Here is an old picture of the Main Square in Ninove, Belgium. It appears to be taken in the early 20th century - perhaps between 1910 and 1920. I was born in the neo-Renaissance style house with the two tones of brick, that faces the viewer at the far end of the Square. It forms the corner between the Square and the Beverstraat. My parents rented that house after they married. On the ground floor was the store. My mother sold textiles; aprons, tablecloths, ties and underwear. Behind the store were a living room, a small kitchen and a tiny courtyard. Upstairs on the second floor, behind that window that you see there, was my parent's bedroom. That is were it happened. Right there.
My brother was born in that room also, two and a half years later. I still remember that night. It was in the early hours of New Year's Day 1961. The sounds of commotion and moaning woke me up. I crawled out of bed and went to look for my parents. When I opened the door to their bedoom, a half story below where mine was, I saw my mother in bed, covered to her neck by a white sheet that rose up in the air towards her feet. At the footend of the bed was the doctor, seated, and reaching into that white tent. In the corner of the room, the midwife, clad in crisp starched white coat and nurse hat, was busy in a cloud of steam, filling bowls with hot water and arranging clean towels. Both turned and looked up for a moment in my direction, smiled and made a joke. My father held me by the door, allowed me to stay a few minutes before escorting me back to bed. That's all I remember.
At the end of the Beverstraat, beyond view in the picture, was my school where I went for a year before my parents were forced to move. The city had bought the property. The house was soon to be demolished to make room for a new avenue. That was in 1963. I remember walking home from school, hand in hand with my teacher. A big truck was parked in front of our house. It was the mover's. My mother, my little brother and I climbed into the front seat of the truck. I sat beside the driver who drove us to our new home, Nieuwstraat 54 in Aalst, a bigger city 25 km away.