I have come to the end of my long working life and have found myself facing boxes of letters and photos that have been hidden behind chairs and under beds for a long time, all passed down to me. It is now time to get them out for examination. If I can write a few stories that will highlight my past adventures and reflect on my discoveries of what I have learnt, that will be of some comfort to me.
My mother, Kathleen, Kay, Kitty, daughter, sister, wife and a mother to me, her last child, a
girl after birthing four boys. She was not a traditional beauty, her face was open and sweet, soft blond hair and blue eyes. When I think of her, I always see her dressed well — straight skirts, blouses with a little embroidery collar, warm pretty cardigans, stockings and heels. She was a great outdoors woman too, loved gardening and camping.
In her youth she was popular and loved to dance and had many boyfriends. She met my father Selwyn through her brother John, they were both doing medicine in Otago, Mum always said she had made a good “catch”, he had “brains”!
After my Father died in 1956, she packed up the tent on to the top of the Worsley car and drove us down to the South Island to my eldest brother ‘s wedding in Christchurch before Christmas. On the way Mum picked up the twins from boarding school, at the end of carol service and we continued on to Hamilton for the night.
The next day, it was a long drive to Wellington to board the inter-island ferry to Lyttelton. The car with its fully loaded roof-rack was driven on to a platform and lifted by crane onto the ship’s deck for the overnight journey. After the wedding we drove down to Dunedin where we stayed a few days, then wound our way through central Otago, visiting the newly completed Roxburgh dam, from Alexandra to Queenstown, where we camped in the pouring rain.
The thrill of going through the Homer tunnel with water dripping from the unsealed roof, it was so primitive, drilled through rock, rough and raw and very wet. Mum had the windscreen wipers on. Would we get through to the other side? A trip on a boat on Milford Sound seeing the thundering falls up close and spraying our faces. I was seven years old, from Remuera in the tropical north and I’d never seen anything like it. It was magic.
The journey continued, on to Wanaka climbing over the Crown Range on a metal road, the car swinging side to side, zigzagging the Lindis Pass into the Mackenzie country. We visited the Hermitage and viewed Mt Cook in the distance, stopped at Lake Tekapo to look at the lake, through the window of the church. My mother handled the big car with its weighted roof-rack extremely confidently driving all the way to Arthurs Pass and the West coast — not through the Haast Pass, as that road wasn’t completed until 1960 — to Franz Joseph, Fox Glacier and back up to Greymouth and further north again, visiting the pancake rocks, at Punakaiki and the Buller gorge all the way to Murchison. There we turned back and drove to Christchurch to catch the ferry to Wellington to make our way Home, the boot heavy with rocks from the South Island rivers.
Although we had lost our dear father and were a family grieving, my mother turned her life around and became a renewed pioneering woman. She inspired us all with her strength.
Please submit your story via the Contact page and it will receive a gentle edit from Deborah.