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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 41 - Making Progress

…Finally Woody had a solution. He declared, “You can have another baby OR a cat!”…

No prizes for guessing which of these Gayle Woodward chose.

We took both boys away camping after Christmas. We went back to Mokau Landing in the Ureweras with our friends the O’Meaghers. They had Brent, a couple of months younger than Jeff, and Carlene who was three months older than Mark. The two littlies played together and did not stray around the camp. Jeff was off exploring and trying to dam the stream most of the time although they had Lego and toys brought from home to play with.

After dinner at night when all the children were tucked up asleep on their stretchers, we would play cards and sip a few Bacardi and Cokes. The games always had very complicated rules and Carol was apt to change them at the drop of a hat. She would get into her nightclothes early on and wear a pink quilted short dressing gown for the card sessions. The two things combined in our minds - the rule changes and the pink dressing gown. In any case, the evenings were hilarious and we had so much fun together.

There were many English immigrants in the campsite and Woody thought that to distinguish ourselves as tangata whenua, so to speak, we would fly a black and white kiwi flag of his own design from the top of our tent. He sewed the flag using his mother’s commercial sewing machine and it is significant that the same flag is used for commercial purposes and at sporting evens today. We all decided to come back to Mokau in the next Christmas holidays.

When Mark turned two, the terrible two’s tantrums began. He loved to shout “No!” when asked to do something but always seemed to see how funny he sounded for he would grin as he said it. His tantrums were short and noisy. He would stamp around in a circle screaming with his face turning bright red. It was impossible to get annoyed with him. He made me laugh, I could not stay angry. Mark was never as inquisitive as toddler Jeff had been. Mark played alone, pushing himself along on his wheeled plastic bike or moving Jeff’s toy cars and trucks around on the floor. He was a delight.

In August 1974 Jeff started school at Manuka Primary School, aged five. He was rather frightened and clung to my hand when I tried to leave him on the first day. The teacher had one of his hands and he had my hand and it was all distressful. I felt as if I was deserting him. I was not invited to stay but told to collect him at two o’clock.

I walked home pushing Mark up the hills and thinking. Jeff had proved very scared when asked to birthday parties and had completely refused to attend some of them. I worried and was offhand to Mark all day. I felt so bad and teary. But we walked back at the required time and Jeff came out all smiles, clutching a painting he had made, proudly. The next morning he didn’t want to go back to school and had to be cajoled all the way. In the afternoon he was happy again. This pattern continued for weeks. It was stressful but I began to accept that Jeff had turned into a fearful boy, who needed constant encouragement.

I thought that the time was right to try for another child. I hoped this time to have a three year gap and wanted to see if we could produce a girl to finish our family. I also was urging Woody to agree that we get another cat. He was not keen on either idea. He did not think that we could afford a new baby or that I could manage three kids. I had no doubt that I could as Mark had been such an easy baby. And Woody did not want me to be upset by losing another cat as I had with our first one. It was an impasse.

Finally Woody had a solution. He declared, “You can have another baby OR a cat!” “A baby,” I replied, satisfied. Never did the thought that we might not be able to get pregnant enter my head. I now had to work out how to ensure that the new baby was female. I read all that I could get my hands on. I learnt that conceptions which occurred right on ovulation were more likely to be male babies. Those which occurred on either side of ovulation were more than likely to be female.
I knew exactly when I ovulated because I would suffer a sharp pain in my lower side. It worked to advantage and I orchestrated our lovemaking. I don’t think Woody was aware of the plan. I had told him but he was rather dubious. However, in August, with Jeff having just turned six and Mark two years old, I got out of bed one night to go to the toilet and fainted in the hallway. Woody heard the crash as I fell and came groggily to find me on the floor. “Oh no!” he said. He knew what that meant. And I cunningly knew that conception would have been a day after ovulation!

Woody was progressing well with his new company. He was encouraged to study for formal lighting qualifications in order to become a Lighting Engineer. The testing was through City and Guilds, a British based institution which provided technical qualifications. Lessons arrived from the United Kingdom. They were heavily mathematical based with an emphasis on algebra and geometry. Woody was floundering. He had a weak mathematical base although had been able to get through his electrical exams. Dad offered to give some coaching and Woody took up the offer eagerly. The coaching paid off and Woody began to understand his new lighting science. The company determined that he would join other new employees in London for six weeks to study together for their lighting exams. He was amazed to be offered this chance, a little afraid but keen.

I worried how I would get around with no driver and pregnant. I knew that Woody’s Thorn Station Wagon would be at home for me to use for the six weeks that he was away if I could learn to drive and get my Drivers Licence. Lessons were arranged. I was so nervous and stopped them after only two. I knew I would have to learn some time but would rather put it off. I hated to be bunny hopping up my road with all the neighbours (I thought) looking. It was stressful. I did not see how I could get to the supermarket and home without a car and then there were clinics to attend at the Mater Maternity which was now on the other side of the Harbour Bridge. He was leaving sometime at the end of February and would be gone to the other side of the world. I would be alone with two children and another on the way. I had to learn!

Christmas arrived and I had done nothing about it. I so enjoyed Christmas with the boys. Jeff would not speak to Santa Claus in the Glenfield Mall but he would write a letter to Santa. We posted it off to the South Pole with great gusto, and I had found out what he had asked Santa to bring him. Mark was malleable; we could subtlety tell him what we thought he wanted. The boys left pillow cases beside the Christmas tree and left cakes and a bottle of beer for Santa and milk in a saucer for his reindeer. I had a great deal of presents for the boys. I had been collecting things for months. I so wanted to reproduce the kind of magical Christmas I had enjoyed as a girl. It was more difficult because Woody had never had this kind of Christmas and could not understand my spending on presents. We always went to Mum and Dad’s for Christmas lunch and many more presents for the boys, then on to Woody’s parents place for Christmas dinner. An exhausting day, but important to be with family.

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