Remembrance Day has always been a very special day for our family. My parents grew up in Holland and lived through WWII as young teenagers. My mom was the oldest girl of thirteen children and remembers a lot about these times in her life. Her most heartwarming story involves two Canadian soldiers. It goes like this:
As a farming family, my grandparents owned land, livestock and they grew food to feed their family. Often they would utilize an underground economy to trade eggs, butter, milk and meat for sugar, material to make clothing and knitting wool for socks with neighboring communities. They certainly fared much better than those who lived in urban settings as they were often forced to eat tulip bulbs. Root vegetables, and specifically turnips, were a daily staple for my parents during the ‘years of war’ and later became a memory trigger. It was a food to be avoided even to this very day.
One night when all the family were safe in their underground bunker, two unidentified soldiers found the entrance. As fear and dread passed from one to the other, my grandfather bravely went to the entrance to determine their intentions. Someone noticed that their uniforms were different from the ‘other’ soldiers as they had a red patch on a sleeve and a badge that said “Canada”. Fear subsided for a moment and was replaced with curiosity. Without being able to speak each other’s language, my grandfather and the two lost soldiers quickly came to the understanding that these men had been separated from their troop and they needed a safe haven for the night. They pleaded with my grandfather as they also knew the consequences that came to those who helped ‘the enemy’. It was a tough few minutes of weighing the risks and then my grandfather quickly led them to the livery where the two tired, lost soldiers had a dry, warm roof over their heads for the night.
Early the next morning, the two very appreciative soldiers came to the house to thank the family. As a gesture of gratitude, they gave my grandmother two unusual colourful packages filled with coloured powder that probably came from their rations. My mother was twelve at the time and remembers that my grandmother then threw the packs in the woodstove as she didn’t know what they were, and being a powder, it was not to be trusted.
Fast forward fifteen years… My mom, a newlywed and immigrant to Canada was in her first grocery store with my dad. As they turned the corner of an aisle, straight ahead my mom recognized ‘the packages’ that my grandmother had thrown into the woodstove. She quickly asked, ‘What is that?’ to which my father responded, “Freshie”. The mystery was solved: the soldiers had given my grandmother two packages of the Canadian version of Kool Aid.
Thank you to those brave soldiers and to all those who have come after. We honour and respect you.
PS. Do you recognize the Freshie package?