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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 33 - Fulfilled

…We could not believe how much we loved this little boy. He was a delight and so interested in all around him. We took him on outings in the weekends to the zoo, the wharves and the airport and for picnics in the country. I got immense pleasure out of watching him play… Gayle Woodward and her husband Woody experience the full joys of parenthood as they care for their lively and inquisitive first-born son Jeffrey.

In January of 1970 when Jeffrey was five months old, we took him camping with us for our first family camping experience.
We borrowed an old canvas tent and two canvas camp stretchers from Woody’s parents. Jeffrey was to sleep on a camp mattress inside his own playpen. We found out that disposable nappies were available and got a recipe for mixing his bottles from powdered milk from the Plunket Nurse. There would be no refrigeration at Mokau Camp in the Urewera National Park.

Our car was packed to the roof with camping equipment. Jeffrey had no car seat so was tightly propped up inside his bath on the back seat and travelled happily but sleepily there for the four hour trip. We were the only people camping in the Campground and it was peaceful and sunny.

We popped Jeff into Woody’s thick canvas pack when we went exploring. He often fell asleep with his head on his Dad’s shoulders. It was a difficult time for me as I was always boiling and then cooling water to mix bottles. The disposable nappies were thick and filled with cotton wool. They would become sodden and uncomfortable and we could only think to dispose of them in the camping ground rubbish tins.

We washed dishes on a park table we had pulled close to our tent. We used Sunlight detergent and the blowflies and bees loved the smell of it. I remember the hum that was always with us as we cleaned or cooked. At night we heard kiwis calling in the bush. The smell of the canvas and the quiet flap of it during the dark hours were addictive. We determined to do this more often.

Jeffrey grew and became an inquisitive little blonde boy. He asked questions about everything and would not stop doing so until he understood what he wanted to know. He became very fond of the fruit and vegetables from Dad’s wonderful garden. He called my Dad ‘Adda’, a derivative we thought, of Grandad.

Jeffrey loved to play in his sandpit and would play in his little bath with pouring toys for hours if allowed. We had no bath so we used his baby bath until he was old enough to shower. We used to place the baby bath on the floor of our shower to contain all the splashing and drips that occurred.

One night when he was about 18 months old, I had taken him out of the bath and dressed him in pyjamas and slippers ready for bed. I did not empty the bath after dressing him and got caught up in watching a television programme. Woody and I suddenly heard peals of infectious laughter coming from the bathroom. We sprinted, as only parents of toddlers can, to find Jeff sitting back in his, by now cold, bath, fully dressed in pyjamas and slippers. It was winter and we had no clothes drier so it was new pyjamas and he was slipper-less for the next few days until they dried.

We could not believe how much we loved this little boy. He was a delight and so interested in all around him. We took him on outings in the weekends to the zoo, the wharves and the airport and for picnics in the country. I got immense pleasure out of watching him play.

He loved his Bunka. It was a cellular woollen blanket from his bassinet days. The ends were bound in satin and Jeff was devoted to this blanket. He would not sleep without it and we sometimes had to return home from an outing to get the Bunka which had been forgotten. It dragged from the pushchair and fell on the floor of our car and got rather grubby. I determined to wash it. Jeff was horrified. He sat under the clothesline trying to hold onto his Bunka as it turned around on the revolving line. He sat doggedly, holding on all afternoon. Finally it dried and I could hand it back to him. He cuddled it close and said “Ah, my Bunka!”

I could not imagine my life without him and felt very satisfied with what I had. I wrote:

When Jeff was nine months old, the doctor told us that his weepy eyes were caused by blocked tear ducts. They would have to be cleared under anaesthetic as he would not be able to keep still enough. On the appointed day, Dad drove Jeff and me to Auckland Hospital to have the little operation done in the theatre of the Day Clinic.

Jeff was grumpy and hungry, having not been able to have a drink or any food that morning. A nurse came and took him from my lap and he looked over her shoulder as he was taken away, straight at me. His eyes never left me until they turned a corner and were gone from view. My eyes filled with tears.

Baby Jeff did not know what was to happen to him but I was taken back to my own terror in hospital at five, and I thought that he probably felt as I did. I sat glumly beside my Dad. It was only a short while and a nurse was returning with Jeff stretched out across her arms. He was barely conscious and I could not believe how long he looked, completely relaxed and limp. He woke gradually on the car trip home and did not seem to have any ill effects or pain. After food and a bottle he was fine. I do not think that he even knew what had happened.

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