Archive for the ‘childhood’ Category

Virtual Walk.

August 24, 2007

I’ve thrown the morning paper down with disgust and despair and retreated to the study. The two main stories concern Dubya’s latest blathering on the hopelessly complicated Iraqi situation and the happy news that new pandemic-potential diseases are now developing and spreading at the rate of knots. Happy breakfast, everyone.

As I sat down, I realised that this is possibly the last time I will write from this desk because tomorrow we move the furniture to the storage unit and the house will be bare and empty, awaiting the arrival of the new people. I will miss this place terribly and up until now have scarcely allowed myself to think about that aspect of leaving. Twenty-one years of living, loving, hating and growing are embedded here and you don’t leave all that without a backward glance. When we arrived, it was to a large grassy paddock, protected from the cold southerly blasts by a large row of lawsoniana. There were no other trees, except for a huge old-man pine, which was felled to make room for the house. There were no gardens, no shrubs or bushes, no flowers, no vegetables.

If I raise my eyes just a little and glance out of the window, I can see a row of raised beds running along the length of the house. One is full of primulas and their glowing jewel colours defiantly light the grey morning and provide a contrast to the flowering quince above them. Its pink flowers cover the bare branches which are alive with waxeyes who are there for the tiny insects that live among the petals. They visit every morning around this time and are deft little acrobats, navigating with ease through the sharp thorns and hanging upside down by their strong little feet. They are not in the least bit shy. At first, you only see one or two, their green and grey blending with the bark, but watch for a moment, and you will see that there are six, eight, ten, dozens, moving in the tree and on the ground beneath. Suddenly, they are done and rush away, flying in little swoops to their next destination.

Look a little to the right and the stately deep purple heads of a winter rose rises up from its low lying leaves. It seeded last year and its children, still in miniature, are growing up around its feet. Further on, Grandma’s pinks are just starting to put out their spring leaf tips. If you could come back later in the season and see them in flower, you would be met by a wonderful fragrance. Grandma’s pinks have been with me since our girl was two years old. And speaking of our girl, there is the David Austin rose that shares her name. I chose it because it is just like her – the flowers are a warm deep pink with peach and gold tones at the centre and the scent is heady, rich and voluptuous.

Walk along a little further and you will come to a large bed filled with variegated flaxes, cabbage trees, kowhai and a blood-red rhododendron. This garden really was created with blood and sweat. It once housed three huge lawsoniana whose branches reached out so far that they almost touched the house. Higher that the roof at the two story end, the trees loomed and menaced, their cold shadows blocking all sun and light. The year after H. died, we felled them and the transformation to the backyard was instant.

I could walk you right through the rest of the garden, but I know that I’d lose my blaudience long before we got right around, so we’ll just stop one more time and that is in front of Mum’s kowhai. This is a very significant tree for me. It was grown from seed taken from the huge tree that grew in the backyard at Belmont, my last childhood home. That was a stately being, rising up in beautiful form beside the house. The Wahine storm took it, smashing it and splitting the trunk right down the centre. Mum collected seed from its felled branches and grew a bonsai which lived for years in a pot on the back porch. That bonsai was admired and coveted by many and when Mum died, I whipped it away to the farm and planted it. It has since grown into a beautiful tree. When it flowers in late spring, tui, bellbirds and kereru flock to it’s golden flowers, drinking the nectar and bickering among themselves over territory and mates. Last week, I collected seed from its branches. I plan to sow them in various safe places as we travel around, but I will keep some in reserve. One day there will be a new garden and I’ll sow that seed and maybe in the far off future our grandchildren will lie in the grass beneath a kowhai tree, looking up at tui feeding in the spring.

Dear Diary, Yo Blog.

May 22, 2007

Dear Diary,

I’ve been thinking about you and me quite a bit lately – about how much we have both changed over the years. I can clearly remember your first incarnation. I was nine years old and you were a little square book. You had a lovely soft leather cover in green and a little gold lock with a key that worked. I wrote in you every day. You were not so much of a “what I did” sort of a diary, more a “what I felt” one. I poured my heart out into you. You lived under the mattress and your key lived in the drawer under my knickers and I thought my secrets were safe.

One day, you had moved while I was at school – just a little, and your key was in a slightly different place. I was no longer sure that my secrets were safe. You were nearly full of writing by then and I was finding that your pages were no longer big enough to contain my thoughts, so we said good bye and you were re-born a couple of weeks later. Your new hiding place was harder to find. You now lived behind the big hard-backed books on the bottom shelf of the bookshelves in my room. You had no key, as you were a discarded excersise book from school. I never did have much time for spelling.
I was more cunning by then and in your old, green self, I wrote occasional short, dummy entries – boring “what I did” notes that meant nothing. Your green self moved fractionally on occasions, but your new self never did, so I thought my secrets were safe.

Then one day, I came home from school and the world was in an uproar. Unbeknown to me, we were moving house and my parents had spent the day packing up. My room was nearly empty, a row of sealed boxes the only evidence that it had ever been lived in. When we unpacked at the new house, you in your excersise book form were nowhere to be found. I dared not ask about you and I never saw you again.

For a long time after that, you were physically absent from my life. I still wrote to you, but only in my head – long, detailed entries that explored and explained my life as I saw it.

Now, you have arisen in yet another way. You are both much bigger and much smaller than you were. Bigger in that I need all this wizz-bang machinery to produce you on, smaller in that you are, in your raw form, invisible to human eyes. You live in binary form, translated byte by byte from my mind to your memory, pixelating your way across the screen, there for all the world to see – if they know where to look. You do have a key and it is much harder to find, but I know my secrets are never safe.

A Lesson from my Father

March 23, 2007

My father has always been somewhat emotionally detached. He has never, for whatever reason, been willing or able to verbalise warmth or love, let alone to demonstrate it. He has successfully driven away both family and his few friends with his irascability. He lives in a resthome, which gives me the odd twinge of guilt, because if I were a truly good daughter, I would take him in and care for him myself. But he is such a moaner – nothing, but nothing, is ever right. He never has a good day, he never sleeps a wink, the food is never to his liking, he is always bored, the staff are always too busy to spend time listening to him and I don’t ring often enough. And I know that with my tendancy towards depression, that were I to take him in, I would in all probability fall off my precarious perch of positivity. Besides which, he and the Manpet simply don’t get along. They rub each other up terribly. And I’m not willing to inflict that on the man I love.

My father has two grandchildren – Shmoo, who is 28 years old and Chris, who is nine. Dad’s relationship to his grandchildren has been pretty much on a par with his relationship to my brother and me. Stern, cold, distant and judgemental. Shmoo can remember staying out of his way when she was a child, because of his gruffness. My brother’s child, Chris, has always called him Grumpy Grandpa, because the first thing he hears when he does visit is: “Don’t touch anything. Just sit down and be quiet.” Shmoo visits him when she can, but that isn’t very frequently. She feels guilty about this, but my thinking is that if he had put more effort into accepting her as a small child, she would want to see him now.

The sad part of this is that I don’t think he particularly likes being like this. Whether he recognises his own tendencies or not, I don’t know, as we can never have that type of conversation, but he certainly must feel the results. Interestingly, he has a twin brother who is quite the reverse in temperament. Uncle is warm, welcoming, chatty and great fun to be around. Quite how two genetically identical individuals came to have such different personalities is one of those mysteries of life. A friend reckons that long, long ago, my Dad chose to be the grumpy one and that it stuck so well that he couldn’t get out of it even if he wanted to.

The scary part is that I have a lot of my Dad’s personality.
I can be unthinkingly critical. Often, I’ve said things that would have been far better left unsaid.
I look for the downsides. If there is a reason for not doing something, I’ll surely be the one to find it.
I’m not very social. I’d far rather spend an evening alone with a good book than out at a party. When I am with people, I natural tendency is to listen and watch, rather than talk and interact. I find reasons for not doing social things rather than for doing them. I’m happy with my own company.

And now this grandchild, this mokopuna is coming, no doubt to be followed by others. And I do not want to be towards my grandchildren as my father was towards his. I don’t want to alienate them with harsh comments. I don’t want to make them feel small and unwanted. I don’t want them to feel unloved.

I want to make them feel that they are special, unique human beings. I want to make them feel that they are truly in the centre of my universe, that they are always wecome, always wanted, always loved.

I can only hope that I am up to the task.