As a kid, she was a huge fan of the Jommeke comic,
which was then and still is now a huge hit with Flemish kids.
Jommeke comics were a perfect way to bribe her or to get her to do something she didn't want to do.
Like jumping off the diving board at the pool.
Of course, this always meant hard negotiations,
because just one Jommeke comic isn't a real price for anything.
A favorite childhood story of her oldest brother Marc is the "Hansel and Gretel" anecdote. Once upon a (summer holi)day, Rita became ill. To comfort her, her mother bought her the "Hansel and Gretel" fairy tale on record for her to listen to. Rita played the record for hours on end, the same fairy tale over and over and over and over and over again, for days. It drived everybody in the house absolutely nuts. One lucky day (lucky for her family), she left the record out in the garden, and the heat of the sun completely warped it. Everybody was very relieved and no need to say the record was never replaced.
She also sang in a children's choir, the "Heibinkjes". Her mezzo-soprano voice was so clear you could always pick it out of the large group of kids. She quit the choir a few days after her 18th birthday and never went back to singing. I was fortunate enough to be in the audience of her very last public performance.
As I did, she studied information science. But while I studied in Leuven, she went to college in Antwerp.
Both of us entered a contest in high school, she in her school in Turnhout, and I in mine in Izegem.
The contest was organized by IBM Belgium.
Each school could enter three students who had to create a dossier on application of information science for medical purposes.
I was asked to join the team of my school, because I was a known computer nerd, I guess. I gladly did.
Although we didn't have an information or computer science class at our school, they did at Rita's school.
From the information science class, they recruited three students, and my wife was - obviously - one of them.
So we competed and won... together with 10 other schools (if I remember correctly, some 150 schools participated). The first prize was a one-week stay at a castle in Wallonia, where we would get computer courses in the morning and sports and games in the afternoon. That's where we first met.
Shortly before her 18th birthday, I got an invitation to join the party all the way in Turnhout (quite some distance from Izegem... 150 km is a long way for a Belgian), and was offered to stay for a few days. Under the impression she invited people from the camp where we met, I went. Imagine my surprise when I found out I was the only non-family member invited to the party.
Finally, during my stay at her house, I began to realize we weren't just friends. Of course, my Rita already decided a long time ago that we were going to get together . It seemed I was about the last one to find out that we were a couple (she knew, her mother knew, even her little 3-year old niece picked up on it, but I didn't). But I haven't regretted it for a second .
The next day, far too early, we had to catch a plane. Having been busy with the wedding party the evening before and the matrimonial duties at night, it was a real drag to get up. But the destination, being Cyprus, was worth the trouble. We had a fabulous time there. Apart from the facts that everybody insisted on driving on the left and that they served us a traditional English Christmas dinner (turkey and chestnuts, so dry it tasted like sand), it was the perfect honeymoon.
After that, it was back to normal life. Rita had finished her studies and had a job, while I still had some years of university ahead.
I do accept all gifts. Monetary and others. Especially monetary though.
She's now an active member of the parental committee at the school of our son Jonas and has a full-time job looking after the kids, which she does very well.
As a hobby, she recently took up keyboard lessons, together with our daughter Eva.
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