Friday, July 18, 2014

Gentse Feesten ...............

The city of Ghent is a lovely city, a large city so you have to know where to find all the corners of ancient times.
Brugge tops us as you can walk everywhere and see it all without needing guides, you can even walk from the station to downtown in minutes.

Not much business for cabs in Brugge.

I returned almost every year after we moved back to the USA from Spain.
When we lived at the Costa DEL sOL my relatives came to see us.
I did not blame them.

I have so many memories of the festivities.
One that stick out was when Nick and Jimmy plus their mom came
and we stood in the Donkersteeg late in the evening and watched the fireworks around Belfort,
it was magical, looked almost like it was on fire but different colors everywhere.
We did not dare move our heads in fear not to see it all.

Thousands upon thousands come to these festivals, a lot today is about music and for the young.
Ghent is a city of young people with a great University to attract Foreign students as well.

After my Mom passed, Bob and I rented a flat for one month in the center of town and then
the kids and friends had a place to stay. One year we had a place within a few steps of the Belfry,
a main street, it was during the Festival. Across from us a lovely restaurant with the piano outside and
serving food until 4 a .m. Little sleep did we get but we sat by the window and people watched
while the music never stopped. We would turn around now and then and danced ,some people saw us and started to clap in the street , we had an audience not anticipated. Bob could not believe it, a dancer he was not. Well they did not see his feet moving so what the heck.

I think Jimmy was about 8 and his brother 6 when we could not get a flat in town and we had a nice place by the station. We were worn out with these two dynamo's . Earlier in the day we sat at a cafe by the Belfry
chatted and yelled at the kids when a group in odd clothing came by and yelled at us: "Yanks! Yanks!'
We are Bellringers from the UK. We had no idea what a bellringer was.
They all took a chair and something to wet their whistle and started to explain that they had been invited by the city Mayor to perform and open the traditional ball at the Kouter.
One chap had his eyes on Rhonda, easy, she is a bit of a flirt anyway and not difficult to look at.
Most of the men had their wives with them and they all were of a mature age. This fellow was alone.
He quickly started to talk to our daughter and asked if she would open the dance with him but she would have to find a period dress.
All shops besides food shops pretty much close during the festivities.
Rhonda was sure she would find what we needed.
We parked grandpa and kids with some friends and started to walk the streets to see if one of the theatrical shops was open. Lucky I know my way there like the back of my hand and many business I knew as a child have been taken over by relatives or just sold to someone else.
The largest shop I knew was still there and CLOSED. I knocked and knocked and knocked
finally a face at the window: "I am closed ".
"I know but we are Americans and my daughter needs a costume to open the ball at  the Kouter"
The door opens. The lady lives upstairs as most shop keepers do.
We tell her the incredible story and Rhonda already has her nose in the clothing.
It's not a quick decision. If you know my daughter you know it has to be exactly as she envisions it.
The hat took another 1/2 hour and out the door we went.
Pinching each other at our luck and then Rhonda reminded me that she had little time to join the group and see a reception with the mayor. So we ran to our friends and had her dressed then found our way to the
Bellringers, most had already a little bloom on their cheeks.
Exit Rhonda and come the wee ones. Grandpa and Grandma stuck with them.
The town is packed and we zig zag our way to a tram hoping to go home for a few hours of rest.
Bob holds Nick hands and I am in charge of Mister Curious and Serieus.
Body to body on the back of the tram it stops at the end of every street and we have a long way to go to our flat. People get on and suddenly Jimmy's hand is out of mine and I see him going for the exit and next on the sidewalk in between a mob. I scream, the tram door closes, I scream and others ring the bell, stop, please stop my grandson is out there. The whole group on that back platform are in chorus till the door opens and I can run out and get the kid.
I want to kill him, nothing less. Imagine if I had lost her child while Madame de Pompadour was bar hopping with the Brits.
That evening our friends watched the kids and we went to the ball , I cried my eyes out.
This daughter of mine was opening the ball with the Brits and TV cameras were everywhere.
On this square I had been sitting front row and center when my Paternal grandfather had directed the army band and had done his oboe solos. His moustache turned up. When was that I thought? It had been 1936.
I sat between my two Aunts in my new dress they had made for the occasion.  I had to sit still and not talk about Grandpapa.
Now so many decades later my daughter is on the same American.
For a short while I felt remorse.
My family had so much history here on both sides of my Mom and my Dad , why did I leave.
I am the only one to leave Ghent. Now as I write I have one cousin left there.

I would not be able to work the crowds of today , I would have a panic attack. I always like the noise in the streets, the singing and joy in the air. The morning running to the bakery in a street in great need of the
cleaning crew. Then getting ready and have another day of it.

The monday after the festivity there is a market called "The empty purse" , merchants come and set up and have bargains for people who still have some pennies left.

I want to be there , I want, I want, I will be there in the spirit................

When Rhonda finds her photos I will post them.
As it turned out we had a video of her from the TV station with more coverage than the other ladies, of course, she was the young one.
A few weeks ago a lady on FB wrote to me and said:" I dressed your daughter for the ball "
I started to cry, she remembered. Bless her!

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