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March 21 always is and will be a beautiful day. Spring has begun, the tulips and wild hyacinths in the garden are about to come out, and it is Mama Leny’s birthday. This year, she turned eighty-nine.

by Rick van der Made - 14 April 2020

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It's spring!

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Mama Leny is the mother of my university friend Anne-Lise, whom I met thirty-three years ago when we both started reading French. We remain the best of friends. When you know each other for that long, it is almost impossible that you not become good friends with their parents, as is true for Mama Leny.

Mama Leny and her late husband Ton’s family always resembled ours a bit. From Brabant, Burgundian, cordial, Catholic and tolerant. As was the case with my own mother, something soon was designated “gezellig” (Dutch word for “cosy” or “inviting” used for almost any situation).

“That vase is looking ‘gezellig.’” “Oh, ‘gezellig,’ apple pie. “Dropping by, son? ‘Gezellig!’”

Leny and Ton then lived in Valkenswaard. As with my father’s family - who also lived in villages for the most part - during puberty and early adolescence it always amazed me how my homosexuality was considered not much of a problem as far as my various family members were concerned. No one seemed upset. No one showed us the door. No one took offence. No one who thought that the grapevine and possibly social wonder (or perhaps disgust) were more important than love.

In 1987, Anne-Lise and I went to live in the same student house, and in the spring of that same year, Mama Leny and Tony invited me and my boyfriend Godard to come and stay in Valkenswaard for the weekend. We were of course happy to do so.

Anne-Lise and Rick in 1986 and in 2016
With mama Leny, Tony, Anne-Lise, and Godard, I was enjoying my first cup of coffee with a “Bossche Bol” (typical pastry from Den Bosch) when the doorbell rang and Mrs. Vermeulen from a few houses down the street just dropped by for no apparent reason but cosiness. Before I could introduce myself to Mrs. Vermeulen, I first had to rid my face of the inevitable cream and chocolate stains from my Bossche Bol with a napkin.

After Mrs. Vermeulen’s departure, Mama Lenny and Anne-Lise started to chuckle and told us that the lady could no longer control her curiosity and wanted to check out the two exotic gay men in Leny and Ton’s home for herself. We all had a good laugh about it.

It is 2020 now. My parents and Tony passed on a long time ago; the three children of Anne-Lise are - just like the children of my sister - grown up now. About a year ago, Mama Leny had to say goodbye to her home in Valkenswaard after some physical discomfort, and was going to stay in a nursing home a little further away. Mama Leny has become a beautiful and brave old lady who still faces life every day with her head held high. She still finds more than enough pleasure in each and every day.

How did Mrs. Vermeulen fare, you wonder?

It has been about five years since Anne-Lise told me that two of her grandsons have come out of the closet without too many problems.

I wish Mama Leny a nice, healthy and above all “gezellig” eighty-ninth year on earth, and you, dear reader, a lovely spring.




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