|Louise Maria Roos at 5 months.|
My father said I was born with my eyes wide open, and that I kept them open the rest of the afternoon, "looking at everything."
My mother said I would not nurse, so they fed me with a silver spoon.
Perhaps they exaggerated. I was their first child and what must have seemed like the brightest star in the sky at the time.
Did they even own a silver spoon? Or did she mean a silver-colored spoon? A metal spoon with a silver hue?
I used to like the idea of an opulent beginning with that sterling silver spoon in my mouth. Then I thought of my parents: an earnest electrician from Utrecht and his wholesome peasant bride from Breukelen.
They wanted me. The two of them were so excited, they put up a bassinet with lace curtains months before I was born. My father bought a Teddy bear.
I was born at home in my parents' bed after twenty-four hours of labor. It was September 11, 1942, a Friday afternoon, 3:15pm. Home was a two-story brick townhouse at 21 Bernard de Waalstraat, Zuilen, Utrecht, the Netherlands. I weighed about seven and a half pounds.
American friends used to ask me, "Why were you born in the Netherlands?" as if my parents had wandered off the North American grid aimlessly and had their baby mistakenly in a foreign country. Were they on vacation? Were they in the diplomatic corps? Was your father working there for an American company?
No, they were born-and-bred Dutch, and they came from a long line of more born-and bred-Dutch ancestors. People with names like deWith, Copier, Bijleveld, Verkerk, Giese and Van Rinsum.
I am one-hundred per-cent Dutch.
I was named after my father, Louis (pronounced like the French Louie) and my mother's sister, Marie, who was known as Riet, for short. Tante Riet.
More than two years before I was born, the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. I was born in a war zone.