To say my mother was thrifty is an understatement. She gave me away to a passing stranger just so she could save money to pay for her driver’s license and to pay off the mortgage of her house … in that order. If you think a driver’s license doesn’t cost that much, think again. At the time, driving lessons in the Netherlands were expensive, but taking an exam was what would really do you in. If you messed up parallel parking, you failed; no second chances, no ma’am. If you forgot to use the blinker, you failed. If you didn’t look over your shoulder when turning left, you failed.
My mom’s problem wasn’t looking right and left, but that she was cockeyed. You know how mothers maintain they have eyes in the back of their heads? My mom didn’t need to claim such magic. Not unlike a horse, she could see what was happening behind her without turning her head. Perhaps the examiner’s mother caught him one time too often with his hand in the cookie jar, at any rate, he wouldn’t let my mom pass. And each time she failed she had to take ten extra lessons.
After seventeen attempts she was well on her way to sponsor the driving instructor’s new car. At last she let go of her pride, and turned her head to look over her shoulder. The eighteenth time she took the exam, she passed. At the time I was living in Los Angeles, and I received the glorious news, her perfect handwriting slanted calligraphy, on the back of a scalloped 3 x 7 card. This gently used cold cuts’ tray still carried the faint aroma and stain of the thinly sliced smoked beef she liked to buy when the butcher advertised rookvlees as the special of the day.
In return I sent her a card, with an ancient vehicle carrying people in period dress, printed with the text Drive Carefully Because I Care. I know I did, for she kept that card with all the other pieces of mail I sent her over the years; decades worth of correspondence stuffed in an attaché case she bought for me, because the model had gone out of fashion, not because I needed a heavy leather carry-all with combination locks. I in turn kept all of her letters, faint blue airmail sheets, covered the conventional way, from top to bottom, after which she turned the page 180 degrees and continued between the earlier penned sentences. You could say my mother forced me to read between the lines.
This was not the only way she skimped on stationery use, she developed shorthand only the two of us could decipher. By the time she paid off her house, and I permanently left the man who had become more and more a stranger, I made up my mind to end the literary symbiosis. I would write out all words and create fodder readable to others. Still, it took a while before I graduated from taking my notes on envelopes, cardboard coasters and snippets of paper. When Mom —investing in the future— bought me a Commodore 64, I swore that was the beginning of a paperless era. But today I hear her voice in my head: You’ve had your driver’s license for ages, your and your husband’s mortgage won’t ever get paid off, and I noticed you got an email from the Paper Zone that they’re folding, and ink and paper is 70 percent off, so you better stock up.
Originally from the Netherlands Judith makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and pooch. Her background lies in multicultural theater, but in the 1990′s the balance tipped over to studio + literary arts.
In 1999 she published Creative Acts of Healing: after a baby dies. From 2000-2002 she wrote a column about grief for a Dutch Parental magazine and from 2004-2006 she covered Arts & Culture for the International Examiner in Seattle. She remains a regular contributor to the latter. Judith wrote the storybook for three of Luly Yang’s Runway Fashion Shows, and was Ms. Yang’s speech writer.
Since the opening of the Seattle Central Library in 2004, she has presented architectural tours of this landmark designed by her countryman Rem Koolhaas.
Momentarily Judith is working on “The Counterfeit”, a screenplay based on “Forgiveness”, her novel about art, love and redemption in a cold country. Next in line is a memoir about growing up on a nut farm and coming out halfway sane, albeit perhaps a little funny.
You can find her contact information, link to blog and more at DutchessAbroad.com and Google+