Welcome at the blog of Dini Commandeur. I've written quite a lot of columns for various magazines. I also write short stories every now and then. These columns and stories are available for everybody at this blog. I'll release new columns and stories periodically.


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The cradle

The story of my sister-in-law Margreet. Sunday 14 February 2016 The cradle started his career as a cradle in 1938, in a bedroom in a little village called Obdam in West Friesland. Brand new and covered with a nice fabric it was waiting for the baby who was coming soon. That baby was my oldest sister. She lay in the cradle as the first child of our family until she had to make room for the second child, a girl again. I was next, the third daughter. I had to leave the cradle when my brother came and after him came another sister. But this child fell ill and died in the cradle when she was only 9 months old. The little sister, the baby who stayed a baby for ever  in our precious memories. After her another girl was born in our family, then a boy and a girl again. That girl made room for a little brother and he had to make room for a new little sister. As youngest a little boy was born, the last comer of the family.
With each baby, the cradle was newly upholstered by my mother. Naturally the cradle itself never changed, shape and material stayed the same. But with each new baby also came a new fabric.
The cradle was firm and robust. Made of a strong kind of reed with short firm legs. The little ones were safe in the cradle. They could even stand in it, when they were a little bigger, without the cradle turning over. So the babys slept in the cradle until the next brother or sister came to take his or her place. I was one of the eldest and when we were very young it was always a surprise when a new baby came. When another one was born, we were brought to grandmother. She lived three houses away and we stayed there until dad came to pick us up. Then we went in a parade into the elderly bedroom and there was the unexpected surprise:  a new baby. No one ever told us anything. But at a certain moment we knew why we had to go to grandmother.  No one could fool us, we knew what would happen. And each time it was beautiful and special when there was a new baby born.
Except for the two youngest children, we were all born in Obdam. But at a certain moment my parents decided to go live in Haarlem. Naturally the cradle moved with us, it was then used by my second youngest  brother. After him, in that much to narrow upstairs apartment, the youngest two children were born.

My youngest brother, the Benjamin, was born in 1956 and the cradle would be used for another year. Then the cradle moved to the attic, his job was done. When my parents moved to a apartment building, the cradle moved along. Although my mother wanted her grandchildren to lay in the cradle too, that happened not until many years later. Her own children and the eldest daughter–in-law were already provided with a cradle by the time their children were born. But when my mother heard that another daughter-in-law was pregnant, she called immediately to ask if she was interested in the cradle. How nice it would be when another little Commandeur would be lying in the cradle? My brother and sister-in-law agreed. And in the fall of 1975 there lay another boy in the cradle. In agreement with the young parents, my mother covered the cradle with a nice fresh fabric, white and green. When my nephew became too big for it, the cradle moved to us. We lived at a farm then. So we had a lot of room and the children used the cradle for their puppets and cuddly toys.

Then there was a fire at our farm. Not everything, but we lost a lot of our things. But no one was harmed and our family was in good health and that was the most important. Although my sister-in-law agreed to that, she regretted the loss of the cradle. After all, her son had layed in the cradle too, the family-cradle. It was a shame that the cradle, which was so important for the family for so many years, had been burned now. She was surprised and happy when I told her that the cradle didn’t get lost. A pregnant acquaintance saw the cradle some time before the fire and she liked the cradle so much that she asked if she could borrow it. Of course she could. And so the cradle had escaped from the fired and again a child had layed in it. It was a miracle, my sister-in-law thought. And so it was. The cradle was safe and preserved. Although… that’s what we thought. But we would be disappointed.

When I later asked the acquaintance if she would bring back the cradle, after all it was a family piece, it seems that she lent it out to a friend of hers. Without consulting me. And that friend also lent it out to yet another friend or maybe even sold it. We were upset, who would do something like that? I told my acquaintance that she had to bring back the cradle. The acquaintance did her utmost, but she wasn’t successful. The cradle had disappeared without a trace.

Until one day she walked past a flower shop in town and to her astonishment and surprise she saw the cradle standing there. The cradle had made a career switch. It didn’t function any longer as a warm nest for babys or cuddly toys , but it was degraded to display material in this flower shop. The acquaintance stepped into the flower shop and asked the owner who she bought the cradle from, but the lady didn’t want to tell her that. And she didn’t want to sell the cradle to my acquaintance either, but later she changed her mind. And so the cradle returned to the family.

Time went by and there were a couple of moves. The cradle moved along and went to my youngest sister in Haarlem at a certain moment. It wasn’t used as a cradle, but again it was a residence for puppets and cuddly toys. It was a tough live for the cradle. During its stay in the flower shop it had been  probably moisted regularly and that wasn’t good for the reed. It was old and weakened. Eventually a lively family with regularly young children around and a couple of cats with sharp nails too, wasn’t a good surrounding for the cradle. And so it moved again, to another sister. This sister lives in the flat where my parents have lived for years. So you could say it was back home. After all, it went along when moving from the upstairs apartment to this flat with my parents and the youngest children. And there it stayed until my brother and sister-in-law in Friesland expected their first child.

Now, after all these years and adventures, it was back in the flat in Haarlem. There it hasit’s  place of honour in the room and again it’s full with puppets and cuddly toys. But the ever so firm and robust cradle was damaged by moist and age and the reed was getting lose more and more. And it couldn’t be repaired or fixed. The cradle was literally decomposing. And so, after 70 years of babys, moves, puppets and cuddly toys, there came an end to the existence of our cradle.


The story of Margreet has been written by Dini in November 2015. Margreet has read the story of the cradle out loud at the 7th of December 2015 in the “club” in Opeinde.

Translation: Astrid Kostelijk and Piet Commandeur

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