Mary is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has had enriching broad life experiences, loves adventures and travel and greatly enjoys being a student.
In that Birkenhead summer of 1952 my life changed forever.
I went down the long unpaved track, through the scrub and native bush to the small square house with a pointed roof. It looked for all the world like a witch’s house. Built in 1886, the four unlined rooms were made of wide plank kauri. There was no running water or electricity. On that first night and for many nights afterwards dinner was prepared on a coal range in the living room and eaten to the light provided by the Tilley lantern. This hung suspended by a hook above the dining table and flared alarmingly at times, attracting the swooping flutter of large puriri moths, so big and green like birds. It was really scary. A candle lit my way down the passageway to my new bedroom.
The following morning I reflected on things. This move was surely a mistake, this was not a suitable home for me. That day I packed my little kindergarten bag and set off up the rough path. But I stopped at the dark corner where the trees hung entwined over me. I realised I had nowhere else to go.
My mother caught up with me there and led me back to my new home. Dad was there for me. He was fifty two years old when he had his first ever date, this with my widowed mother, sixteen years his junior. He adored her. He was uncertain and apprehensive about his new role but kind and anxious to please. I snuggled against him. His shirt was coarse and rough and like him it smelt of the bush and leaf mould. He had Susan, a cat. Susan, it was said, killed the last weka in Birkenhead. Also he had his dog Toby, Socks the cow and a draught horse Champy. In addition there was an outside toilet, terrifying to visit, populated as it was by huge black spiders which proliferated in the ivy which gripped the walls.
Dad also gave me a new family name.
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