“You could be a captain on a ship” & other notes from my mom on FaceTime

This is from a FaceTime call with my mom, 25 March 2019 at 21:06 to 21:45-ish. Of course I could not document the entire “conversation.” But I let it flow and I typed what I could. And we both had fun the whole time. She rang me just as I was about to go to sleep and I answered on my laptop. After chit-chatting about vacation plans, I started this line of conversation by saying “So how did Oma and Opa meet, again?” She answered…


“…they knew that family. They knew my father’s family from connections with other families. My father was from the north of Holland. And he had a sister who lived in Baren. 20 years older, the sister. Tante Corte, one of my favourite aunts. And he would come there to study and do exams. And they had a connection. And they said to vader,  ‘ask for Dina.’ And that’s how they got together, via my aunt Corte. So that is how my mother and father met, in Baren. And obviously they liked each other, then he disappeared back to Appingedam, to teach. And in the summers he came back to Baren, to up his game. But he would help out around the farm. And they teased him, my mother’s family, they said you’re not a farmer, look at your hands, you’re a pen-pusher. But they admired him. Ub, they called him. Go and see Ub. He helped with the accounting and helped them sort things out. He was always calm and he knew a lot. You could talk with him about the universe. And about my dream — to become the captain of a ship — he said, the reality is females don’t do that here yet. Maybe in Sweden. But I felt upset and that it wasn’t fair that women couldn’t be captains in Holland.

“He said, I totally understand it, your urge to do art. But to go to art school, you need a lot of money. We don’t have that. But how about you first get your teacher’s certificate. And then after that, when you are making money, you can do art school. So I went with that. And then I didn’t go to art school after that. Because there were a lot of things happening. I loved getting my degrees. I wanted to have that. Why not art school instead of teaching? Well, again. Art school was separate. They had just started the Emily Carr school of fine arts. But these art schools were more expensive. But you could do it free if your marks were high. I got a Bachelor of Education. B.Ed. And then languages were my forte. I did art on the side. I have no regrets. I started at UBC and then I transferred to SFU, because it was closer by. I had you kids. I could take a bus to the campus. I met a lot international people. But I graduated from UBC. It was a lot of buses to UBC. Because I didn’t have my own car. We first lived on 8th Avenue, closer to UBC. And you had to graduate from the university you started at, something like that. I don’t remember exactly.

“I loved archeology. I took a class in it. We did a dig, out in Delta. I would have loved to be an archeologist. I could see myself doing the tombs in Egypt. Where the big finds are. But anyway, I am who I am. Happy to be still kicking around. We could go to an old site together. Do a dig. Wouldn’t that be nice.

“Aren’t you so professional sitting there typing. I don’t have that skill, the skill of typing. You must make a lot of money at that.”

[My shoulders shake with laugher, joggling the wire of my headphones.] “I don’t make any money at this,” I tell her. 

“That will come!” She says. “You could be a captain on a ship. You can be a high-wire whatever-installer, up in the sky.  You could be anything. But you’re a mother. Four children. That’s also nice!

“…anyway, I feel I’m still growing. I mean, not another foot taller. I’m shrinking [peals of laughter as she sees my shoulders shaking again] but my brain… [peals of laughter]

“…and then lo and behold, I found, the key, to make it function again. The password for my computer. Well I’m very happy then. I’m very happy, I don’t praise myself to the hilt. But I’m very happy about that. And the rest is just, well, how long do we have till we die? Well, it’s just another experience. I don’t know how it will be. Sometimes, for the people left behind, it’s a relief. The old bat is gone, let’s celebrate. [Chortles as she sees my shoulders shaking, tears of hilarity running down my cheeks as I type.] But there are ashes to be spread. But we can talk about that some other time.

“What about Willem, he’s getting his motor license isn’t he? Motor-what’s-it-called, motorfiets, motorbike? We could go do an archeological dig together. We could go on an adventure. We could take a compass, a sketchbook, a bottle of water. What are we looking for? Old balls, bits of pottery, things left behind. Garbage is of course very useful for archeologists [peals of laughter]. Even if it’s just the tiniest little bones, maybe there’s gristle on it. Maybe the heel of a deer. You can cook it over a fire. Much of it is not interesting. What about the pots. Pots are useful to archeologists. Then we could make drawings. That is how you do it. You draw what you find. Can you dig it? I’m hoping you can draw on this in some way. Get what I’m saying? It’s like an archeological dig.

“I admire the way you type,” says my mother. “I can’t type that fast. Leni was a leftie, forced to write with her right hand. Then she developed a very interesting printing, slightly back-slanted.”

“You could learn,” I say. “Free online. Here, I’m sending you the link. Typingtest.com. Or, you could write longhand.”

“I feel intellectually satisfied by this conversation,” says my mother.

I am still silent-laughing, as she watches me type, on FaceTime. Where I am, it is dark; where she is, it is bright. Her name means light. She talks, I type, it is the perfect conversation. “I’ll post it on my blog,” I tell her, still in tears with hilarity.


Both of us are satisfied. I go to bed, and she goes shopping, or to play music.


P.s. Photo courtesy of my mom’s scrapbook — this is the crew my mom and dad sailed with in Australia, c. 1966 or ’68 — with a female captain, one of the first back then; her name was Annie B. She was a 22-year-old journalist and also was one of the first to challenge the gender-segregating in Australian bars (link leads to Wikipedia)


Nadine inhales & exhales words & images from current vantage point in Zone of Emptiness, France. If you wish to contribute and/or show appreciation, please recommend/like and/or comment. Thank you for reading. ❤︎


12 thoughts on ““You could be a captain on a ship” & other notes from my mom on FaceTime

  1. I do not buy that thing about male being captain of the ship. I am a male and for a long time, I did not feel being the captain of my writing ship. Maybe I did not need to as my writing ship was nothing but a rowing boat with about 500 strokes of the oars a day (words/day). For a long time, I have been longing for connecting to that captain inside. This weekend I got that connection. Or at least a contact with contact to. I attended a weekend writing course and learned how to create main characters and a skeleton or synopsis for a story. Finally, I am on the move again. Puh!

    Liked by 1 person

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