A couple of days ago it was my Mother's Birthday. Well, it would have been if she was still alive. She was always pleased that it was on the Queen's 'real' Birthday; April the 21st, not the one we celebrate.
Here she is with me on her lap. I'm sitting up pretty well, and on solids, so that means it's 1956, probably lunchtime on a clear, bright day in mid winter. I expect it started with a crackling frost because Mum has her mid-calf warm skirt on.
We are on the verandah of the Napier Road house, and behind Dad's back would be the old orchard that my parents bought along with the house section, and that was eventually sold to pay the mortgage off. The river ran behind the house, (except we always referred to it as 'the creek') and I used to lie in bed and listen to the pukeko swamp hens and morepork owls in the willows that lined the banks. These days there's a tidy walkway and the river is constrained and isn't allowed to flood any more, like all the Hawkes Bay rivers. It's ironical, really, because it was the repeated flooding and deposition of that wonderful fertile silt that formed the Heretaunga Plains in the first place, and made it possible to grow the wonderful cornucopia of fruit and vegetables that are produced here still. Every year Mum would preserve dozens of 'Agee' jars of tomatoes and pears and golden queen peaches for the cupboard. They would sit up in the top cupboards like rows of red and cream and gold suns, trapped behind glass and shining like the hot summer days to tide us over the winter.