I think if you had the impression that this story was mine and mine alone, you would be mistaken. While I have become the narrator, in truth this story is the tale of all my family. My thinking is, while we have become so very used to seeing ourselves as individuals, we cannot truly see ourselves in isolation. All the things that make up this fabric of individual lives are woven out of the threads of the lives of our forebears. Nothing is new or magical, though many may attempt to convince themselves otherwise.

My mother finds herself then, parent to a child she had not expected to have, a mirror of her own mother, except in the comfort of her situation. She tells a story of bringing me home from the hospital. She had received the customary baby-shower from her workmates (she worked until she was perhaps 8 months pregnant), but was too ashamed to admit that she would be adopting me out, and so secretly gave away my baby clothes and the things she had received. As a consequence I was brought home in clothes from the hospital, several sizes too small, a big 10-pound lad in a 6-pound bonnet.

We made do for another 18 years, she and I. Never bereft or missing the things we needed, but never completely fitting or comfortable.

I cannot say that it was an easy childhood, but it was far far from the hell some children are put through. I learned many things; such as thrift, the emotional value of objects as treasures, the value of a true friendship, not to want too much (for it only leads to dissatisfaction and anxiety, a lesson I had to re-learn many many times), to accept difference with calm, to see the world from the bottom looking up, and finally, to accept that everything is a veneer – true colours lie beneath the appearance.

It’s appropriate that my very first memory is from my return to New Zealand, in what must have been November of 1971. Strangely, it is a view of me being taken from a Sydney to Auckland plane. I am being brought out of the doorway of the plane, and carried down the gantry to my Grandparents, who will look after me until my mother can afford the airfare home. The perspective of the memory is external to me, meaning that I see myself swaddled in blankets being carried ‘towards myself’.

But this memory is so old that it has become genuine, a tale told to me when I was very very young, impressed for so long that I cannot shake it, and see it as how the event unfolded. In a way, I remember what someone else saw, imagined and etched into the mind of a pre-schooler. This means that my first memory is not my own, but is collectivised, a shared past and a reference point imparted to me by someone who had an entirely different picture in their own mind. And which is the more true?

F,FLP

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