Pakjesavond. 11:47pm. Friesland.
As I was handed the mysterious and brightly wrapped Sinterklaas gift I knew something was up. The giggling and sniggers my family-in-law were unsuccessfully trying to contain were a dead giveaway. I opened the poem (which as it turned out was not a poem) attached to the gift and started to read it aloud as is the custom.
“Hello everybody. My name is Stuart.”
I instantly felt nervous. It is never a good sign when you are being forced to address a group of people on behalf of yourself without actually knowing what it is you are about to say, especially on Pakjesavond.
“When I was a young boy I went to the scouts in London. They taught me over there how to survive, making campfires and a lot of other funny things. That all might help me in the rest of my life they told me. So after that I knew that there is some basic stuff you always have to carry with you to let it be easier to survive.”
I read it word for word (including Dutch-isms), only adding the occasional “oh no” and “where is this going?” of my own.
“So now it was time for me to prove my skills to the rest of the world, I packed my trousers, shorts, socks, flashlight and a toothbrush and some other stuff and I moved to Holland. I didn’t forgot anything.”
“Till this far everything was going very well…”
Till this far the story had not been as embarrassing as I had initially feared but I knew that with a line like “till this far” that was soon to change.
“I know that when people are getting older they start forget things, it’s just the way of nature. .. but what can happen me… I’m a scout and I know how to use nature in my advantage. So probably that rule will not be written for me…”
“And then it all started to go wrong….”
I paused. “Then it all started to go wrong,” is the only sentence worse than, “till this far.”
“In the last years something happen to me, I started to forgot a lot of things, I forgot to get out the train on the right station, my toothbrush when I went to my family-in-law…. and that happened more than once….Also my pyjama l left at home… socks… and a lot of other things l didn’t tell them.”
It is true. I regularly forget to pack toothbrushes and other such things whenever we visit my family-in-law. In fact it has happened so often that I had decided it was best to stop telling them about it after the Pakjesavond when I received a life time supply of toothbrushes. In fact, the last time I had forgotten my toothbrush I decided to brushed my teeth with my finger instead and told no one but my wife… she had obviously betrayed me.
“I think it all started when I met my wife Simone, she took a place in my brains and my mind and my skills learned by the scouts where moved to the background.”
No use trying to sweet talk her out of it now. I know she told you all about the finger-brushing.
“Her family already tried to help me a few years ago with a lot of toothbrushes…”
The for mentioned incident.
“…but please Sinterklaas… Could you help me this year!!”
“Well Stuart, I already noticed your problem and send out my scout-Piet and let him made a present to solve all your problems… but remember it will be the last time that Sinterklaas will help you… otherwise next year you go into the bag with us to Spain.”
I still didn’t really know what to expect as I finished reading. I just hoped it was not another life time supply of dentil hygiene implements. After all this build up what could it possibly be.
Nervously I opened the gift and discovered…
That was not all either.
Inside there was a collection of individually wrapped small gifts which included; a supply of toothbrushes, tiny shower products, two plasters, a pair of socks which I did not recognize as my own at first, a t-shirt, a pair of pajamas and a pair of underwear which I did most definitely recognize as my own and thought might have been items that I had accidently left behind during past visits but as it turns out were actually nicked by my wife the weekend before… some matches, a camouflage torch, a mars bar and some chocolate coins, some string, a travel board game and a Donald Duck bubble.
Next year I will plan my revenge well…
(I actually could not stop laughing during the whole reading and as I opened each individually wrapped ‘survival item’. It was brilliant. They got me good and it was such a cool gift.)
All About Sinterklaas