It really was a struggle for life and survival of the fittest in my neigbourhood in this city in the North of the Netherlands; the city where the schools had no names but numbers. I was not fully equipped for life over there. You needed to be able to hit hard or run fast. I was very tiny and learned to walk at a late age. So I lacked both qualities. Our family was considered a bit posh: as I remember my father was one of the few to have a job, and my sisters and I were the only children in the street without lice or fleas.
My big sister and I were the only ones who owned a child’s scooter, so we were envied by the rest of the kids. She was my security, but whenever she was gone with friends I was going to get it. If I only had her long legs and could run like she did! She told me she had gone through difficult times herself. The other kids once forced her to eat worms and then informed our mother. That night she got punished by my father. But now they all called her “The Long One” and were a bit afraid of her long arms. She was able to hit without being hit.
So, it happened again. Before I knew it, I got surrounded and they hit me on my hands and back till I let go of my scooter. My hands were completely red and hurt like hell, so I had one option left. Crying I went home. My mother was busy changing a nappy and there was a big tub cooking with sheets so she had no time for my sorrow immediately. When she had the time she came to me where I was sitting. I told her what happened. She walked with me to the front door and opened it. My scooter was laying in the street in front of our house. She just sighed and walked back into the house.
That evening I got a lecture from my father. The next time he saw me crying or heard about it, I would get a sound spanking. After that I was sent to bed. The next day he proved to me this was not a threat but a promise. My bleeding knees were not able to soften him. My sister tried to teach me to get more speed on my scooter the next day. Somehow my legs didn’t want to do what I wanted. But she said that the way I did it now really would help. I wasn’t satisfied and tried to sit down on the board you normally use for one foot. I could sit and put one foot on it. And I tried out a sort of peddling. Somehow I could put more power on and it gave me speed. Big sister watched it shaking her head. It was a ridiculous sight according to her. But it worked for me!
With my hands alongside my head and looking on the street from under the steer I went on. My sister was applauding behind me. But I had to pass these horrible gangs again and I already heard: “Get him!”. But I steered around them and I heard the sound of their clogs behind me. They were losing on me! But there was trouble ahead: the end of the street. I was forbidden to leave it by my parents. Far away I heard my sister shouting: “Go on! Go on!” .
I almost flew round the bend out of the street and felt so free. The attackers were left behind. I knew how I could escape them any time now, just had to take a good look where they were. I could leave the street in both directions.
That night big sister and I heard my parents play music, like they did often. We got out of our beds on the attic and sneaked to the top of the stairs. “You want me to play Slim Whitman again?”, my father said. She answered that some kids had rang the doorbell and had told her that I had left the street. She was worried. He told her that she had to let go now, next year I had to go to school, so I would be leaving the street for sure. And he told her that he solved the problems, that the boy didn’t come in crying for days. “You can’t wipe his nose all the time while having 3 little children and one on the way. I’ll play the record of Joe Peters, I like that one very much!”. Big sister and I listened some more and then sneaked back to bed.