Vijf Vignettes

Kaylie Crawford
June 7, 2013

Vijf Vignettes


                I walk through the revolving doors to the Amsterdam Central Library. I hear music. There is no music playing on stereos in the library – I mean, it’s a library. It’s supposed to be quiet.           

      Then I remember the piano.

                  On the entrance level of the library is a piano, which anyone is welcome to play (up to 30 minutes) as long as they know how (meaning I would not go up and stab the few keys I know to play the melody of In the Hall of the Mountain King). I turn to see who is playing. An elderly gentleman with beautiful, old hands, plays a fun, upbeat piece (classical of some kind, though I did not have my Conservatory friends with me to identify the composer). A few people stopped and listened. He just kept playing, unawares and smiling so that wrinkles spread across his dark face like ripples in a canal. Then he finished, got up, and left. No one clapped. There was no need. The applause was already there, quiet, on all our faces.


                Razor-cold winds lure me to take the tram. A middle-aged woman hustles into a seat across from me, giving a hearth-crackle laugh.

                 “Sehr, sehr, kald! Ik wil mijn whiskey!” She looks at me. Her eyes are bright with a gemstone sheen.

                 “Haha, ja. Ik wil een whiskey, ook,” I say. She bursts into an honest cackle. The tram stops, she waves goodbye, wishes me luck, and hops off. I don’t have any whiskey (nor do I like it), but she warmed me better than any glass of alcohol could.


                I’m biking down Prins Hendrikade to an appointment. A woman pulls up alongside me, and speaks in Dutch – from what I made out, she finds my ‘Cool Girl’ bike with the flower decals amusing, but cute, too. I thank her, but then my vocabulary is limited. She realizes I speak English and switches languages like pulling on a different sweater.

                 “Do you live here?”

                 “Yes, actually; I’m studying at UvA.”

                 The conversation (while biking, side-by-side) turns to the less-than-delightful weather (a popular topic among locals). She mentions that she stopped by the bloemenmarkt near Funenpark and borrowed the florist’s gloves because it was so cold. It had holes, but was better than nothing.

                 We chat a little longer – she wishes me luck with my appointment, and hopes Amsterdam is kind to me. We turn down separate bike paths. I wonder at the kindness of strangers. Would any shop keep lend me gloves, just like that, back home?


It’s May and it’s raining blossoms outside the Stedelijk Museum. My art history class had ended and dispersed after investigating the Communitas installation by Aernout Mik. The sun is still shining despite the prophecy of rain. I go to unlock my bike, but then I saw snow!

                 No, not snow. Blossoms. A small but decent little cluster of pink cherry blossom trees lines the Stedelijk side of the large expanse of green in Museumplein. I don’t unlock my bike. I walk over. With each breeze, blossoms flutter and spin and fly like winter flurries. They get caught in my hair and my knitted grey poncho. Several people are sitting among the trees, and many families have already claimed the benches on the little “orchard’s” edge. I sit down against the trunk of a tree and watch for a while. The smell is pleasant, as though a scented candle were lit in the distance. I reach up and try to catch the falling petals for a while.

                 Soon I take out my tablet and open one of the many books I’m reading – this one the latest by Starhawk. I read quietly, with petals stuck in my hair or my clothes. Soon the prophecy hangs over Amsterdam with clouds of doom. The wind is less gentle, and the blossom flurries become blossom blizzards. It was time to bike to beat the rain. I still found petals in my hair later that night.


                It’s four days after the bombing of the Boston Marathon. I’m in Pancakes! as per usual, drinking hot chocolate and typing away my frustration with the evils of the world. I’m torn from my thoughts when I hear a familiar cartoon theme song:                 “My Little Pony, My Little Pony, ahh ahh ahhh…”

                 Crap, did I forget to turn off my ringtone? No, it wasn’t me – a four-year-old American girl is watching My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic on her mother’s smart phone. I smile. I, too, am a fan of the show (if this confuses you, please Google brony). I have a couple pony pins on my backpack. The little girl is adorable, and unknown to her, very, very lucky to be able to travel like this. When she gets up with her mother to go to the bathroom, I decide to give her one of my pins.           

      I smile and nod when they return, and tell her to pick a hand. She picks the right one, and when she sees the ‘Mane Six’ (protagonists) on the pin-button, her face flashes to happiness, iridescent with joy. I speak to her parents, who also have a pleased-glow, and it turns out they are from Boston – and missed the chaos of the bombing by a mere two days.

                 “Who is your favorite pony?” I ask.

                 “I reawwy like pwincess Cadance. I have her and Shining Awmor’s castle at home. And I have two Cewestia’s! I even bwought some ponies fwum home with me!”

                 “Me too! I really like Pinkie Pie. She’s very funny,” I say. I think of the toys on my desk in the apartment. Before they leave, the parents thank me.

                 “Fans of the show are like Trekkies, aren’t they?” The father says. It’s true, I think – the enthusiasm and unashamed love of a show is a common bond bronies have with Trekkies.

                 “Don’t worry, it’s a compliment!” He says. After chatting with the girl about the show a little longer, the family leaves. I wish them a great vacation, and safe travels. I finish my hot chocolate, but I no longer need it to feel warm inside.




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Kaylie Crawford

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I&#39;m Kaylie Crawford, a tea-drinking writer with a desire for travel and poor coordination skills. I hail from the small town of Dracut, Massachusetts, and study writing at the gorgeous Ithaca College in New York. Besides doodling, snapping photos, and reading, I love adventuring with friends (or just staying in with a home-cooked meal and a movie). I plan to see the world and meet the many beautiful people in it, and share my shenanigans with others in hopes to spread some smiles.</span></p>

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