What Are Your Plans, Margreet?

Author:Alie Vogelaar
Retail Price:$10.95
Grade Level:6-9

Margreet Series:

From the Back Cover:
Margreet has passed her exams and graduated from high school, but has no idea what she wants to do with her life. While she visits her uncle and aunt in Canada, she forms a relationship with Ralph, a veterinary student with an entirely different upbringing from hers. This causes her much trouble and conflict.

Chapter 1

“It seems like a nice job to me!” Nel was saying. Margreet looked at her. Nel sounded so earnest; her big gray eyes gazing pensively out of the window, where a misty spring sun tried its best to brighten the world a little. (It had been gray for so long with mist and fog.) They all were quiet for a moment.

“Really!” exclaimed Annemarie. “You won’t think much of it, Nel, when you have to clean out the dirty pots and bedpans and clean the beds every morning...” That sounds awfully foreboding. “I can picture you already, Nel,” she chuckled, “but I do think a nurse’s cap would look lovely against your black hair!”

“You always have to start at the bottom of the ladder,” added Wilma wisely. “If you’re looking for a nice office job somewhere, or a bank job, then you won’t immediately become the head of a department. At first you’re just everybody’s messenger; running errands, getting coffee, etc. But, what does that matter? That’s how everyone begins.”

“Office! Oh, Wilma! Would you really like to do that?” Annemarie put on such a look of dismay that all the girls had to laugh.

“It’s a good thing we don’t all want to have the same career,” commented Nel. “The world would surely be strange then, folks!” The five of them were sitting in the cafeteria, having an unexpected free hour, since Mr. DeHaan was sick. They had stolen away to an empty table in the corner, a cozy little spot. Annemarie and Anke were balancing their chairs on two legs, with their backs against the wall. Margreet and Wilma had shoved their chairs against the heat register, where they could keep warm, and were sitting with their backs to the window, looking over the always-noisy cafeteria. Opposite them, calm, and with all four chair legs on the floor as it should be, sat Nel.

“The smartest one of all,” thought Margreet, as she watched her sitting there. And now this too, becoming a nurse, was really perfect for Nel. It’s quite something to be in the senior class. Exams and future plans are the topics of conversation. That’s understandable, of course, but I don’t have any idea myself....

“And Margreet? Is it all up in the air for you yet?” That was Annemarie speaking again, of course. She looked at Margreet mischievously with her dark brown eyes.

“Come along with me to teacher’s college, girl. It’ll be fun! I can’t get anyone from our bicycle club to go along with me,” she complained, “not even Anke, and she’s really cut out for it.” She looked at Anke a little accusingly, who simply nodded at her good-naturedly.

“You know my plans, Annemarie,” Anke retorted.

“Yes, you hope to work in a children’s home!”

“See, then I’ll be working with children too.”

Annemarie couldn’t come up with a quick answer so she turned her attention again to Margreet. “Say,” she nudged her, “think it over some more....”

“No, I don’t want to be a teacher, Annemarie,” Margreet replied.

“What then? Do you want to be a nurse, like Nel?”

“Oh no, that’s not for me!” Margreet felt herself blushing. It’s so strange. Everyone has future plans. All the girls know what they want to do, but I have to give such vague answers: “No, I don’t know yet.... No, I’ll see.... I’ll decide sometime after exams....”

“I got interested in nursing when we were by Tineke in the hospital,” said Nel softly. Suddenly it was quiet. Even Annemarie, whose words always plopped out, sat there looking at her with big, thoughtful eyes.

“You know how sick Tineke was. I saw those nurses all busy trying to help her and to make her as comfortable as possible. Right away I thought, I want to do that, too. I want to help adults and children, who are sick and in pain, as much as possible.”

In the cafeteria, life bustled on. How could it be any different, with so many young people drinking, talking, and laughing? However, in the corner where the five girls from 5-b sat, it remained still. Their thoughts suddenly went back to the time when Tineke still belonged to their club.* Was it three years ago already? Margreet sat there thinking. It was two years ago last Christmas time that she died. How terribly fast the time has flown! How little we talk about it anymore, even though so much has happened during that time, and it truly has affected all of us. Have we forgotten? Oh no! She was sure they would never forget that time. It had left an indelible impression upon them Still... life goes on. School life has been so busy and full of changes, especially now, during our last year of school. It has been such an important year.... If I can just get through my exams...!

Annemarie was trying to get Margreet to go along with her to college. I would like to do that, but I don’t even dare think about it. I won’t tell the girls about it, though. She had talked about it often at home. “Put it out of your head, Margreet,” Father had finally said, after much discussion. “It’s simply not possible; it’s too expensive, even if you would get a scholarship! You’d better look for a job to earn some money and then go to evening classes. You can study enough that way, if you want to. Wim is helping to pay his way too....”

What kind of job should I look for? What classes should I take? Margreet had no idea yet what she wanted to do. “Think it over carefully,” Father had advised, but she had thought about it for so long already; ever since she found out that she wouldn’t be able to go to college. She had looked at advertisements and had read papers about career choices, but had found nothing that convinced her, “Yes, this is it! This is what I would like to do.” I have to make a decision very soon! A deep sigh escaped from her.

Nel looked at her and said thoughtfully, “It’s sad to think our club will break apart in a couple of months, and everyone will go in different directions.”

“Hey, Nel, don’t be so pessimistic!” cried Annemarie. “We’ll be sure to see each other again! Let’s have a reunion every year, all right? The first time you can all come to my house, okay? Girls, this sounds wonderful to me! We can all share what we’ve done: Nel has cleaned so many bedpans, Wilma has typed so many letters, Anke has wiped the little children’s runny noses, I’m still sitting in school (nothing new), and Margreet…? Well, that’ll be the biggest surprise. Let’s do it!” “Annemarie, you’re running on again,” laughed Wilma. “Sit still now for a while, or you’ll fall off your chair!”

The buzzer startled them. With a thud, Annemarie and Anke’s chairs came back down on all four legs again. Nel, standing up already, had pushed her chair neatly under the table. Margreet and Wilma couldn’t quite leave their nice warm places yet. “Come on, hurry! Mr. Ponten doesn’t like latecomers,” warned Nel.

They clattered up the stairs in a row to the third floor. Mr. Ponten was standing in the doorway. “Hurry up, ladies!” As always, he paced back and forth in front of the class, saying a couple of times, “Young people... young people,” before he began the lesson.

Everyone at school knew that Mr. Ponten couldn’t keep order, and Margreet knew that the lower grades tried to find that out for themselves. She had to be honest and admit that; she had often gone along boldly with the others, but in the upper grades it seemed to change suddenly. The students worked diligently for their exams and came to him with their questions. He really appreciated it and would seriously explain the answer in detail. The pupils, in turn, showed interest and reacted accordingly. It was a mutual effort, Margreet philosophized; in the meantime, the beginning of the lesson went right past her. What is Mr. Ponten talking about? Quickly she paged through her book and looked for the piece of English prose that she had translated at home.

Last hour Margreet had Mr. DeHaan for History. It’s always a nice class, she thought. He can explain it so interestingly and yet simply. “So many lessons lie hidden in history,” he once had said. “Many people feel that old history is just a bunch of ‘excess baggage’. ‘We live in the present,’ they say, ‘and we must look to the future.’ But it is good to look back too. We can learn a lot from history. We see certain developments, and we look at the causes and effects of them; then we can say, ‘Hey, I recognize that.’ History repeats itself. We can pull lessons out of the past that apply to the present.”

Today he was busy talking about the problems in the Middle East. The students listened, fascinated, while he told about the ongoing strife of Israel against its surrounding enemies.

* * * * * *

With a burst of speed, the bicycle club sped down from the dike; clattering over the metal ramp onto the ferry, where Jansen, the ferryman, stood waiting for them. “I saw you coming, eh? I thought, ‘I’ll just wait for a moment,’ eh? You all must be cold, eh? Summer is still far away, eh? It’s coming, though. Just be patient, eh?” Jansen greeted them. He moved around, busily closing the gates and pulling on the wheel; moving the ferryboat along the cable to the other side.

Margreet shivered. It certainly is cold! The wavering spring sun from the afternoon had long ago hidden itself behind thick gray clouds. A cold mist was sweeping slowly over the low outer marshes and the river. It made the world seem small on the ferry and made the bicyclists cold and wet.

The ferryman stood still, listening for a moment. Are any boats coming down the river? In the distance, a foghorn sounded, but it was far enough away. Jansen turned the wheel again, and the ferry lumbered slowly through the water to the other side. A couple of cars were already waiting for the ferry to cross. “See you tomorrow, eh?” Jansen called out.

“Yes, Jansen, see you tomorrow.” Ten more minutes, then I’ll be home!

* * * * * *

When Margreet entered the room, she immediately saw something unusual: they were all standing. Mother was not in the kitchen, Father was not washing up, and Wim wasn’t even behind his newspaper. No, they were all standing in a circle, busily talking, and Jan and Willie stood listening with mouths open. Even Rianne stood looking from one to the other, although she didn’t seem to understand much of what they were saying. “What’s up?” Margreet blurted out.

“Hey, Margreet! Big news! We’re going to have foreigners in the family!” announced Wim mysteriously.

“Now, now, not so quickly!” warned Father cautiously.” It’s not so sure yet.”

“Well, I really think it will go through, though,” nodded Wim.

Not understanding, Margreet looked from one to the other. Mother noticed and began to explain, “Uncle Hans and Aunt Riek are going to Canada next week, for ten days. They have sold their business here, and now they want to see if they can start up a new way of life over there.”

“Really?” Margreet had to think about it for a moment. So, then they will be the “foreigners” in the family. “Are they all going?” she asked, surprised.

“Yes, of course!” Mother burst out laughing. “Do you think they would leave any children behind? If it goes through, they will actually be going for the children. Uncle Hans sees more of a possibility for the children to earn a living there in the future.”

Margreet thought about Aunt Riek’s busy family; six in a row, a really nice, happy bunch. “But those kids are still so young,” she protested.

“We hope they’ll become older,” teased Father. “It goes quickly enough. In fact, Bert is already fourteen.”

Later, at the table, they still talked busily about it. “It’s quite an undertaking,” sighed Mother. “I would rather stay here.”

Margreet grinned. No, this was certainly not for Mother! She’s such a homebody. Her sister, Aunt Riek, is totally different; much more adventurous and easygoing. Yet it’s a nice thought to have family in a foreign country. Maybe I can go there for a while later on. First I’ll have to look for a good job; such a trip will cost a lot of money. Margreet was already picturing it in her mind.

“Grandma and Grandpa will stay with the children for those ten days,” she heard her mother say. “They thought it was terrible, of course, when they heard of the plans, but they wanted to help them anyway. It will be very busy for them, though.”

“I can go see how Grandma and Grandpa are doing during that time,” offered Margreet. “Maybe I can help them a little bit on Saturday.”

Mother nodded. “Good idea! Grandma will have her hands full!”