Back when I thought I might try to string this story together, an effort to understand a history and unravel my own subconscious both, I approached my mother and asked her permission. Whether she knew the depths of our joint past to which I would plumb is questionable, but she must have had an inkling, because she gave me a story of which I was completely unaware, and was a considerable surprise to me. A shot across the bow, as it were.
When we returned from Greece I remember living in another now long-demolished bach in what is today ‘downtown’ Mount Maunganui. It was a couple of street across from my grandparents, and it was one of those halcyon summers you remember as a child. Apparently this story started there.
For some reason we had moved from that place, which was ‘close to the action’ as it were, to Arataki – the suburb I would spend the remainder of my childhood. Arataki was the edge of the world in Mount Maunganui, with lots of state housing, and the general appearance of what they call these days ‘nappy valley’. The skies had circled to the near-perpetual grey of a New Zealand winter, and we were sharing a place with some other people. To this day I don’t remember who they are. But I do remember it being the place that my youngest brother took his first steps.
One of my most keen memories of that house is many adults turning up one day, and everybody disappearing into a back room. The lesson I took away being that children see far more than you might realise, and are more keenly aware of adult behaviour that you might expect. I knew then, as I knew as early as age five, the something specific involved in their secrecy.
From that place, we moved to what became our home until the late 1990s, a state house on the very edge of town, although these days it is buried in wealthy suburbia.
So why all this moving, I hear you ask. Well, it seems that my mother had become involved in some sort of Police investigation into the explicable adult behaviour I had mentioned. Her role has long been something to which she has admitted limited liability, but her tale to me (the one indicated at the start of this wee ramble), made something very clear to me. She was playing an extremely dangerous game.
Discovering the exact ins and outs of what happened is likely to never happen. This was an event of 30 years ago, and is likely buried deep in people’s memory. What I do know is what she told me, which was simple, and which I’ve come to regard as a moment of particularly lucid truthfulness in her retelling to me of the past.
Some local guys became convinced she was assisting the Police, and decided they would put a stop to it. They’d been making threats for a fair while, and must have decided to act. They came to the house while my brother and I were at school (though where my youngest brother was, I do not know). They took her to a house in the country, and there, with her petrified at what they might do, they took out a kit, and began cooking up a dose. By now she’d figured out what they were doing. She had initially thought they were either going to scare her, rape her, or kill her, in ascending order of awfulness. But watching the guy with the spoon and the lighter, and wondering where the other guy was, she intervened. He must have been dithering with the spike, because she claims she looked him in the eye, pulled up her sleeve, dumping it on the kitchen table and just stated, “For Christs’ sake [Jimmy], just fucking do it. I can’t live like this anymore, and you can’t live like this anymore. Just fucking do it.”
He let her live.