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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 50 - Lively Karen

“We put a make-ship gate across the open entrance to our lounge to keep her safe, but as we lay in bed at night and heard her rattling the bars of her cot as she tried to climb out, there were signs that she was not going to be an easy child to manage…’’ Bringing up baby Karyn was a demanding task, as Gayle Woodward reveals in this episode of her autobiography.

We purchased a car for me and I proudly placed Karyn in her car seat and shopped and explored around the new district. My car was a white Ford Anglia with the angled back window and a huge steering wheel. I thought it was gorgeous.

We had two cars in the driveway for the first time. I met a few mothers at the Kindy when we collected our children. There were two women who stood out as particularly interesting and nice. One was Kathy Stone, who had a seven-year-old friendly with Jeff as well as younger boy a little older than Mark. The other woman was Carol Wall, a very friendly person. But we lived close by the school and Kindy and these women lived further away.

The boys played after school with children in our street and close by. We were so close to school and high on the hill that one night when a classroom block at Jeff’s school caught fire we heard the fire sirens and then watched from our back deck as Jeff’s very classroom burnt down. He was very upset as his work inside his desk would be gone and he had left a jumper, hand knitted by his Nana as well as coloured pencils and toys inside the desk too.

The next morning we all were at the school to see the destruction first hand. The children whose classrooms were burnt were to be bussed to another school in the township while repairs were made. The seven and eight year olds involved thought this to be very exciting. But record cards for these children had disappeared too and Jeff’s records from age five to eight were gone forever. It did not matter to him. He was very happy and involved with his new friends and becoming bossy and noisy, leadership qualities sparking in him.

We drove through the night to Auckland for Christmas. The children slept most of the way and I had pillowcases of Santa toys wrapped and hidden with the luggage. Santa was going to visit them at Nana and Alla’s house.

Woody got sleepy driving through the Desert Road Central Plateau area. We parked on the side of the road and slept. The children slept too. I was awoken by cold. There was snow on the side of the road and the dawn was arriving icy, still and grey. We carried on, refreshed.

Mum and Dad were delighted to see us all, especially as Karyn appeared to remember her grandmother. She was six months old. It was the three-year-old Mark who was most looking forwards to Christmas morning. He first woke at three am and was told to go back to sleep. He tried Nana and Alla next. His grandparents were groggily led at five am to the fireplace to find the presents. We were embarrassed by his early morning start but our children could no wrong in the eyes of their grandparents, who in fact cajoled Woody and me to join them.


Things got no better at Alleyne Court. The backyard still had no grass and the basement room still flooded. Our rental agent could get nothing done for us and advised us to look for another property to rent. He told us about a brand new house built as an investment in Gemstone Drive in the new subdivision of Birchville, which would be available to rent in a few weeks time.

Woody went first and looked at it from the street. A new school was being built right next door. He was excited and phoned me to come and look. I waited till the boys were home and we went to look. We rushed around to the back of the house and looked at bedroom windows. We counted four bedrooms and there was a double garage at the front under the living areas. These opened out onto a deck. I thought it would be perfect; the boys were happy that they would not have to share a room anymore. We signed up for the house and had to wait impatiently for it to be finished.

I was still breastfeeding Karyn when she began to eat solid food. Her dark hair had fallen out to be replaced by golden blonde silky locks and she was beautiful. She was a wiry little baby who would cling on to one’s body when she was being carried. She sat alone and stood up (holding on) at six months. At seven months she crawled at break neck speed. By eight months she was moving around the furniture very fast.

We put a make-ship gate across the open entrance to our lounge to keep her safe, but as we lay in bed at night and heard her rattling the bars of her cot as she tried to climb out, there were signs that she was not going to be an easy child to manage.

I did not want to end the breastfeeding. I knew that Karyn would be the last child for us and she was growing up fast. I got wistful and sad as the time for weaning came closer. It came when she was seven months old and I thought that I should look forward to another stage in my life from now on. At only nine months of age she took her first steps and from that moment did not look back. She rushed headlong into life, falling over and bumping into things as she first walked unsteadily and then ran, with a baby’s lack of knowledge of danger and an unerring way of finding the most dangerous pastimes.

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