Walking home the other day I happened to look up, as I am wont to do, and realized that they were back.
I saw what has now become an annual sight, worthy of mention: the graduation backpacks are up the flagpoles again.
It’s a longstanding Dutch tradition that when you finish your high school exams, up goes your backpack on the flagpole.
Seems we had quite a bumper crop of graduates this year as I counted (and photographed) four backpacks aflying.
In sharing this particular event, I’ve decided to also share a bit about mijn straat.
Everybody sing along:
This little straat of mine…I’m going to let it shine.
It’s actually rather easy to cast your eyes upward in our neighborhood as the architecture encourages you to do so. Three story, attached brick ritjeshuizen line both sides of our block-long street, a micro-neighborhood within a larger area.
The houses rise tall, slender and proud, like the Dutch they represent.
Trees line the quiet street, full and lush and in bloom.
The sidewalks are fairly wide (at least by Dutch standards), and each ritjeshuis has a tiny, fenced in entry area, transitioning from the public area of the street to the privacy of one’s home and castle.
These spaces are handy for storing bikes or hiding trash bins, and often serve these purposes.
Yet being avid gardeners – and the Dutch truly are – most of these mini-courtyards are well landscaped and used as an extension of the occupants’ living space.
In essence, they function as open air sitting rooms, especially when the front French doors of the ritjeshuizen are thrown open for sunlight and fresh air.
All manner of small trees, plants and flowers decorate the entries.
Some especially talented Green Thumbs are able to coax vines to snake their way skyward up the brick facades.
The end result is that from mid-spring to early autumn, street level is transformed into a parklike setting with verdant greenery and fragrant blossoms.
Bicycles are parked along the fences, children play with chalk on the sidewalks and voetbal in the street.
Elderly residents sit outside to capture the warmth of the brilliant sunshine.
Our neighbor’s kindly black labrador Sig patrols up and down, keeping a watchful eye.
Needless to say that it’s a lovely little street. And home.
Yet this summer there is an added air of special celebration.
As the white banner proudly proclaims, this is the centennial year for our little Ten Hovestraat.
The party is scheduled for Saturday, and we are sorely disappointed to be missing what will be a festive street party with music, games, food, firecrackers and good cheer among neighbors.
I highly recommend looking up every now and then: it gives you a new perspective, and you never know quite what you’ll encounter.