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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 27 - Woody's Vital Question

“We knew we would have to tell my parents. I knew it would be a traumatic thing but knew it had to be done. Woody said he would do it. He would ask my Dad for my hand in marriage. The Saturday afternoon I knew he was doing this I thought I would faint, I felt so scared…’’ Gayle Woodward finds out that she is pregnant – and a wedding is arranged.

As all these changes in my life were occurring, another more advantageous thing had begun. I had fallen pregnant. This was not altogether surprising as we had been shocked to find a month ago, a condom which had broken. I missed a period and was worried out of my wits. I did nothing for the first month thinking if I did nothing it would all go away.

The next month a scanty period arrived. I clung to the hope that all would be well. I dared not to tell Mum but I had sore breasts and felt nauseous and thinking I could ignore this no longer, took myself off to the family doctor. She agreed that I probably was pregnant and had me tested. She promised not to tell my parents but urged me to do so.

I told Woody my suspicions and he was shocked and uncharacteristically quiet. He did not offer any support. I had to phone the surgery from the public phone at the shops and when told that the test had come back positive I felt stunned.

I walked back from the shops in a daze. I still said nothing at home. Mum knew I was not feeling well and she questioned me closely but came to the conclusion that I was worried by all the changes with new schools and new classes.

I went with Woody in the weekend to Waiwera where his parents were staying with their friends. I wanted him to talk about what we would do now that I was pregnant. He found it all hard to accept and went off by himself to talk to his parents and brother. I think they urged him to stand beside me. They had known me for five years and both families thought of us as a twosome by then.

In his usual fashion, Woody thought about the situation he found himself in for hours and then simply announced to me that we would get married. I did not want him to be forced into something he did not want but he said that we would get married some day anyway and this would just be sooner.

We knew we would have to tell my parents. I knew it would be a traumatic thing but knew it had to be done. Woody said he would do it. He would ask my Dad for my hand in marriage. The Saturday afternoon I knew he was doing this I thought I would faint, I felt so scared. Dad was, not surprisingly, shocked. He was very happy for us to be engaged but when Woody explained the reason for the suddenness, he was saddened and disappointed. He broke the news to Mum and she, as expected, yelled and fainted and carried on as if I had just announced that I had robbed a bank. She rushed around shutting the windows so the neighbours would not hear us, and crying.

I felt quite detached from all the drama. I was already bonded and close to the little being growing inside me. It felt as if everyone was making plans for and about me and I only wanted to go to a quiet place with my baby and stay there.

It was decided that we would announce our engagement the next Saturday in the Auckland Star newspaper. Nana had bequeathed the three diamonds in her engagement ring to her three granddaughters, one each. Woody and I took my diamond to a manufacturing jeweller in Queen Street, who designed us a ring using my ideas.

A week later as he sat beside me on my bed at home, he formally asked me to marry him and slipped the ring on my finger. So, although I did not have a romantic proposal, it was all seeming very normal and romantic now. We had no doubts and were both looking forward (me probably more) to our wedding on March 8th 1969. The Berkeley Lounge in Mission Bay was booked for our reception and Mary’s friend, Melinda, who was a professional seamstress of some repute, agreed to make my wedding gown.

There was some discussion as to whether I should wear white but I was adamant that this was what was required, even though on my wedding day I looked rather like a ghost with white dress, white veil, white hair and white face. I should have gone for a more flattering colour. Cars were hastily booked as were flowers, and a photographer. Mum’s organisation and planning was marvellous given her shock and discomfiture at the haste of the occasion.

I started at Churchill Park School in February an engaged young woman planning a wedding in March. I said nothing of my pregnancy and thought I could cope with my Standard Three and Four class for the short time I would be there. The baby was due in the middle of August. I thought I would work till I showed which I imagined to be five months pregnant. The class was very well behaved and prim. They were no doubt pleased to have a young and glowing young teacher in front of them. I used Teachers Versions of textbooks to get me through the early days and was amazed at how these nine and ten year olds could do sustained work with little effort on my part. It was so much easier teaching at this level than with the juniors.

My energy was not really at school with me though. I was feeling wonderfully healthy as the pregnancy progressed and I felt closer to the baby each day. The wedding was only weeks away and there were fittings for the dress and the trying on and selection of a veil and shoes. Woody and I were planning our honeymoon, arranging for time off work for the week and searching for a flat to rent.

We decided to go to Rotorua for our first night and booked ourselves in to The Geyserland Hotel, a very grand place we thought. Then we would travel through the Ureweras to stay at the Lake House at Waikaremoana for one more night. This was to be followed by another night at a hotel in Gisborne and one in Whakatane where in the event we met friends of Woody’s parents who owned a bach beside one of the Rotorua lakes where we stayed for two nights. At the time we did not know about the bach. I thought it all sounded exciting. We were eager to be able to spend the whole night together.

I asked Mary and my friend Margaret from Teachers College to be my bridesmaids. Mum made the bridesmaid dresses in my favourite pale blue and Mary was to be our hairdresser as she had graduated from Hairdressing College and was employed in a salon in St Heliers. I had never looked better. My hair was glossy and my skin clear and blooming. The pregnancy was not showing but for a very small bulge in my tummy area.

We rented a small flat behind a house in Bassett Road in Remuera. The landlady took me down to the basement to show me the washhouse. There was no hot water to the laundry and I did not know how I could wash without it. The kitchen scared me as I still did not know how to cook. We were being given a double bed from Woody’s parents as a wedding present, and got cast off furniture from the two families. So began a week long training session at home with Mum as she taught me how to make a week of dinners that I could serve my new husband. I made all dinners for our family for a week to show off my new prowess, but still did not feel very confident in my ability.

Invitation replies came back by the dozens and lists and seating arrangements were finalised. When my dress was finally delivered, finished, and I tried it on I felt tears swim in my eyes as I looked in the mirror. I looked so beautiful. The gauche, awkward thirteen year old that I had been had completely disappeared. Here stood a tall and stunning nineteen year old ‘swan’. In six short years a transformation had taken place.


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