Huub on the shoulders of uncle Hans Koch, with Tiny Blom and Roos Koch. 1960
Who do you really need? Your family? Or your friends? Both have their own quality. That quality consists of a difference in perspective. You always belong to family. Even if you have not seen or spoken to them for years. Family members know each other from birth and often from your early childhood. That gives a sense of familiarity that will never disappear.
Friends and girlfriends do not choose you for what you are, but for who you are. Because in addition to being part of a group, you are also an individual. A person who stands alone with his own qualities.
My parents: Tiny Blom and Jos Koch.
My father did not have many friends. He lived for his family and his work. Family played an important role in his existence. That is not so strange when you come from such a large family. He carried a huge arsenal of stories with him and did not fail to tell about it. When I was a child at bedtime. Later during the drinks, the pleasant hour, which is a very old tradition.
Just take a look at the photo of the Koch family in that room on the Goudseweg in Rotterdam around 1918. What they were talking about is not even important. The fact that they were together, made them experience something. The tea and the drink is still on the table.
Great-grandfather Boks, great-grandmother Stangl, the daughters of Johann Baptist Koch Sr. and the eponymous Heeroom next to Ome Dorus, where you can see that he already had a nice sip. And then there are the children and the housekeeping, where Jos Koch sits on her lap as a young boy, the Boks sisters, three in number. They celebrated this moment of just being together just for a moment.
Why are such moments important?
As an only child I did not have that much feeling with it. You suddenly find yourself in a large company, during a birthday, or a visit, which makes you uneasy, you do not know how to deal with that when you are young. So I just sat with a book in a corner.
By dealing with Lide, my wife, I gradually got a sense of what brothers and sisters mean to each other. Even though they do not play a prominent role in each other’s lives. The bond they have is sometimes beyond all differences. Because it is your brother, your sister, your father and your mother, your nephew, your niece, your grandfather or grandmother. The nest you came from, a source of desire, an ancient feeling of coming home.
As a friend or girlfriend you bring out properties of that nest into the world. You are a representative of an existing tradition, even if you do not realize it. As a human being you consist of flesh and blood, but also of thoughts, ideas, rituals, visions, skills, customs and attention. An essence that you can hardly describe or give words to.
You also consist of beliefs and rejection of those beliefs, hope and despair, love and horror, experience and inability.
A complex of qualities, forces and weaknesses, which determine our impression towards the world: a personality who has to face confrontation and encounter with the other, sometimes fails or enjoys it.
We find others in places called school, club or community, study and work, job or entrepreneurship which take shape in our activities. With acquaintances, colleagues, authorities. Within hierarchical relationships or on an equal footing. A person is never too old to learn how to deal with himself and the world.
In friendship we find another caliber of the familiarity we seek, which a family can not always provide. This is due to the taxing aspect of expectations and the light or shadow aspects this throws on relationships.
In real friendship you experience something of your uniqueness that you cannot experience in any other way. Of course you can also experience this with family, but that usually requires a one-on-one situation that can pass by what is counted on.
To this end, just as with friendship, the will and the wish are the starting point. Only then can you meet the person behind the image you have of him or her. Unfortunately, that is not often the case. Not even with friendship. Access to this situation lies in a sparing capacity for quiet proximity.
I once met two friends of my father. The first was Brouwer, a sculptor and the other is Leonard der Kinderen, a poet and sociologist. In the end I saw the latter even more often than my father. We walked through the meadows between Delft and Schiedam and talked about poetry and the times in which we lived. I was allowed to read in his diaries, from the years that he spent with my father in the Sanatorium in Son, from 1943 to 1948. Together they had experienced their liberation from German occupation by the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army on 22 September 1944. That too creates a connection that remains forever.
Interest, need, desire and destiny. With a separate role for love. The relationship with a completely different person. Beyond the connection with the mother or sister, the father or the brother. Time, place and background determine our attitude and the relation to familiarity. An initiation into autonomous existence. As husband, wife, fatherhood and motherhood or in being-alone, boyfriend, girlfriend, buddy or just being human.
We live in and through time. We are born, leave traces and say goodbye again. In between we exist as stories, as anecdotes and as reflections on what we experience. In and with or just because of each other.
We can not understand that completely. The human mind and our mind are limited in the ability to understand the big picture. Nevertheless, we can not avoid an attempt to do so.
Family constellation. Grey dots are family known by name but without image.
This is a test of the image of a shared history, even if it has its limits. Truth and imagination fight one by one for a preferred position. We often know little or nothing about others. Nevertheless, even in the smallest crumbs we find something that is recognizable. All those lives full of fragile branches of our family tree have something to say to us. No matter how little, it is more than you think.
Generations are building blocks of the zeitgeist. The next generation builds on that. We stand on each other’s shoulders, literally and figuratively behind each other.
I once read a thought from Carl Gustav Jung:
Every previous generation looks over our shoulders, at what we make of it and is happy when we know how to do something better than they could think of themselves.
Huub Koch. From Koch & Co. Bohemian Dragons in a life by the sea.