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By Louise Laurence-Israëls

I just put my suitcase on my bed. I am so excited because I am going for three weeks to stay with my best friend, Selma. Mama has made some beautiful new clothes for me—skirts and blouses. I think I have everything ready to pack. I wish that I had some sandals this year; I only have brown shoes with shoelaces. Maybe we can find sandals next year. Since the war they have not been in the shoe stores, and even shoes are still rationed.

Some of my classmates walk around with shoes with the toes cut out. Their shoes had become too small, but their parents did not have a ration coupon for shoes for that month, or maybe used it for a brother or sister.

I look at my suitcase; I am using it for the first time. It was a birthday present from my grandparents. It is made from strong cloths in a Scottish plaid called “Black Watch.” I am wondering if I can fill the whole suitcase. Next to my clothes lie my flute and a book with sheet music. I have had flute lessons for one year and love them. Selma told me to bring my flute; she and her husband will have a surprise for me. Everything fits nicely. Mama comes into my room to inspect my work, and she tells me that I am doing a good job. This is the first year that Papa will take me by car. It is 1950. Last year Papa and I took the train and a bus—it took almost half a day. This year it will take about two hours to reach Selma’s house; the roads are getting better. I kiss Mama and say goodbye to my brother and sister.

When we arrive at Selma’s house, the table is set for lunch. One of Selma’s special dishes for lunch is crispy fried potatoes. She always makes too many boiled potatoes for dinners, so we eat the leftovers for lunch and they are delicious. Papa leaves after lunch, and he says that he looks forward to picking me up in three weeks.

Selma takes me with my suitcase to my little room. We unpack, put everything on a bookshelf, and put the suitcase under my bed. Selma sees my flute, but she does not say anything, and I am too shy to ask about the surprise.

We go shopping for our evening meal; I can choose what kind of vegetable I would like that day. My choice is lettuce; I love salads. When we get home we start preparing the meal. Selma always lets me help and I feel very grown up.

Selma’s husband comes home from work at six o’clock; he seems happy to see me. Soon after, we sit down for dinner. Dessert is a treat—strawberries with custard.

After we clean up, Selma tells me to get my flute and the sheet music of the pieces that I can play. We go to the study. I’ve only gone in there when invited, and there is a piano. Selma sits on the piano stool and puts up my music and plays some of it. Then she calls her husband, who comes in with his violin. I am so surprised—I had no idea that Selma played the piano and her husband the violin. They select a piece by Bach, St. Matthew’s Passion, and Selma asks me to play it for them. After I finish, they repeat it and then the three of us play it together. We repeat it a few times and it sounds really good. This is the best surprise.

The next morning I ask Selma when she started playing the piano. She answers that she started taking lessons about a year after the war ended. She needed something to concentrate on to not always think about her lost family. She plays and practices many hours each day. Her husband had not played the violin since his youth, and even though one of his arms is semi-paralyzed, he started playing again, and they enjoy making music together. The three of us play many evenings during my stay, and my vacation is very special because of it.

When we do not play or practice, we shop for food, make meals, and have many talks. The three weeks pass by so quickly, and there is Papa again to take me home. When she says goodbye, Selma tells me that she is looking forward to my visit next year, as am I.

©2015, Louise Lawrence-Israëls. The text, images, and audio and video clips on this website are available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.