Column | Our street – NRC

It was suddenly 13 degrees. Outside it smelled cautiously of something new, the beginning of greenery, the paving stones less cold than in recent weeks, no wind, no violence in the air. It was too early in the year for that, sure, but people are often selfishly looking to distract themselves at the moment. That is why mindfulness is more of a trick to narrow consciousness: it makes you forget tomorrow’s worries. But I digress. We floated outside chattering, with chairs, bicycles, bubble blowers, sidewalk chalk, and a small table with the cheese and wine on it. When we bought the house, we thought this was the moment when everything would come together. Sitting in front of the door of your house, with the children on the street, hello neighbor, yes, lovely sunshine neighbor, all that sparkling happiness that reflects off the stones of the houses, an almost trippy bourgeois fantasy. We had often walked silently past such vibrant life on the street, on the way to our house at the edge of the world, with that backyard surrounded by backyards that never laughed out loud, in the fervent hope that it would be some day would be so far.

Kaas takes off on his balance bike, really hard, his sneakers turning into blurry spots from the rapid push-off. Cléo takes pictures with her plastic Peppa Pig device. Ezra calmly reads a book on a garden chair next to us and sometimes looks good-naturedly at the people on the street.

Then, because happiness always needs to be a little bigger and more extensive, it occurs to me that Ezra has been begging for weeks to be allowed to go shopping alone at the supermarket around the corner. “Ezra,” I say. “I think we could still use some cheese. Do you want to go get that?”

Within two minutes he is ready with coat, cap, loose money and shopping bag.

“There I go,” he says importantly and starts walking down the street with long strides. We, the ones left behind, wave goodbye to him as if he were going on a polar expedition. When he disappears around the corner there is a moment of silence. “Ezra is gone,” concludes Cléo, dramatically lies down on her back, looks at the grayish sky and sighs. Cheese takes up post on the street corner where Ezra disappeared from view. Willem and I have every confidence, even after five minutes, when we have already asked each other six times, super relaxed, if we should take a look.

Then a shout from Cheese, and Ezra comes running, arms spread, shopping bag raised triumphantly. We clap.

“Here,” he says in the perfectly imitated tone of an adult. “I thought this cheese would be tasty, these chips for the little ones and…” He digs through the bag. “For you,” he says nonchalantly and pulls out an unknown variety of my favorite hot pretzels. “Thought you might like that.”

I imagine him browsing through shelves, looking for something to make me happy. How, with his cap pulled over his eyes, he dares to go for something new after a lot of deliberation. I think of how Willem does the same, always delighting me with novelties from the supermarket. And how my father used to do that – Yogho! Yogho! cherry – did when I was sick on the couch for a day. The same beaming expectation, the same barely concealed pride.

It’s starting to get cold, but we stay put. I praise the chips. Ezra seems to have grown inches.

The street, the life, ours.