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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 11 - New Sisters

"That year was their first experience of asking Santa Claus to bring presents on Christmas morning...'' The Woodwards take in two young sisters from the Salvation Army Orphanage over the Christmas holidays. For earlier chapters of Gayle Woodward's warm-hearted life story click on Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine in the search box on this page.

In Form Two an exciting thing happened in our family. We began to have children from the Salvation Army Orphanage in Remuera to stay over the Christmas holidays. Our mother was a Brownie Leader and often taught her Brownie Pack to make gifts for the orphanage children.

Two sisters arrived first. Sharon and Elizabeth were delightful little girls and Mary and I treated them as little sisters. The first year they arrived right on Christmas and stayed until after we went on holiday to Onetangi. That year was their first experience of asking Santa Claus to bring presents on Christmas morning. It was most disconcerting to our parents when the girls announced (when pushed by us to ask for something) that they would ask for Stiff Petticoats. These pretty undergarments of stiffened net would make the full gathered skirts of the day which we wore, stand out all around our bodies, crinoline style. One could do a wonderful twirl when so attired.

Most of our presents were hand made or had been purchased weeks before so it was not possible to fulfil these wishes for Christmas. Our parents were so disappointed. The anguish on Dadís face was palpable. When Santa arrived he left gifts but not the petticoats.

After they had gone back to the Home, we as a family visited them one night and gave them each a Stiff Petticoat. There were excited shrieks of delight as they rushed off to show their friends. The next year they came again for Christmas and also came on holiday with us to Waiheke. Another year, a delicate little curly-haired four year old, Cindy, came to stay. She was a frightened little girl who had been abused but she blossomed in the loving care of Mum and Dad.

Until I reached puberty at 11, I led the most sheltered and happy life imaginable. As outside influences surged in on me the confidence began to falter and my frailty showed. I left the primary school headed for college a naive and innocent girl with delusions about my own ability.


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