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  Rick van der Made (15)

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Dear Willem-Alexander, Congratulations on your fifty-second birthday! You are only one year older than I am, and if you had repeated a class, we perhaps would have ended up in the same one.

Apr 2019       
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During a spring long in the past now, my mother was on her deathbed. One evening, I asked her if she was afraid to die. “No,” she replied, “I am going to see Hetty and God.” God was God, and Hetty was her twin sister and my godmother. Hetty had died a few years earlier.

Mar 2019       
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Since last month, I live in Hooge Zwaluwe in the Dutch province of Brabant again. It is February, and almost time for the traditional carnival. The last time I celebrated it was four year ago with my friend Wouter. He left Amsterdam in his rabbit suit and me in my sailor outfit, going to Breda with public transport. We were very popular. I told him about the old days, about how I used to celebrate carnival in my home town Breda, the city where I now live close by again.

Feb 2019       
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“Just act normal,” my mother told me when I was imitating the Dutch 1980s girl band the Dolly Dots with my two sisters and the girl next door, or when my brother and I were washing our doll clothes and hanging them on the clothesline to dry.

Feb 2019       
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“Each New Year’s Day is like a new, hopeful beginning,” my father said every January 1st, while scattering some icing sugar on top of his “oliebollen” (a kind of doughnut ball that is typically served around New Year’s in the Netherlands). My father then changed for our visitors, and poured himself a drink.

Dec 2018       
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When you are reading this, it is almost December 5, or that day has just past. In the Netherlands, we celebrate the children’s party Sinterklaas on that day. Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) is the prematurely born brother of Santa Claus. Originally, Sinterklaas is from Turkey. Long and long ago, however, they did not know where that country was exactly. For convenience sake, the children were told he arrived on his boat from Spain, bearing gifts and accompanied by his assistant Black Pete.

Dec 2018       
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When you are reading this, you may just be getting your pumpkins ready, trying on your troll costume, or hanging up fake spider’s webs for Halloween. It’s that time of the year again. Even though I love dress-up parties, strangely enough Halloween was never really my thing. I did not grow up with it.

Nov 2018       
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Summer has now slipped into autumn, and the cultural season has begun. Each year, the “Uitmarkt” in Amsterdam is an extremely busy event I usually attend. This year, I went with my sister.

Oct 2018       
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Before I met my present partner, I hadn’t bothered to attend the Amsterdam Pride Canal Parade for some years. I’m not very tall, and the past few years the canals were dominated by tall inebriated straight women in pink hats and trendy high heels, who responded with irritated looks when I politely asked if I might move to the front so I could catch a glimpse of the parade.

Aug 2018       
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I am running a cosy hotel with my best female friend Pascale in the centre of the “country’s most beautiful city,” as singer Wim Sonneveld once described Amsterdam. It has its advantages. Although our hotel is not “Fawlty Towers,” every day something new happens.

Jul 2018       
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I turned fifty this month. On the morning of my birthday, I looked at myself in the mirror, saw some new crow’s feet around my eyes, and grabbed the framed family photograph that was made when my father turned fifty (in 1985) to compare myself to him.

Jul 2018       
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Last April it was fifteen years ago my father died at the age of sixty-eight. My father loved reading and my mother, a former nun. He also loved his children, which manifested itself mainly in the chores he did for them. Less in showing physical affection.

May 2018       
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May to me is a special month. It was one year ago in this spring month that I entered into a relationship with my Syrian-Armenian friend. This year for the very first time, we stood hand in hand at the Remembrance of the Dead in Amsterdam. A day later, we celebrated freedom together.

May 2018       
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The municipal elections are just behind us. In my municipality, Zaanstad, sixteen parties participated for thirty-nine council seats. It was very difficult to make an informed choice. Not only am I confused, I am also split.

Apr 2018       
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I saw #ikbenhetzat (I’ve had enough) on the social media profiles of gay friends after a twenty-four-year-old gay man was beaten and robbed in Amsterdam.

Mar 2018       
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