1952, a Sunday afternoon in Mt Albert, Auckland. Usually on Sunday afternoons we went for a drive, or my mother entertained. This Sunday my Mum’s family, my Nanny and several aunties had been invited. Mum had been busy on Saturday smudging the Edmond’s Cook Book with floury fingers, as she baked and prepared the cakes and biscuits for our visitors.
I was five years old and my sister was still a toddler. We were dressed in our Sunday best — green and blue frilly nylon dresses, hair fastened into pigtails and tied with white ribbons — to be shown off to the relatives. We knew that on these days we had to be ‘seen but not heard.’
I remember laughter and noisy chatter and a beautifully laid out dining table piled with Anzac biscuits, ginger crunch, chocolate cake and pikelets covered with jam and cream. Mum was showing off her best china, glossy black cups and saucers each with a different rainbow colour inside the cup. They were neatly laid out on the servery.
I was playing with my doll, being good. My sister, being so much younger and not quite so disciplined, toddled up to the servery as my mother was pouring tea. A chubby little hand went up. Next moment, a splash, a crash, a scream. The hot contents of a cup of tea spilt down her chest.
Amid the confusion. the loud voices and people rushing, I fled the room and hid in the hallway, clutching my dolly for comfort. She was my Christmas present and now my treasured companion. When I saw her underneath the tree I was entranced by her pretty little face, her confection of blond curls and her dress with the blue tulle flounces.
Suddenly Aunty Marjorie appeared and asked me to give my doll to my little sister. To this day I still remember the pain I felt at the unfairness of the doll being taken from me when I needed her. I struggled with this for a long time.