On Being the Middle Child

Apparently yesterday, Sunday 2 April, was middle child day. Living in the southern hemisphere as I do, I’ve only just found out about this. We’re already more than half way through Monday as I write.

However, the whole concept of middle child fascinates me for two reasons, the most obvious one being that I am a middle child. I’ve read so many things about the negative side of being a middle child, especially of feeling left out, but that hasn’t been my case at all. I loved being a middle child. The family position proved very advantageous to me.

You see, while the other two were being doted on by our parents, as middle child I was left to be independent and free. There were plenty of times, especially during my teenage years, when I was grateful for my parents not really knowing what I was up to. And then, if I wanted to curl up with a book on my own, no one actually noticed.

The other reason I was interested to learn about middle child day is related to one of my current writing projects. I’m exploring what life was like for me in the 1950s and 1960s through the eyes of a middle child. The revisiting old memories is proving lots of fun.

So, to all middle children out there, I hope you had a happy day. I’d love to hear about your middle child experiences and whether it was a positive or not-so-positive experience for you.mice-395831_960_720

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Blending Your Stories with those of Your Community

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As we know, writing life stories is popular at the moment, recording stories from our past so they are not lost to future generations. We may all think we have nothing special to tell but, from experience, what we find everyday and uneventful, others find fascinating.

Have you ever considered blending your stories with those of your community? Social stories give a reader so much information about the past. Take the hotel in the photo above for example. There are many stories I could tell about this building, from my own family and personal experience back to fascinating things I’ve learned about its history.

All communities have buildings that have been demolished, replaced with more modern constructions. There are also buildings that may be in danger of vanishing some time in the near future. If the stories relating to these buildings are not recorded, part of your community social history is lost.

Why not blend your own stories with those of your community. Start writing them down while you can.

Coffee, Autumn Leaves and Childhood Memories

While people in the northern hemisphere are delighted by the arrival of Spring, I’m equally delighted at the arrival of autumn down here in New Zealand. I love autumn, it’s definitely my favourite month.

I love the settled weather, the lingering of the last of the sunshine, the colours and the general slowing down as we move into winter.

http://www.bubblews.com/news/2701920-an-autumn-saturday-morning-in-new-zealand

I sat drinking coffee at one of my favourite cafes this morning, writing and trying to recall any autumn memories from childhood. Then a sudden rush of times gone by hit me. I was sitting not too far from a rather vivid autumn leaf memory. You can read about it here.

http://www.bubblews.com/news/2735537-childhood-memories-of-autumn-leaves

So, whether you’re moving into Spring or Autumn, celebrate the moment. Enjoy each season for what it is.

Captured by the Fairies at Midnight

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I’m sure you’ve heard the term, away with the fairies. Well, that’s me right now! I was writing a few words at midnight elsewhere last night, when my mind wandered back to childhood and what midnight meant to me then. For some reason, fairies leaped into my mind, and they’ve stayed there ever since.

All sorts of notions have been running through my brain, as if the fairies have captured me and transported me back into another world. My childhood visions of fairies were deeply embedded in my imagination, fuelled by the books I read. I even went fairy hunting in the backyard by moonlight.

Today my preoccupation continues and I’ve decided to delve into these mythical little creatures further. Just for fun of course. I don’t want them to think I’m spying on them!

Remembering my Old School friend Shirley

Life seemed much more simple back in the 1950s. At school everyone seemed the same, regardless of their ethnic origin, home circumstances or anything else that may label someone as being different. We were all just kids, learning and playing together. Life was good.

When I was about eight I had a friend called Shirley, a Chinese girl, who lived on the edge of town in a market garden. Whenever I went to play with Shirley we’d sneak along the other side of the hedge, so the old wrinkled Chinese man sitting on the front verandah of the house smoking, her grandfather, didn’t see us. I don’t think he liked kids much.

Shirley and her family moved to another town the following year and a brand new tavern was built on the site of the garden. I often think of Shirley whenever driving past the tavern, now well within the city boundaries.  The sight that met my eyes the other day came as a surprise. The now old tavern, closed a few years ago, had been knocked down, demolished, reduced to nothing but memories.

Quite by coincidence, this coincided with a short visit to Wellington, where I’d listened to some exquisite Chinese street music played on an erhu, a traditional Chinese two stringed fiddle.

http://www.bubblews.com/news/1295592-the-old-chinese-man-and-the-magical-fiddle

Once again I thought of Shirley and wondered where she is now. I did have contact with her brother many years ago, but they weren’t a technology minded family and so we lost contact again.

How simple life seemed back then. In today’s world I would never have been allowed to go and play at a Chinese market garden on the outskirts of town, with a family my parents didn’t know. No harm came to us back then, but we can’t be quite so trusting now.

That’s sad, isn’t it?

1950s Memories of The Esplanade, Palmerston North, NZ

Place names didn’t mean much to me as a child. The Esplanade was a park we went to on family outings at the weekend. We usually walked there from our home a few blocks away.

In recent times I’ve wondered about it’s name, Victoria Esplanade, to discover it was planned to commemorate the 60th jubilee of Queen Victoria in the late 1900s. Something still didn’t seem right. In my mind an esplanade is something you walk along beside the sea. We’re an inland city, no sea in sight, but we do sit beside a river and, yes, the Esplanade gardens and walkway are situated beside the river.

The Esplanade has changed a lot since my childhood, but is still rather a special place in the city. My first memories are of the paddling pool. One warm summer Sunday my mother wheeled my new baby sister in her cane pram, while I pedalled along beside her on my new red trike delivered by Father Christmas. I still remember the delight of being able to splash to my heart’s content for what seemed like all afternoon as my mother sat and watched, chatting to the other mums.

Sometimes we went to listen to the local brass band playing in the rather grand bandstand, an impressive occasion to me as a child. Once the band had finished we were allowed to play in the bandstand, running around and around until we became quite dizzy.

A few years later, while attending the nearby school, our teacher took us to the Esplanade to study the native birds, listening to their bird song and hopefully snatching fleeting glances of the birds in the trees, those brave enough or curious enough to wonder about the mass of children on the path below.

Not long after that much of the luxurious bush was cut and cleared, but a small patch still remains, making the walk along the river path a pleasant one.

Now, more than 115 years later, we can be thankful for the foresight of the early city fathers who, having arrived from England and finding themselves in a landlocked community, may have missed walking along the esplanades of their seaside towns. By creating and naming this riverside space The Esplanade they could recreate some of the memories of home.

 The Esplanade remains a popular place for outings with both young and old.

 

Rainy Day Pleasures of Childhood

The rain falls gently outside and I allow myself to drift back to my 1950s childhood, when even rainy days held lots of fun. We had no television back then, but I never had problems finding something to do, but more a problem of choosing from my favourite wet day indoor activities.

Who remembers pressing their face against the inside of the window on a rainy day, nose all squashed against the glass, watching the raindrops trickle, trickle, trickle at first, then racing each other down the pane? I watched their trail as they slithered downward, never straight, veering slightly this way or that until they merged with another or hit the ledge below.

Colouring books and crayons were essential on a rainy day and even more enjoyable when Mum sat down with me. “Colour a page, Mum,” I’d plead and she’d quietly choose a picture, pick up a crayon and start by neatly outlining the edges, before filling the space evenly as only Mums could.

The box of paper dolls, stored carefully in old cardboard chocolate boxes, often came out on rainy days, whole families of them ready to live their lives as I directed. Then there were jigsaw puzzles, especially good for extended periods of rain. I spread all the pieces out on the floor, turning them over, sorting them into colours and locating the straight pieces of the edges. “Always assemble the edges first,” Dad said, “it makes the rest easier when you’ve got something to work from.”

Another rainy days treat was to get out Dad’s book, ‘The Jolly Boys Book of Boxcraft.’ In it I learned how to make everything from dolls houses to train stations, using a few small boxes and plenty of glue.

Knitting also occupied my time as I grew out of some of the younger activities. I loved watching wool turn into rows, transforming into something recognisable, row by row.

And of course there were books, always books. I’d lose myself in a story and not notice the rain outside had stopped.

I think back now and say, thank heavens we didn’t have TV or electronic game equipment back in the 1950s. I’d have been deprived of so much fun had I been stuck in front of moving images that I couldn’t interact with. Rainy days were never boring, but always fun.