Handing out flyers and meeting Judy Sijlbing

As I pause in front of toko Prem on the Amsterdamsestraatweg in Utrecht on Saturday 19 June, carefully lowering my takeout portion of Roti into the bicycle bag, I spot a woman standing on the other side of the road. She seems Surinamese and that is unusual, because one rarely encounters Surinamese in Utrecht. I hand her a flyer, she squints and says, “But I know you,” and she names the neighbourhood I live in and the year I defended my thesis. “Did you receive my father’s flower arrangement on the day of your graduation, Mrs Redmond? He asked me to send it with his congratulations.” Her last name is Sijlbing.


“Then you are Master Síjlbing’s daughter!” I exclaim. He was the headmaster in the sixties of my secondary school in Paramaribo, the Hendrikschool on Gravenstraat.


I believe I did indeed receive the bouquet back then. We are talking about 1993. The old school headmaster was – his daughter says – so proud of me, that he had asked her from Surinam to send his former student a bouquet of flowers on that important day. I am again surprised, as if I received the flowers again on the spot.


What a coincidence, to come across this daughter who recognizes my name on the flyer and who reminds me of this action. Just another meeting, with a flyer in hand, on a sunny Saturday morning in Utrecht.


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