|Posted by NanaMacsPlace on July 1, 2012 at 3:20 AM|
In the beginning I was alone but two and a half years later I was joined by a younger sister. Three and a half years after that, yet another sister joined the family. (When I was almost 20 we were joined by a brother but as this chapter deals mainly with my childhood, this is possibly the only time I'll mention him. Sorry kiddo, nothing personal).
From then on, my poor father was beseeched by that dreaded comment from not just one but four females. "Put the seat down". In fairness to him I have often wondered why no man ever says "put the seat up". Having said that, there is nothing more unnerving than the feel of unexpected ice cold porcelain meeting nice warm butt cheeks!
Like most who grew up in the 50's and 60's, we grew up happy, healthy and strong. We had little but had everything we needed. Very few in the street had telly but most had kids and most of those kids had bikes and, more importantly, an active imagination. Back then roads were quite safe due to a lack of cars and we would have regular races up and down. Behind our street there were huge sandhills which were just perfect for kite flying. Quite often we'd have races down the hill. Equally often, someone would tumble and roll down the hill instead. Whether this was by accident or design was never quite admitted to. These were very happy times and I remember them fondly.
Being the firstborn I had certain responsibilities placed upon me. I was told that I must always set an example. Looking back, I realise that I had, but missed, a golden opportunity to turn my sisters into the ratbag I just might have been. Instead, I was well mannered, well groomed and more often than not a perfect little angel. I loved to help Mum round the house and learned how to cook under her patient guidance. In years to come, when I first started working I was given the choice between paying board or taking over the running of the household. I chose the latter and am very grateful for that chance. Mum taught me budgeting by taking me round the grocery shop (supermarkets were yet to come to our area) and to buy the things we needed for the least amount of money. It was a challenge but an experience that was invaluable.
But I digress, something I am fond of doing. As a youngster I was fiercely protective of my younger sisters. One day that changed slightly. My parents couldn't abide what we now call a 'potty mouth' and if we were heard swearing it was the old soap in the mouth trick. My father heard my younger sister utter an expletive (probably something tame like 'damn') and marched her off to the bathroom for the soap treatment. Poor thing was crying and screaming so I, very stupidly, smacked Dad on the arm and said "leave my bloody sister alone". I'm fairly sure that was the last time I stuck up for her. By the end of the night my throat was sore and so was my bum.
My childhood is best remembered as very happy, full of laughter and fun. My parents did everything they possibly could to ensure our health, safety and wellbeing. They succeeded admirably! A perfect example of their efforts can be found in the winter days. For many years we had no car and this meant walking to and from school in cold, wet weather. We always left home with our bellies full of hot porridge and returned to find Mum on the doorstep with warm towels and the wonderful scent of home made soup to greet us.
I credit Mum with my love of writing and Dad for my love of mischief making. Mum herself didn't do much in the way of writing but she created a novel way of keeping us entertained. All birthday & Xmas cards were kept and during the school holidays she'd cut the fronts off them for us to put in a scrapbook. We then had to write a short story on the facing page. We'd write & stick until all the fronts had been used. The scrapbook was then taken to the Childrens Ward at Christchurch Hospital. This was long before the days of electronic gizmos to entertain the kiddies and they were always gratefully received.
Dad was always a lot of fun and had a wonderful sense of humour. When I was quite small, we had a neighbour who was fond of 'borrowing' things. All manner of things were requested from sugar and milk to soap powder and toilet paper. Dad decided to play the fool. When she next asked to borrow toilet paper, he replied saying we only had the 2nd hand stuff left. She frowned then roared with laughter saying "Oh you silly bugger". Dad being Dad didn't stop there. The following week, the same request was made but Dad was ready for her. He'd purchased a rubber turd & placed it on a square of toilet paper just inside the door. This, of course, was the first thing she saw when the door was opened to her. Dad apologised profusely explaining how dirty his kids were and she never asked to borrow anything again! Result!!
Our neighbour was a kind and generous woman who bore Dad no malice at all but he still wasn't finished. She had a fear of mice. We could tell if she'd spotted one because her screams could be heard all over the neighbourhood. A day or so after her birthday, Dad had me deliver a small, gift-wrapped box to her. She thanked me, gave me a hug and opened the parcel. It was a small soap box. She lifted the lid to reveal its contents. Dad had put a dead mouse in it!! She shrieked hysterically and told me I was a horrid child. I was completely innocent!! Talk about shooting the messenger. In spite of our awful treatment of her, she was first if needed in a crisis. She was everything a good neighbour should be.
Mum, herself, was not averse to mischief of her own. I remember the night we'd been to the movies and we were coming home from the bus stop. Mum came upon a hedgehog about to cross the road. She told us the road was not a safe place to play so to keep the hedgehog safe (she said) she picked it up and placed in a mail-box. It was many years later she told me about a woman round the corner who had done her a wrong. She went on to tell me that she'd 'fixed her' and, in future, this woman may not be so prickly to others.
Dad was an expert when it came to lighting the fire for us. Our home was always warm and inviting. It was in front of this fire that camphorated oil would be rubbed on our chests to soothe a cold, scrapbooks would be created and stories read. It may be a less efficient way to heat a house but, in my opinion, heat pumps just don't measure up.
Both Mum and Dad instilled in us a sense of fair play and social justice. We were raised to treat everyone as equals no matter their colour, race or creed. Many youngsters in our neighbourhood had stories read to them at night but we were treated to Dad singing the Maori Batallion song to us. He also taught us how to use pois. Not bad for a Pakeha fulla.
Dad hated anyone being treated unfairly and he had a particular hatred of racism. This was never more evident than when his mate Hori Joe (the term was used affectionately by Dad and enjoyed by Joe) was the target of workmates. Dad was outraged and couldn't understand why Joe never stood up for himself. Joe assured him that everything was cool and that he'd have the last laugh. How right he was.
After the Xmas break the workers returned full of New Year cheer and enthusiasm. Joe waited till the morning tea break and then he struck! He sat at the table and looked at them one by one and smiled. Several of them shifted uncomfortably and Joe said 'you blokes me laugh. You go on your holidays, lie around in the sun. Why? Just so you can come back to work looking the same as me'. He put his arm next to one of the more bullying of the group. 'I'm gonna call you Hori' said Joe. The taunts stopped. Joe winked at Dad and that was that.
My parents were a very hard act to follow. Mum was an expert cook whereas I'm fair to middling. She was an expert dressmaker and I can't even thread a needle. Dad just seemed brilliant at everything and I'm about as boring and interesting as cold dish water.
It was, however, in the field of sport that they well and truly shone.