A small world in a little book

Friday October 5, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- It’s a long way from Rotterdam to Brattleboro. And 56 years is a long time for a children’s book to bounce around dark closets and dusty boxes before finding its way back into the hands of a now 63-year-old Vernon resident.

Maybe it was fate.

Maybe it was chance.

Maybe, as Martin Langeveld pointed out, it simply just "is."

While looking through a crate of old magazines and posters in Twice Upon a Time Antiques in Brattleboro last week, Langeveld stumbled upon a copy of "De Avonturen van Flip en Flap," a book he enjoyed as a child while growing up in the Netherlands.

Flip and Flap are two dogs who have adventures, which in this book include going on a Dutch whaling ship and later shooting into the center of the earth on a rocketship.

It was disarming enough to find the colorful picture book, in its original language, filed away in a stall at the antique and collectible store on Main Street.

But as he flipped through the book and got to the title page, there at the top, scrawled in pencil, was his childhood nickname "Kees Langeveld," marking it as the very same book he had, in Rotterdam, when he was in the second or third grade in the early 1950s.

"I had to read it two or three times," he said Friday, while recounting his discovery. "I couldn’t believe it. ‘That’s it,’ I thought. That’s me."

He purchased it for $2.

Langeveld, a former publisher at the Brattleboro Reformer, has no idea how the book, which he last saw at his parent’s house, found its way to Brattleboro.

The family moved to New Jersey in 1959, and he said at some point his parents became friends with another Dutch family in the neighborhood who got a bunch of boxes of children’s books from the Langevelds.

That family eventually moved to Pennsylvania.

After finding the book this week he called his younger sister and brother, and they don’t specifically remember the book either.

Dianne Shapiro, of Brattleboro, who rents out the stall in Twice Upon a Time, said she is pretty sure she purchased it at a tag sale in Brattleboro.

Langeveld says he is sure he was the not the one who brought the Dutch book to New England.

Langeveld moved to Vernon in 2006 and over the past 20 years he has lived in a few homes in the Berkshires, and in Ithaca, N.Y.

Each time he moved, he said, he went through his boxes and there was never an old box of Dutch children’s books he took with him.

"If I ever had it as an adult, I jettisoned it many years ago," he said. "I called my brother and sister, and no one remembers seeing it."

And while it is impossible to determine the book’s unlikely journey, it is almost as surprising for Langeveld to have picked it out at the crowded store.

Twice Upon a Time is a consignment store with 103 dealers and 3,000 consignors who rent out small shelf units to sell their dishes, records, books, hats, and anything else that can be legally sold.

Langeveld does not collect antiques and he only walked into Twice Upon a Time last Thursday because he had a few minutes to kill in the afternoon.

Shapiro’s stall is chock full of items ranging from a Sacred Heart Jesus sculpture to a Petticoat Junction lunch box to a Rocky Horror Picture Show poster.

And there, in a box of comic books and posters, lay the book, waiting for the young Dutch boy who learned how to read among its pages so many years ago.

Langeveld said a friend recommended that he buy a lottery ticket, but he said lightning never strikes the same spot twice.

"They say it’s small world, and when you run into someone you know in a place like New York City, you wonder," he said. "It sure is strange to see this, after 50 years. Once in a blue moon things like this happen."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.


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