We lived in a big, draughty house belonging to my grandfather. The bedroom I shared with my two cousins was a happy place until I became very ill with double pneumonia. I was six years old. My cousins were moved to another bedroom, crammed in with other family members and I lay in the darkened, lonely room listening to the hushed voices from the hallway outside my closed bedroom door, worn curtains drawn.
My temperature raged day after day as I lay in bed, covers tucked firmly under my chin by the loving hands of my worried mother. As delirium enveloped me, feeling scared I saw the walls swaying back and forth and the ceiling descending upon me. I felt alone and isolated from the large extended family.
One day during that time my brother, Jimmy, who was three years older than me, had been invited to a birthday party at the house next door. Birthday parties were a rare event for us. He arrived home with a balloon filled with air and played exuberantly with it in the hall right outside my bedroom door. Eventually, he undid the tightly tied knot and slowly squeezed the air out to deflate it. As I listened to the shrill screeching sound, I heard my mother yelling at him, “Stop it, and be quiet. She’s dying.”
The weeks passed, and in time my temperature stabilised and I slowly recovered. Finally my cousins were restored to the bedroom and life went on at 4 HIropi St.