On his Saturday night visits to mum, Ivan arrived at our flat loaded down with special treats for my sister and me – boxes of lollies or big cakes of chocolate. Sometimes when he turned up, he had a few under his belt, what Nana called, one too many over the eight, because he liked to drink, the same as Mr J from over the lawn.
If mum was in a bad mood with Ivan, she made us all sit in silence with the flat all blacked out, not opening the door until he gave up knocking and left. Those nights he posted us kids treats in through the letter flap.
My sister and me sitting like a pair of vultures waiting to swoop on the edges of our chairs for mum to give the all clear. When she heard his footsteps retreating down the path, we could pounce and scoop up the sugary delights on the mat. Racing off to sit up in our beds, we munched away feeling like we were, ‘living the life of Reilly’ as Nana said.
When our last term at Intermediate came around, the teachers informed all us students we were going to be celebrating, with an end of school, dance. They started us learning folk dances, which we thought were pretty corny, and taught us how to do the Waltz for our first ever real grown up doo. All the talk in the playground, among excited girls, was all about dresses and would or wouldn’t parents allow real stockings or make-up, like lipstick and powder.
The night of our dance, I had to walk around the road to the school in the dark by myself. Mum had said, no, to real stockings and make-up, so I was wearing white ankle socks, a new blue, shiny cotton, dress from Evan’s drapery, I liked, but hated the childish, oversize, white daisies, plastered onto the front pockets. Mum lent me a necklace from her jewelry collection, a pretty blue stone on a gold chain.
My two friends, Judith and Jimeece wore soft flowing dresses with taffeta under skirts made by their mothers and were also allowed the tiniest bit of make-up. They made me so envious, my mother was so behind the times.
Our farewell to Intermediate, night, kicked off, with us getting all hot and puffed doing the group folk dances we had been practicing, before having a supper break. After that, the girls sat against the walls on the wooden forms on one side of the room with the boys on the other. The teacher said, “go” and the boys crossed over to pick a waltzing partner from the nervously waiting girls – the same way they picked their sports teams. All the popular ones were taken first until it got down to just one boy who was too shy to ask and me. Trying to fix our embarrassment, the teacher stepped in, talking for the boy and we stumbled around together attempting to waltz, unable to get our feet matching.
Our final day was a mixture of emotions, looking forward to new experiences in varying colleges, but, we hadn’t noticed the bonds that had formed after two years of close, daily, contact, until it was time for final sad goodbyes. In the new year, after the holiday break, I was really happy, my friend Judith, would be joining me at Wellington East Girls College, and I didn’t have to face all the new fellow students drawn from all over our Wellington area, alone.
My sister and I again flew to Christchurch to have Christmas at Nana’s shop. This time, mum insisted we take along our new black and white cat from the W’s, christened ‘Whisky’. I knew there was no point trying to cross mum, so obediently climbed up the steps onto our DC3 plane, carrying a shoe box tied up with string, containing Whisky, crouched inside.
Throughout the whole flight, I sat on tenterhooks with the box balanced on my knee stuffing the various parts of ‘Whiskys’ body that managed to break out, back inside. He was determinedly pushing and shoving, trying to force his way out, everywhere the string was not. I was glad it was my sister who spewed up in the little brown bag this time, I was too busy with the cat.
This trip my big fear was not air pockets, but the cat escaping the box and running free inside the plane. I avoided all eye contact with the Air Hostess lady, in case she asked me what was in the box. What a big relief it was to land with the cat still contained. We had no idea how to answer Nana’s first question,
‘why did we have the cat’.