Corrie tells about her life in the year 1898 as a six-year-old about to start school for the first time. Her sister Betsie chides Corrie for dressing untidily, acting as an authority figure. Partly Betsie acts older, because she has pernicious anemia and cannot participate in normal childhood activities like skating and tag. Amidst the girls’ preparation for school, Nollie refuses to wear the ugly grey hat that Tante Jans bought for her, opting for a more chic little fur hat that the milliner’s wife, Mrs. van Dyver, gave to her. Tante Jans moved in with the family, overtaking the two second-story rooms in the tiny house. She buys most of the clothes for the girls and passes severe judgment on anything she deems immodest or inappropriate fashion. When Tante Jans isn’t writing tracts about Christianity, she tells people that death will come any day now. Corrie reflects that the rest of the family squeezes into the remaining rooms, Tante Bep with the only window, and Tante Anna, Betsie and Willem behind, the two girls in the back attic and their parents below.
As Corrie plots to avoid going to school, the girls learn that Tante Jans is feeling low today because her husband’s cousin died this day some years ago. After coming in with some medicine, Tante Jans immediately remarks on the little fur cap. However, mama comes to the rescue by distracting Tante Jans if she thinks the cheese is spoiled. By this time, the workers have arrived and father ten Boom, Casper, reads the Bible, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path...Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.” Corrie wonders about this hiding place, as the other children leave for school.
Corrie decides to ask Tante Anna if she can stay home to help with errands. Her mother is often too weak, so Anna does heavy household chores, and generously returns the one guilder that Casper pays her each week. Corrie reflects that her father, having taught himself history, theology and literature in five languages, takes education too seriously to help her in this matter. When the family finally notices that Corries remains at the table, they exclaim that she must hurry. Her father rescues Corrie after the family meets her declaration that she is not going with outrage. He takes Corrie to school himself and leads her into a larger and stranger world.
Corrie continues to reflect on time with her father, including trips to Amsterdam by train in the summer. Although they go there to check the clock on the Naval Observatory, Corrie and her father especially enjoy congenial and intellectually full visits with various Jewish watch suppliers in the city. Over the years, Corrie treasures this time with her father and uses the opportunity to talk about Betsie’s graduation from secondary school and work as bookkeeper in the shop, and Willem’s possible scholarship to university. One day, Corrie asks about a poem they read in school with the word “sexsin,” which puzzles her. Her father pauses before taking down the heavy case of watches and asking her to carry it. Upon telling him that the case is too heavy, Casper assents, telling her some things, like knowledge, are too heavy for children. He asks her to trust him to carry knowledge like this until she is older and stronger. Corrie is happy to let these hard questions remain unanswered.
Corrie reminisces about her family’s love of music, which they hear in their home, outside of stage doors to concert halls and at St. Bavo’s cathedral. In addition to these cherished pastimes, Corrie, her sisters and mother, visit poor families in the neighborhood with offerings of food baskets. Upon such a visit to a mother whose baby just died, Corrie comprehends the reality of death. Later that night, as her father tucks her into bed, Corrie starts sobbing and says he can’t die because she needs him. Papa ten Boom shares another lesson by telling Corrie that God prepares us for things just before we go through them, just as he only gives her ticket right before she boards the train.
Corrie delves into a series of memories in the chapter, which provide valuable lessons during the war years. Even as a young child, Corrie does not understand the need for certain conventions, like school. Although she is intelligent, Corrie feels that the larger world is not a safe or kind place. However, Corrie’s family gently forces her into the world outside the Beje, where she learns that growing up is difficult and often embarrassing. Yet Father’s insistence on education yields insight into the priorities of the ten Booms. Education represents the bridge between the ignorance and knowledge. At the turn of century, the ten Booms struggle to contend with the changing times, but Father sees education as a key.
The clash between foreign and familiar echoes the differences between the old and young generation. Tante Jans insists on modesty and old-fashioned clothes, while Nollie desires chic outfits even at a young age. Tante Jans lives in a world filled with high-collared black dresses and charitable clubs. For the most part, the ten Boom children continue the moral and ethical standards set by their parents. However, the changing times reveals themselves in small, unexpected ways.
For instance, Corrie’s question about sex receives an answer, which holds up Christian standards for purity and sexual education. Father’s train case example indicates that certain things are not allowed in Corrie’s society, despite the changing times. However, the train case example extends beyond its initial meaning. Corrie realizes later in the narrative how important the train case will be for her. Many times in the narrative, Corrie asks God to take knowledge of cruelty and suffering, which grow too heavy for her.
In spite of the painful experiences of adolescence, Corrie enjoys her early life in Holland. She and her family especially love music, which they play and listen to. The ten Booms find ways to enjoy culture without spending a lot of money. Music adds richness to their lives. All of the images of beauty contrast sharply with later images of wartime atrocities. However, the beauty remains in the narrative through other means, like love and forgiveness.
Another childhood lesson involves learning to cope with death. Death becomes a reality in Corrie’s life and she understands that her family members will also die one day. Her father tells her that God will give her the strength she needs just before he dies. This lesson is only one of many, which Corrie uses as an adult.