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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 30 - Our Own Home

Gayle Woodward and husband Woody share the excitement of moving into their very own home and prepare for the arrival of a baby.

To read earlier chapters of Gayle's delightful life story click on Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine in the menu on this page.

The next morning we decided to make our way back to Auckland and begin our married life properly. Half an hour into the journey, Woody remembered he had left in the bach the cheque which Dad had given him for emergencies as we left on the Saturday of our wedding. The cheque was a cash one written out for eighty dollars and there was no question that we would have to back track to the bach and retrieve it.

The road around the Rotorua lakes was a windy and narrow one and on our second trip out from the bach, after hiding the key again as requested, we got stuck behind a very large and slow logging truck for many kilometres. At last Woody spotted a possible passing spot. He pulled out to pass and the truck sped up, effectively blocking our approach.

Woody dropped down a gear and sat angrily waiting for the next possible passing area. Suddenly it appeared and he speedily pulled out and passed just as another logging truck came into view on our side of the road in front of us. My eyes were shut as we sped into a tiny gap sandwiched between the two giant trucks. I did not utter a sound, to my own amazement. We were both shaken and Woody said, “I nearly killed us both”. It was the closest thing to disaster that either of us has ever come across then or since. He has never done a similar thing again.

We arrived in Auckland and went straight to our new home, the flat in Bassett Road. There were clothes to put away and to be washed and grocery shopping to do. My first efforts at cooking were very ordinary as I had only a few recipes at my fingertips but Woody was appreciative.

On Monday morning I had to catch two buses to get me to school where I was welcomed back warmly by the class as Mrs Woodward. So began six weeks which is a blur to me. The bus trips, the shopping I had to do, the school marking and the dreaded washing in the dungeon-like basement were like a nightmare.

One Friday night when I had dinner ready and waiting for Woody, he didn’t arrive home at his usual time. I ate my dinner alone feeling very sorry for myself and left his to heat over a pot of simmering water. After two hours I had got myself into such an anxious state that I imagined he had been in a car crash or been injured at work. When he finally arrived with a big smile of welcome for me, I simply burst into tears and sobbed, “I thought you were dead!” He was very apologetic and chastened as he explained that he had only had ‘a few beers at work’ and was so sorry that he hadn’t told me and didn’t know that I would be so upset. I had never known my Dad to ever do that. He always came home at the same time each night and never as far as I knew stayed at work to have a beer after hours. It was a great shock to me that my new husband did not want to get home to me as quickly as he could. I found it hard to believe. Was it going to be different now that we were married?

At the end of the first term I handed in my resignation. In 1969 it was frowned upon to work while pregnant and I was just beginning to show. I did not have to work out my teaching bond because I was married and expecting a baby. The Department of Education wished me well for the future and sent a cheque which was the balance in my superannuation account, almost compulsory savings in those days for teachers, taken out of pay at source.

I was much happier not having to keep up the travelling and teaching and began to read up all I could about childbirth and infant care. I was eagerly awaiting our baby now. We jokingly named the baby Ichabod, a name we found in a Name Your Baby book. It meant ‘the glory has departed’. My visits to the doctor were going well. The baby was deemed to be large with a healthy heartbeat. We had no way of knowing which sex this child was, so clothes that were bought ready and waiting and embroidered so beautifully by Mum were all white.

The official list for the layette included three dozen nappies, twelve in use, twelve in the wash and twelve drying. I did not see how I could manage all that washing in the cold water laundry I had, so we determined to look for another place to rent-one with two bedrooms and a proper laundry and clothesline. One night, when we were still in the first flat, there was a knock at the door. We had received no night-time visitors until then so we both went to answer the door. Standing there in the dark porch was Carol, my friend from Teachers College, and her very new husband, Owen. We had been to their engagement party a few months back. I looked down at her tummy bulge and she looked down at mine. We laughed. “Not you too!” she said. “When are you due?” I asked. She said, “October. How about you?” She was big for someone who was only five months pregnant. I only had three months to go. We determined that both of us had been pregnant on our wedding day and then had a bit of a giggle as we reeled off the names of all the others we knew in the same predicament. The night was the start of a very long and enduring friendship between the two men and the two of us, Carol and I. We were to have all three of our children in the same years in the years to come.

A new flat was found in Simkin Avenue in St Johns. It had two bedrooms although only one of them had a wardrobe and the laundry was in the bathroom. It was in a block of four and ours was the downstairs back flat. We agreed to mow the lawns for the block and for that we were to get a reduced rental of twelve dollars a week. We could park our car close to the door and more importantly get the baby’s room ready.

Mum and Dad had taken down from the roof storage my old bassinet and Mum had decorated it in white gauzy material. It was made up and ready and all the clothes hand sewn, crocheted, and knitted were waiting. I had been booked in for delivery at the Mater Maternity Hospital in Epsom because that Catholic private hospital was where my own doctor delivered his babies.

I now had to attend clinics and delivery classes there. I took a bus to get there. I did not mind. I found the classes fascinating and a bit scary. I wondered how I would know it was time to go to the hospital and knew that I would have gas to ease the contractions pain but I did not know how to use the gas machine. I never thought to ask. On the 20th of July I was standing in the living area of our home when over the radio I heard Neil Armstrong broadcast his famous words ‘One small step for man, one giant step for mankind.’ It was a scratchy recording but I felt a shiver go through my large and cumbersome body. I cradled my baby in utero in both arms and said to it, “You are going to be born into the space age, little one!” And exactly one month later, he was!

We were very happy in the new flat. We purchased a new fridge with my superannuation refund and a washing machine of the wringer type. The kitchen was modern in this flat and all our wedding gifts were able to be put to good use. We had a small Formica dining table and two wrought iron chairs that matched it. The lounge suite was one that Mum and Dad had replaced and given to us. It was in poor condition as far as the upholstery was concerned. We were able to buy at Farmers some dark blue stretch nylon patterned loose covers to pull tightly over the sofa and two chairs. A new and modern lounge suite appeared. It was comfortable and big enough so that one could curl up in the armchair with a cup of tea and two round wine biscuits to dunk and nibble.

I had a strange craving for tinned salmon and surreptitiously ate my way through quite a few tins. Salmon was not cheap and we were carefully watching everything we bought, but I had to have these delicacies. We went supermarket shopping at St Heliers on Friday nights together. Our grocery bill would be $12, including salmon. I had no urge to learn to drive. I was happy to catch buses to clinics and to see Mum during the day


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