Most morning I would awake to the sound of the pylon drivers at the end of our street. Those were familiar sounds the kind you can easily sleep through. This particular morning was devoid of the usual loud banging which would start at 7 am. I heard voices in the apartment and not my parents voices either. This was highly unusual, people never came calling before 11 am, and those occasions were very few indeed.
There was something very strange about the voices. I tried very hard to listen to what was being said but I could not make it out. I was very unsure that I should come out of my room. Why were there people in my apartment? Why had the pylon drivers not started their banging, and — this was important — why had my mother not come to wake me with my morning kiss and take me to have breakfast?
I tried pulling myself up to the window frame in my room, but it was too high up and I kept falling down. It looked like another rainy day. Between tries at listening through the door and pulling myself up to the window I crawled back into bed, my feet got very cold very fast. I would risk mother getting angry if I cam out before she came to get me, those were the rules. So I waited a little longer, until I could not longer stand it.
There were even more voices once the door was opened, exited voices, new voices. Those were people I did not know. was becoming a little more frightened now. I shuffled my way to the living room. I noticed the coat rack was completely full and there were shoes parked by the apartment’s outer door, shoes that did not belong to either me or my parents. I hesitated to come around the corner, but I did.
There were a lot of people in my apartment, looking out of the large picture window in the living room. There were many teacups on the table. I had not idea we even had that many tea cups. My mom was not in the living room. If there was tea, maybe she was in the kitchen. I was torn, do I look out the window and find what everyone was so terribly interested in or do I go to find mom? Just then I heard her laugh in the kitchen. so she was there, and she was fine. I could assume then, that these people were permitted entry. that left me free to go to the window.
Whatever it was so absorbed everyone that no -one took any notice of me being the. It was gloomy, barely any daylight, the endless horizon streaked across the back of the landscape, dreary, grey. So what was the excitement? I drew nearer the window, we were on the third floor, single family dwelling, just completed a little while ago were across the street and behind them, nothing, just polder, field, some sheep, and cows. When I got to the window I suddenly found the reason for this early morning gathering. This must actually have been going on for a while as I slept. The whole of the polder was flooded our building was all that stuck out above the water line. Dead bloated cows were floating quietly back and forth on the water.
These people were from below. We were fortunate to live above the flood line. Nothing of ours was caught under water. My bed was dry and warm and safe. some of these kids now drinking milky tea in my living room were not at all so fortunate. This is why they were here. I spent most of the rest of the day helping out as much as a four year old can, with bringing tea, toast and cookies to those who had no place to go but the homes of neighbours above the flood line. There was no telephone, we did not have one, and most probably the lines that other neighbours had were not working. so there was exited shouting back and forth down the gallery lane. Strangers flitted in and out all day with snippets of what was going on. Terribly exciting. It took the scary bits out of the day, the scary bits that were floating bloated and dead on the water. By supper time the water had started to recede. The Dutch are very good at dealing with floods on polders. A very industrious few days followed, the cleaning up.
I don’t remember much about the cleanup, after all it was not our apartment getting flooded, that goodness. The occasional neighbour would still drop in, exhausted and telling my mother how it was for them, working their way through soaked belongings. Eventually the pylon drivers started up again first thing in the morning. I still live in apartments, never at ground level, and always on top of a hill. There is nothing so secure living below sea level, even with scuba gear under the bed. Being Dutch there is tremendous respect for the sea, it represents the force of nature which challenges man or drives them off. I can swim, and row a boat, and I am smart enough to live well away from it’s reach.