Girls of 13, enjoy some!
Visit of her allegator
“The most beautiful birthday ever!” Dunya says when we crawl into bed well after midnight. She enjoyed her 13th birthday, especially since her best friend was there. Her allegator, as they call each other. It's a group of girlfriends from high school. In there are some girls who have become very close together. Some children have known each other since elementary school, others only met at high school camp last year. Dunya didn't know anyone at school when she started, but after school camp, she had a lot of girlfriends. Demi and Dunya have named each other 'allegator' and that creates a special connection.
Water sports centre
Today she turned 13. A party at girls' club last Tuesday and a nice day at home. Her allegator is there. Her Big Sister is also coming by to congratulate her. The buddy project has been running for a year now and Dunya is very attached to Debby. They do fun activities together and every now and then Dunya pours her heart out.
In the morning Demi comes and she dyes Dunya's hair. It's gonna be a hilarious activity. At the beginning of the afternoon they go pedal boats nearby. Ad has a 'water sports centre', but complained a few days ago that it's so quiet.
“There are no more children,” he grumbled, “there are only little ones who do not come canoeing and pedal boats.”
I bumped Dunya: “Maybe you can use Demi pedal boats on your birthday!”
“Yes, that's a good idea!” called Dunya right away.
Ad lived up. “You are always welcome!”
Pedal boats, sun and folk music
My cell rings. “Mama, Ad is not on the boat and not at home! What now?”
“I'll send you his number, he'll cross somewhere around the neighborhood with his scooter or walker. So call him!”
They're not coming back, so I guess they did. Brave, because I didn't expect her to dare. If I take a look later, Ad sits on the bridge on his walker looking over the water. In the distance I see a pedal boat. Unmistakably Dunya, with her new poisonous green jacket and bright red hair. Folk music blasts from the boat and Ad and I sing along. It's the perfect day with sun, music and water. What more do you want?
Role of her father
Suddenly Ad asks, “How long have you been alone?”
“Ten years!” I say without hesitation. “Dunya was almost three when we broke up.”
“Is she still in touch with her father?” he asks.
“He lives in England with his family and occasionally there is an app. Often with empty promises, but she has more or less resigned to them.”
He nods. He knows so many stories from this neighborhood of single parents. I shrug my shoulders lightly. I don't mind being alone. Besides, I'm not alone because I have Dunya. I will give Dunya a father who will be there for her, who will come on her birthday or at least call without my orders. She's been using his last name for a year, even though she's not recognized. Anything that's not official, her father's name is used. I found it difficult at first, but after an open and honest conversation, we understand each other and I'm only proud that she chooses to do that. She wants to seek that recognition herself, officially or not. In this way, her father continues to play a role, although there is little contact. Almost everyone who knows that respects that and so there are parcels and tickets addressed to her new last name. I thought it might blow over at first, but this stays. And that's beautiful!
As soon as her father is in the Netherlands, she pulls him by his hair to the district office, where he has to recognize her. I wonder when that's going to happen, but I really welcome it.
Her new bike has been well received after some hesitation. After two years of saying goodbye to her old bike, Dunya finds it difficult and tears flow as she gets on her new bike. She asks if she can keep her crate, and when the bike maker confirms that, she dries her tears and breaks a radiant smile. It's good we're not doing this on her birthday.
“Can I have a milkshake?” asks Dunya as we cycle through the park past the ice cream parlour.
“I actually thought you'd treat now that you got a brand new bike,” I laugh.
“Do you want a milkshake?” she asks right away.
“I'd rather have an ice cream. A scoop of chocolate ice cream or hazelnut ice cream or something.”
A little later, she comes back with a hazelnut ice cream. “I thought if we're going to live healthier, we're not going to eat chocolate ice cream right away. That's not how it works!”
The pancake boat
In the evening we go to the pancake boat. It only sails an hour instead of an hour and a quarter of an hour, for the same price. Drinks not included. You can eat unlimited pancakes, but you have to eat a lot of food to get two in an hour. If something goes wrong with books, you lose your money, because a concession is not possible.
We are on the most beautiful spot of the boat, at the very back and we have a great view. What luck. I enjoy the fun the girls have together and Dunya's reaction when she's suddenly sung for her by staff. She gets a pancake in the shape of 13 with lots of whipped cream around it and a fire fountain. Dunya was curious if they were going to sing for her again, but when we were eating we forgot and it was a complete surprise.
Large helium balloon
At home, there's a large Hallmark box on the stairs. “He's light. I think there's a balloon in it!” says Dunya. Once upstairs, she opens it up and the big colorful balloon flies out.
“Whose is it now?” I call impatiently.
She reads the card and then looks at me. “You played well, because I really didn't realize you had arranged this!”
“This is really the last gift!” I warn. “Now no more surprises. It's ready. Next year again.”
Missed a lot of baby time
Thirteen years, which is special. What a good year this was. What a lot has happened and many things have turned for the better. Dunya's grown big. Our bond is stronger than ever. “Did you like it better when I was little, or now I'm big?” she asks me, a question of conscience that is hardly answerable. But to take it off with: “It's all fun,” I think it's too simple. A cliché. Although it is true, I think there is more to say about it.
“I missed a lot from your baby time because I was tired and tense, later I got sick. I would have liked to enjoy you more in that freshman year. But I love watching you grow up, talking to you, doing nice things. It's also a relief that you're doing so well now. I am so proud of that, because you have had a hard time!”
We go shopping for a day and come home with lots of new clothes and things. We also had pictures taken, which we are very happy with. According to Dunya, this year was the most beautiful birthday ever, but I remind her of the time she had her birthday at the Heihaas, in Putten. That was a big party back then. All day on the road and everywhere pampered by staff. She can still remember a little bit. “With that monkey show!” She says. I wasn't there because I had to get some cake. A frozenpie. I don't have to get that to my thirteen year old daughter anymore.
Girls of thirteen
This birthday was really a highlight because her 'allegator' was there and because it was simple but cozy. She's happy with her red dyed hair.
“Did you really like the day?” asks Dunya home on the ferry.
“Really, really, really!” I answer. “It was really nice and I'm glad you had such a nice birthday! Don't doubt that. Even if I didn't like it, it was your birthday and it's about you!”
She's sorry it's over now, but she can start counting down until next year. Girls of thirteen do not stand just before the beginning, no dreamy faces, are not unhappy. I don't find the number of Paul van Vliet recognizable. Maybe for myself at the time. I was an unhappy child back then. Dunya doesn't, he giggles, but most of all enjoys life. She looks around, she knows what's going on in the world. She laughs, dances and enjoys, but she also has an eye for the serious aspects, for the news, for history. She stands in the middle of the world and finds her own way in it.