Colleen is a retired psychotherapist enjoying having time to spend with her four grandchildren. Making time to write is now important because memoir writing is a way of passing information on to future generations. The Master Class sessions in the supportive environment of the Michael King Writers Centre have been helpful in motivating and encouraging this pursuit.
We were travelling home on the tram, me from school and Mum from work, when we saw the chaos and heard the noise as the tram slowly ground to a halt in Dominion Road. Then we smelled it and saw the smoke billowing. As we drew closer we saw the flames and the firemen with giant hoses trained on them, trying desperately to extinguish the fire. It was our home, with fire engines all around it. Well, in truth, it was a boarding house where we had a room and kitchenette with an alcove for the bed and a shared bathroom. But, at that moment, it felt like the most precious place in the world and we had to scramble to get to our stuff.
Belonging by Colleen Paisley
Colleen Paisley is a grandmother of four reflecting on her life so that these children may have a way of exploring their own genealogy, if they so desire. She is also a published poet and a psychotherapist.
I stepped off the MV Ruahine in Southampton, after four fun-filled weeks, and boarded the train for London. The most amazing sense of de ja vu came over me. Everywhere I looked was familiar. I had seen it all before. I had come home. This is where I belonged and where I felt alive. A comfortable sense of groundedness.
From around twelve years old I had a strong sense of wanting and intending to travel to the United Kingdom. This was not driven by family connections. My Irish born paternal grandfather did not speak of his life prior to his arrival in the colonies at 21 years of age. His passion was history but not his own recent past. He did not return to the UK. My other grandparents were born here.
As I moved through my early and mid-teens I was attracted to British born boys, sailors visiting. I worked very hard to save money for my planned trip. My parents reluctantly agreed that I could go when I had saved ‘x’ amount of money, secure in the knowledge that there was no way I could achieve this.
When I did, at the age of eighteen, they agreed reluctantly that I could go but must book my return fare. This was the 1950s and my friends all had the traditional path in mind – boyfriend, marriage, house, babies. I did not deviate from my goal, however, and did not question my gut feeling or my heart.
I met my future husband on the ship but it was two years before I could resign myself to returning to New Zealand to be married, to please my parents.
I had no knowledge of past lives at this time, but when I reached England I knew without a doubt that I had been here before and that sense of belonging at a deep soul level has remained.
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