Memories of Hester
by Arsène van Nierop
In the emptiness after the funeral you throw yourself into
memories, they are all that is left.
Hester: impulsive, open, kind, emphatic, sensitive, warm and
with a strong feeling of justice. Highly strung, active, a doubter
but enterprising, a messy and chaotic person. Am I describing
her sufficiently? How could I describe her more accurately?
She was my child, my firstborn and therefore special. Hester
was lovely, but what parent doesn’t find their child lovely?
She got on well with us, her parents; we had a very warm and
lively bond. Together we would go to the market or sew clothes
and sometimes her sister would join us.
Hester was a thinker but she liked to talk too. She was impulsive,
creative and involved with the lives of her younger siblings.
She knew what they were doing or what bothered them and
responded easily to their needs.
She was never afraid to ask us for help: “Mum can you help me
to prepare for my exams, or can you check if the story I wrote
And there we are, at her graduation watching her tell us about
The Petrified Gardens she designed for her final project. It was
a building in the Easter Docks in Amsterdam. She intended it to
be a place of rest, of coming together, for the people who work in
the area to enjoy their lunch break. Situated at the quayside, her
design has four floors, with spaces for fountains and cascades,
seats in secluded spaces where people can sit and talk. The
construction of the building was very complicated but it was
Hester starts to present the design but after a few sentences she
loses the thread of her story. Everyone silently urges her: come
on Hes, you can do it… I am dying a thousand deaths… and then
Hester presses her thumbs and index fingers together, collects
herself and starts afresh. She tells her story brilliantly, everyone
is delighted, and applauds. Her mentor asks one or two difficult
questions but then it’s over, she has passed the test. We are so
proud of her.
Small but courageous, she has always been like that. She was
still at primary school when she came home from the swimming
pool and told me that a boy in her class, a real bully, had been
provoking her best friend Maria. He had stood beside the pool,
tormenting them and she had decided enough was enough and
pushed him fully clothed into the water. Tiny Hester, the
smallest girl in her class.
Another time she and Maria were walking on the street and they
encountered a group of adolescent boys, a few years older than
they were. The boys began pestering and teasing them, pulling
her hair, both girls got fed up and shouted at them to stop but
they were ignored until Hester, furious, slapped the leader’s
They were flabbergasted.
Hester was not always so lucky, sometimes the boys hit back!
Of course over time she learned from her recklessness.
Naturally she did things which I never knew about. I only had
to remember my own childhood. But Hester was growing into
a courageous and kind person.