Delft blue stands for old and playful in my unwavering Dutch mind: dogs frolic after blue-eared rabbits, while nimble maidens are skipping rope; the sailor with the pipe jumps ship and there's my best friend: one old goat, sniffing at tempting daisies, all alive around our Utrecht fireplace, on their seventeenth-century tiles. ``More than a hundred,'' said my sister while she counted them with pride, ``and every picture different!'' Old Delft and Chinese blue mix well. I see that daily when I eye my shelf of plates and blossomed bowls, cups, saucers, two small vases with hanging bridges across ravines, tired travelers on the trail.
My father's grandfather was captain of his own ship. He sailed to England, Scotland, the Chinese Sea. He must have brought old Chinese treasures on his long trips. One stormy night, the Vlijt went down with all hands, captain and his wife.
When I, the day I emigrated, embraced my parents for the last time, M"oder gave me a parcel wrapped in tissue paper so fragile that I put this lovely blue in my small suitcase, kept it with me every hard minute of that never-ending day.
Each time I think of home, glance at my shelf, I see far countries, ocean salt on my lips, hear stormy voices blow clean my European past.