Cheryl has taken to heart the responsibility of guardianship of her family of Chinese heritage. She writes so that she can come to terms with her identity as a New Zealand-born Chinese and her place in society. She writes for her two daughters in order that they will have a deeper understanding of her life’s journey, and of the family and friends who have shaped the person she is today.
Flanked between the fruit shop, owned by my Indian friend Savita’s family, and the second-hand shop owned by the family of my Maori friend ‘Gorgie Porgie’ was ‘Charlies High Class Laundry’ where I lived. Jervois Road, Ponsonby was ‘our’ patch. We ‘owned’ the street. We were the Three Musketeers.
The common wall between our shop and Savita’s was so thin we had managed to poke a tiny peephole, just at the perfect height for two little four year-old girls to whisper secret messages. We taped it over with paper thinking it wouldn’t arouse suspicion. Being the baby of ten, it was inevitable a sibling might discover the hole and spoil our fun.
One sunny, carefree day I ran up the stairs, two at a time, to perch on my window ledge and wait for Savita to meet me. The windows were so close we could reach out and hold hands.
“Shall we go to the place where the Boogie man lives?”
Creeping past my parents and siblings, who were ironing at their various work stations, Savita and I met covertly by the hen house. Pushing hard against the stiff, rickety wooden gate into the lane we zigzagged between the washing. Every tree in that space was hung with our customer’s laundry.
Quietly, we approached the dark abandoned house, our hearts thumping with fear. I could hear the cicadas, feel the long uncut grass tickling my bare legs. Fears triggered by our siblings descriptions of the horrors of the Boogie man caught us.
We imagined laboured footsteps, heavy breathing until we could bear it no longer. Screaming and shrieking we ran for our lives to the safety of the open lawn where flopping down in the tall grass we burst into fits of laughter. Picking at the orange nasturtiums, bright flashes of colour amongst the weeds, we sucked on the sticky nectar. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
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