Getting Rid of Books… and the Stuff You’ll Find…


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I have too many books.

The fact is we have lived in this house for over twenty years, so we need to start shedding and shredding stuff or else our kids will be burdened with all that shit when we keel over.

So I started the big book cleanse today and being a bibliophile, this is an extremely hard job for me to do. Some books are easy to donate, others I put on a pile, so I can sleep on it.

There was one large Dutch book I quickly discarded but then I saw my mother’s handwriting on the cover. The book dealt with Van der Pigge, an old drugstore in Haarlem, which has even been called THE drugstore of the Netherlands because of its uniquenessThere was even a bawdy song about it, i.e. that you could buy anything in this store as in cookies to snack on and little pills to make you poop…

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As it turned out, in 2003, they made a musical about the store and my mother, who started writing and publishing late in life, provided one of the song lyrics.

I went online but couldn’t find anything about it. I was especially interested in my mom’s song which was mentioned in a review of the musical: “There is a moving scene in which a boy and his four sisters come to the store to ask whether it has any mothers for sale, because she has left the family.”

This song received a standing ovation, so I was interested in finding the text. Returning to the book, a program to the musical fell out, and there it was, the full text of my mom’s song. I’ll reproduce it here, so it won’t get lost. I’ll translate it so you can see what it says, but obviously this has to be free verse and it’s not as good as the original.

MOEDERLIED/MOTHER SONG (2003) by Laurine Hollander

Mijnheer, ik wil u graag wat vragen/Sir, I would like to ask you something

Heeft u een moeder voor ons te koop?/Do you have a mother for us, for sale?

Voor mijn werk in de stallen/For my work in the stables

Betaal ik acht stuivers en een knoop/I (can) pay eight nickels and a button.

Ik heb zusjes, ik heet Marinus/I have sisters, my name’s Marinus

En we zijn toch zo alleen/And we’re so very lonesome

Mijn moeder is plotseling vertrokken/My mother suddenly left

En we weten niet waarheen/And we don’t know where she’s gone.

Beste knaap, wat moet ik zeggen/My dear boy what can I say

Je moeder komt misschien weer thuis/Your mother may well come back

Want een moeder voor vier kinderen/Coz a mother for four children

Die heb ik echt niet hier in huis/I don’t have here in the stacks.

Maar Anton, de mensen zeggen/But Anton, people say

Dat hier alles te koop is/That you can buy anything here

Waarom dan geen lieve moeders/Why no sweet mothers then

Want hun moeder die is dood/Because their mother… she is dead.

Geen moeder om ons voor te lezen/No mother to read to us

Of te huilen in haar schoot/Or to cry in her lap and all.

Heeft u dan geen toverstokje/Don’t you have a magic wand

Voor een moeder, kleine of groot/For a mother, big or small?

Marinus, ik kan je echt niet helpen/Marinus, I really can’t help you

Geen moeder en geen toverstaf/No mother and no magic wand

Geen hocus-pocus-pilates-pas/No hocus-pocus-pilatus-pas

Ik wou dat er een moeder was/to conjure up a mother

Wat een potjes om zalf te maken/So many jars to make ointment

Flesjes groot en flesjes klein/Bottles big and small

Zou er tussen al die dingen/Wouldn’t there be among all those things

Voor ons geen lieve moeder zijn?/a sweet mother for us all?

Zoals we pas hebben gelezen/Like we have read recently

Zit een geest soms in een fles/A genie can be inside a bottle, no?

En hier op die houten planken/And here on these wooden shelves

Staan er wel een stuk of zes/There are about six or so.

Anton wil jij ze open maken/Anton, can you open them?

Een voor een dat mag van mij/One by one, that’s okay by me

Geesten worden wel eens mensen/Spirits sometimes turn into people

Misschien is er een moeder bij/Maybe there is a mother there for me.

THE END

The English translation doesn’t do it justice although I tried to make it rhyme a little. My mom was the better poet, clearly.

My mom left us in 2013 but her spirit was inside this book, this book I was ready to toss out with old paper.

I sometimes wish I could conjure her up, like a genie in a bottle, but for me neither, there isn’t a store where I can retrieve her or find a replacement, big or small.

Yet we made contact today, thanks to this book and her writing, and if she hadn’t left something on the cover, I would have missed out on this special moment. For a split second, her genie came out of the book and filled the house with her presence.

Wie schrijft die blijft. 

Or as Benjamin Franklin said: If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing. 

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One Response to Getting Rid of Books… and the Stuff You’ll Find…

  1. Editor BDH says:

    We are faced with the same thing – I cannot part with my books. All the other stuff is well, stuff.

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