Having children is a leap into the unknown. My husband Brian and I decided to take the plunge because we had recently had a traumatic event. Strange reason I know.
Brian was 24 and I had just turned 20…. which is young these days, but my rather warped reasoning was not steeped in logic.
Living in New Zealand at the time, and with husband in a new job, I had just survived Tuberculosis but had been sick for a few months without even knowing.
In fact I was still taking pills having only been out of hospital a month and realised that this had come out of nowhere.
So, I wondered if I don’t know what the future holds, why not grab life by the throat and have a baby while I was still able to?...
I think it had shocked me to think life didn’t always play nice.
I most ways we were lucky the job for Brian had come along. A position as an artist in a New Zealand studio, just as we decided to get engaged.
So, as we hurriedly organised a wedding at the start of 1959, our very long-suffering parents accepted we would be leaving them to travel far across the world.
I loved New Zealand from the start, we both did.
By the time I was 20 we had organized a house to be built, as there was a scheme which helped young couples. I was having that precious baby by August, and was so thrilled, so were our parents far far away.
I never told my mother, or anyone that I had been two months on a TB ward. It was a time when travel was not easy, I did not want them to panic…. so, I know I did the right thing. To worry her and make her spend money on a fare seemed wrong.
Our beautiful daughter was born in June, and I treasure the memory.
I even held her hand as she came into the world… So special, I was elated, l felt I was invincible. My 21st birthday was soon after Kerry was born, so we celebrated.
New house, new baby, but no money and very little furniture unless we made it ourselves!
We were very clever at making things work though. Brian made tables and a bed, and a lamp and bookshelves and we painted our curtains ourselves with our own design. Also, a clever lamp made of cardboard. So proud even now, of how we improvised.
We ticked over well enough, I walked everywhere, and we somehow made the budget stretch.
I had Vince about 18 months after Kerry, he came into the world fast, and has been a whirlwind since, He could talk at 8 months, putting words together and asking about cars which he loved from the start.
He was eating real food by himself with a spoon at 10 months, I think my “let them try” philosophy worked. Kerry could crawl at five months. I had no family to tell me “Don’t do that”.
Luckily both children slept well. We had a crazy dog, his friend Butch, and a cat. I walked bare foot to the shops with 2 dogs and a cat, and the children in a twin push chair; Looking back at this age, in my 80’s I am appalled!
I must have been mad!!
The birth of the third child back in England was almost a disaster, I had a very large baby, 9lb 9oz, he was born way too fast, and I needed surgery.
Life was not good, I hated being back in England loathed the weather, and luck was not with us for a year or so. My father went bankrupt, Brian’s father died, and we went without many essentials that first year.
Eventually, we moved to a village, my children grew up in Westwood, Wiltshire, so perfect for growing children, it had fields and safe places to play, a local school they could walk to and a stream at the bottom of the hill at Iford, where they later learned to swim.
An idyllic childhood …..lots of friends, a free and easy lifestyle and we look back and realise we were at the best time. Not rich…but supremely happy.
All three children had different personalities … The middle one was the wild child, the older sister was sensible and serious, the youngest Ross lived in a dream world, he was once found in the middle of group of steers, all the muzzles sniffing him, he was not scared, just talking to them, he was three.
He also escaped from my garden when we lived in Bath and was returned with a note pinned to him, ‘Ross was found at the school, we are returning him’. I still have the note, I once sent Vince to bed with a broken foot, telling him he had just got a graze. Next day I got it checked he was in a half plaster for several weeks.
He used to it to slow down his bike and wore out three casts.
Had to return him to get it done again. Yet in spite of what seems like haphazard parenting the children all ate well, slept a full night and were kind to older relatives. Not angels but pretty normal kids.
I also taught them to sit still and behave in restaurants. A dying art!!
Life often was a challenge, but we moved a few times after they grew to teenage years.
We still had a good relationship all through the teenage traumas, we took them with us when we went to Menorca, also each family holiday they often had a friend along too.
So a holiday at Croyde in North Devon involved my parents, my Mum-in-law, 2 friends of our children, our three children, plus our adorable Labrador “Grotty”….
I cooked for ten people!… huge roasts, enormous breakfasts, and endless scones and biscuits; but we had an arrangement, I cooked breakfast and dinner, and did not expect to see them for lunch….Happy days; we all look back on them with pleasure. The laughs and the memories are so special.
Our children are still our friends. I count my blessings, as this is not always the case.
Two are very happily-- married after 30 odd years. One is not. But we have three beautiful grandchildren and now a great grandson….
We are rather spread out in distance, but the family remains. Long may it be so.
© 2022 - Jacqui Lee
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