After lunch break that same day, I did one of my dumb things without thinking. Showing off, trying to be the class clown and get a laugh from the other kids as we filed into class, I pulled my face into slitty eyes, behind the Chinese girl’s back. At the same time teacher appeared, saw me and I was banished out to the hallway, where all the coats and bags were hung, to wait for the strap.
The strap did really hurt, each whack making the insides of my hands red and stingy sore, but I wasn’t going to let on to Teacher. Once when we were playing cards, Nana told me, ‘good’, poker players used a, ‘poker face’ ( to not let on when you had a good hand of cards). I used my, ‘poker face’, when mum whacked me and I felt like crying and to pretend to teacher like I didn’t care, but inside, I did feel really ashamed.
At afternoon break, no-one played Bulrush and Barbour-door, they all stood around whispering about my getting strapped. I wanted to run away and hide and never return. The sound of the last bell of the day ringing out was my escape. The ‘worstest’ school day ever. If I had told mum about it, she would have given me ‘something else to go on with’, another of her sayings, when she got mad.
Mum hardly ever got home before us kids so it was a big surprise when we arrived one day to find her sitting at our table with her Greek boss. He gave me and my sister some pocket money, and mum said we could catch the bus over to the Seatoun shops to spend it. We had fun looking through the town’s little seaside shops, and I remember buying a miniature pack of playing cards like Nana’s.
Horrible wintertime weather arrived, making mum fed up, after working late. The long, lonely, hike up the Strathmore hill on dark rainy nights had her deciding it was time to move closer to town.
The following weekend on her day off from work she took us on a train trip out to Petone, our Grandfather’s town, across the other side of Wellington Harbor. Walking from the train station up main street, mum never said where we were headed, leaving us kids wondering what was going on.
We ended up at a little cottage, just off the main street. Mum knocked on the door and a lady we had never seen before opened up and talked with mum, while my sister and I fidgeted on the front doorstep.
When they were finished, mum told my sister and me, we were to call the lady, ‘Aunt’, even though she wasn’t really and that we would be staying at her house for a while until she found somewhere for us to live in town. My sister cried, I just put on my ‘poker face’, wondering if she would come back for us to live with her again. I never let on but, I was thinking about the Hansel and Gretel story in my big book of Fairy Tales.