My husband and I, hardly ever agreed about anything anymore, were constantly arguing, stressed and screaming, just doing life by rote. His use of the leather strap was way overboard, while I, unable to understand little kids were just that, ‘little kids’, had begun doing what I had hated mum doing, hitting out when mad about some perceived defiance or rebellion. Afterwards, we would make up and tell each other we would never get divorced like our parents, but nothing ever changed.
Christmas time arrived, and and we took the children to the children’s Christmas party at the new work, where they enjoyed fizz, lollies and presents from Santa. There was also a Christmas breakup put on by the company for its employees my husband attended. Over doing his drinking and getting really blotto, he fell asleep on his train trip home, missing his stop. He came to his senses, miles away from our area and had to backtrack on foot, because the trains had stopped running for the night. Looking a right sorry sight, in the wee small hours of the next day, he turned up on our front doorstep, plastic teeth lost, and best suit covered in spew.
December 21st, 1964, during the nightly, bathing and putting of kids to bed, I heard the little baby, our newest addition crying, and leaving my little toddler girl sitting with her toys in the bath went to check. Returning a few minutes later, she was still sitting up in the bath but her head had fallen over on her chest and she was all quiet, I thought she had fallen asleep.
But unable to rouse her, panicking, I snatched her up out of the bath, wrapped her in a towel while running outside screaming out to my neighbours for help. Mrs R, looking out their window used their telephone to call the local fire engine for help. Immediately Mr R, rushed over to attempt mouth to mouth resuscitation.
The noise of the fire engine siren arriving, gave me hope they would be able to help. Black suited men in helmets poured into the house and I watched frightened, as they lay my little girl on the table and tried to revive her and bring her back. My husband arrived home to pandemonium – fire engine parked at our door, red lights flashing, crowds massed outside our house wondering what was going on, (chasing sirens for a nosy was a popular activity).
I was unable to comprehend how that could be when the firemen tell us they couldn’t do any more, she was gone. How could a little kid just suddenly disappear, be here and then gone, never to be seen or heard ever more. Then my mind remembered the little kitten who suffocated under the bed covers when I was a kid, but I hadn’t ever thought that happened to little kids. An ambulance came and took away my beautiful little blond girl, the only one with the family’s curly hair, leaving us in stunned silence.
In my head, I was thinking of the words of one of my neighbours, whose wife had let his budgie get out and fly away, ‘I leave you at home all day to look after kids and you can’t even look after the bloody bird.’ I was supposed to look after my little girl and had let her drown. One of the hardest things I had ever had to do in my life so far was ringing my family from Mrs R’s phone and tell them what I had done. hearing my Nana sobbing on the other end of the phone-line, echoing my own despair, is forever burnt in my brain.
December 22nd, I don’t remember who, but someone took me to Lower Hutt, to shop for a black hat to wear to my wee girl’s funeral. Attending, unhatted, was considered inappropriate, I couldn’t have cared less. Numb to everything, I just wanted to curl up in a ball and die. I do remember being grateful for the hat shop lady’s incredible kindness in my sorrow. Paying no attention to the tears that kept rolling down my face she compassionately helped me, and picked out a little black hat she thought suitable.
December 23rd, the Church service, for my little girl, entering the Presbyterian Church at the Old Village, I feel my heart lurch when my eyes spot the lonely looking little white coffin up the front, it looks so tiny. Sitting in my chair, tears streaming down my face uncontrollably, I hear nothing.
In my head, I am battling a crazy idea overcoming my brain. I have an overwhelming urge to run out front and get my baby and take her back home again, to make it alright. Instead, with my heart feeling like it will burst at any minute with the unbearable sickening pain, I have to get in a car, without her and travel behind the hearse that’s carrying my little girl away.
Up and over the Wainuiomata hill, she goes for the last time, along Waiwhetu road, through my Epuni beginnings, and up to the Taita cemetery. All the time, I pray to God, to slow the hearse in front down, I’m not ready to face giving her up forever.
I sense, but do not see, the crowd around me as they bury my dear beautiful little girl, her short, not very happy life, forever over. I know the sun is shining, but strangely, the light appears to me to be totally black, everything else is an unbelievable, unrememberable, black, black, blank in my memory.
December 24th, its Christmas Eve, standing in, Whitcoulls in Lambton Quay, unable to stop the tears running down my face, we are trying to do a totally impossible task. Shopping for the other children’s Christmas gifts. Our hearts are not in it, and all I can see, are the toys that Kirsty would have loved, making the pain even sharper. I am sorry and saddened, that I never looked after her with more care and gave her more love and fun in her little time, before there were no more chances.