The story goes that she fell for his homemade bread, he in turn her baking and that they left little notes in the baking tins of thanks and appreciation. That they were just fellow students and flatmates until it came time to move out and go home for the summer, and they realised a summer apart would be a summer too long. Engaged at the New Year, and married the following May. She made her dress, and her parents attended despite their one stipulation to their daughter being that when she left home, she ‘not marry a farmer’s son.’
As a daughter, I struggle a bit with this story. No down on one knee proposal? How very modern and democratic – but also unromantic – it seemed, to just mutually decide that marriage would be great, let’s get it in during the May uni break. Yet on the other hand, the story of my parents’ young union is highly romantic. For me, their lives as adults start when they meet. There is the odd story of Dad’s pre-Mum uni days (those crazy 18 – 21 years) and Mum’s tales of a rather dire sounding first year hostel for girls, circa Christchurch in the 1970s. My mother is not one prone to gratuitous rebellion, so to hear that she lead a midnight raid into the hostel kitchen in search of chocolate speaks to the level of nutritional deprivation that hostel served up.
Despite their overseas travels before and after the arrival of kinder, they have managed to keep many momentos and photos of their life, which now take up residence in their ‘laundry’ (its a rather large laundry…’) Over Christmas, I went through some of the boxes and I was struck by what had been kept. A written reference from a summer job Dad had at Moore Wilsons, an upmarket wholesale grocery shop in Wellington, as well as a receipt from a weekly shop there. Newspaper clippings and copies of Vogue from the week I was born, endless birthday, christening and Christmas cards and ticket stubs stuffed into something else. The deliberately kept and the accidently preserved merged together.
My favourite item was a typed copy of the Meads Road Express, published in 1961, edited by local residents George and Richard Hill. It makes a gripping read; of the missing Mr Paddlesworth who had been lost for days, presumed dead, and was frantically being searched for by local farmer, Rowland Hill and his sons. The lines about the grief and worry of Mrs Paddlesworth and her four fluffy duckling offspring were especially touching. There was also an uplifting note about a sheep who had been rescued after slipping into the stream. It’s is the exact kind of thing I wrote 30 odd years later. The advances in technology meant I wrote my newspaper by hand then ran it through the fax machine a few times, so that the whole family could enjoy the read.
As much as Mum and I get on and enjoying hanging out, I am most definitely Dad’s daughter and particularly his mother’s granddaughter (same hands, feet, tendency to do things without thinking). To me, Dad is a very special kind of Kiwi bloke. Well educated and well spoken, he still makes just enough Dad jokes to keep you on your toes when you bring friends around. An early adopter of social media and technology, he’s more active on Twitter and Google + than most of my peers. Not one for rugby (I think being the waterboy for the Taumarunui High First XV probably didn’t help this), Dad is an avid road cyclist and follower of the sport, and was well over the Lance Armstrong kerfuffle before most of the public knew Armstrong’s name. A reader and watcher of interesting things in the world around him, Dad has often been dismayed at my lack of interest in historical documentaries. The call of ‘You might find it interesting’ is still heard from the lounge when I visit home, and sometimes followed by a huffier ‘Didn’t she do quite well in History at school?”
He is generous to a fault, and this extends into his parenting of us. When I bought my car, Ellie, Dad actually picked her up and I bussed home to collect her. The very first trip I made in her, to a friend’s house, ended with me calling Dad to come pick me up and drive her home, because I’d scolded my knee so badly with boiling water that I was too shocked/hurt to drive. I finally had my own car, my own FreyaPad and a job in the big smoke, and I was still calling Dad in tears to come take me home. I still ask him for advice and the other day I called him from work to ask for help with a file that wasn’t opening in software we both use.
Ten years ago, I won my school speech competition with a speech about the importance of living life to its fullest. The speech was inspired by, and opened with, the story of how rocked our family had been by the recent event of my father being hit by a car while out cycling. The call from the hospital that no one wants, the drive to the hospital not knowing, seeing the bike and helmet later, Mum’s grief and Dad’s brave recovery. The message of my speech was of gratitude and of the need for us all to seek this in our lives daily. I am very grateful to be the daughter of this particular son of a farmer, and for the lessons in life that he and Mum have provided to me. This blog owes much of its existence to Dad’s encouragement and practical, techy help.
Happy Birthday, Pappy – thanks for always answering my calls, listening to my stories and correcting my Freyos xxx