby. Mum and Dad were okay with me not only holding but feeding her - a strangely electric experience...I never knew how long it took to feed babies - I was there for at least half an hour!
B and I spent two months together working contracts on a cruise ship in the Netherlands, and I have to say that my time on that ship changed some opinions I had about Americans. One thing that I especially learnt about them is how much fun they like to have, and their incredibly infectious enthusiasm. If they decide to party and you happen to be around, then it's fasten your seatbelts! This was definitely the case with the ones I met and hung with - Big Bass Drum (see links) and his gorgeous family were that way, and B was the queen of that.
In this spirit of gusto, we all jumped in the car shortly afterwards, speeding off to a nearby village (totally Legoland!) where we took a place on some street and watched the local carnival parade. A town of no more than a thousand, and there was this huge parade, featuring floats that had taken months to build....a house-sized race car crawls noisily by, follwed by a giant rotating Elvis head two storeys high, complete with army of impersonators....and the highlight? This big stoner hut on the back of a truck, complete with three-metre long joint pouring smoke! With little kids running around in hippie costumes! Wicked! B and I couldn't believe it, with Simone in the kinderwagon and M looking on calmly from the side of the street - a yearly occurence he's obviously grown up with. Got the full driving tour around the local area, did some shopping...a great afternooon melting into a lovely evening back at the house.
Seeing these two great people and their newborn, I couldn't help but let it all put my own bachelor life into perspective....cooking food for ME, earning money for ME, buying clothes for ME, getting up on the weekend whenever I want to, doing whatever I please whenever I please it. It's a charmed life I know, but spending time with this beautiful young family got me thinking about a few things.
B tells me that at the moment, you take a little longer to leave the house, you got to think ahead in a couple of different ways, and other than that it's the same...they're still the same people, plus the fact that they have each other and this amazing little life growing daily before their very eyes. Concerns for the future? Probably - who doesn't? - but they have each other, and will face these concerns together.
Quite a perspective....