Oliebollen and Books

This was my recent contribution to the More Than Writers Blog.

Memories. The end of a year lends itself to reminisce, to look back. As I’m getting older I find myself doing what my mum used to do: start a lot of conversations with, “When I was little, we used to…”

It used to annoy me no end, as a lot of those memories were brought up to point out how spoilt we as kids were. Now I find myself looking back a lot more, usually with great fondness.

Maybe it’s because as adults we are more aware of changing times, of losses, of time slipping away from us. This year I lost my wonderful father in law, and just recently my spiritual father went to be with Christ as well, which I know is far better, but the grief is heavy to bear.

The memories are there, and filled with sweet feelings. End of the year in the Netherlands meant books (school gives you a book, so does church. You could pick whichever one you wanted off a list. I went purely by page numbers. Make the gift last as long as possible!). It also meant oliebollen, dough balls cooked in extremely hot oil, making the house smell for days.
he last few days of the year were spent curled up on the sofa, a cuckoo clock ticking away in the background, smell of oliebollen everywhere…and my own brand-new books. What more could a girl want? What a way to end the year!

All the changes, the farewells and the losses make me want to retreat into a book. The dark, wet weather doesn’t help either. Now I get to take my children with me, and I was thrilled to find a book where I could start the conversation with, “When I was little, Opa read this book to me, and…” I was so pleased to have my children begging for one more chapter. Even my middle two who are not too keen on sitting still happily colour and listen. (Anathema in my Teaching Training college). I was pleased because that was my memory of the book, too.

So as I’m reading this book to them, with more cliff-hangers than you would think possible, my kids drink in the words. Some of it sounds ‘translated’ if you know what I mean. The problem with translating a book is that you often end up using a dictionary a lot, so some words are new to me and the children. I remember a lot of the Dutch sentences and expressions. Even the dog’s name sounds funny in English.

What made all my children sit up with happy faces was the point where the young boy prays. He prays for rescue and protection, and my children were so happy! They know not everyone prays, or believes in God. To read about ‘one of them’, a boy their age, asking God to help him, made them identify even more with the main character. It was done in such a natural way too, it was simply the boy’s way of life, his first instinct when trouble arrived. Never mind the Dutch-isms in the book, unknown words, different experiences. He was one of them, and they were thrilled.

It reminded me how books can help us, shape us and teach us. Some books are never forgotten, and eating oliebollen in the Netherlands a week or so ago brought back memories. Books I had as a child, quiet Christmas times without the presents or trees, but with church services and family. Books about children who also went to church, who also prayed, who were like us, learning to trust God.

The year is almost gone, so are some very dear friends as well as family members. The memories are still here though and God is still in control. I’m still learning how to trust Him in the every day type of stuff, and there are still books to help me. There are new end-of-year traditions (no way will I bake oliebollen…!), but God-honouring books are still a part of it all.

Anyone got any special end of year memories or traditions? I’m tempted by the Icelandic Christmas Eve one of reading books all night while eating chocolate…

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