Our first real home was a squarish, brick house, on the main road, looking out to beautiful Pirongia at the back. Four children, two parents, and occasional family refugees lived in that house.
Inside the front door, was a hatch, so that the telephone (our number was 23) could be reached either from the entrance, or from our parents’ bedroom. To the left of the front door were the living room, dining room and kitchen. In the evenings, we listened to the radio – “It’s in the Bag”, comes to mind – played scrabble and patience. We kept these rooms warm but oh, how grim it was on winter nights to leave this haven, and rush, clutching a hot water bottle, into the freezing bedrooms, the icy beds with their creaky wire-wove bases, piled with heavy blankets. Boots, the cat, sometimes acted as an extra heat source until discovered and put out for the night, along with Billy, the dog.
When our grandmother died, her room became Marion’s, and John had a bedroom to himself, though I do remember three of us all in it together, having measles or mumps. Helen and I shared a cuckoo clock, and a painting of jugs done by our sainted aunt, Winifred. The craters of the full moon, from our window, looked like two rabbits sitting at a table.
A huge gum tree was cut down in our neighbours’ paddock, and became our main playground for a year until it was chopped up for firewood. We strode along the trunk, and created small territories amongst its fallen limbs. We also scaled fences, slid down the lawsoniana branches, got chased by bulls. At the bottom of the paddock, we scooped up tadpoles, and brought them home to become frogs on the kitchen windowsill.
This was a good home.