Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CHILDHOOD (03/09/17)
- TITLE: Five - A Perfect Number...
By Noel Mitaxa
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
I know, because I came fifth.
Taking permanent pride of place above the fireplace in our lounge room was a studio photograph featuring my brothers―then aged ten and two―and my sisters―aged seven and four. They were all seated on a couch; all smiles and all in their best clothes.
When I asked where I was, Mum told me I was behind the couch. I repeated this answer for years afterwards if anyone asked me the same question. Childhood innocence protected me from querying why a professional photographer―or my own mother―would allow me to stay out of the picture.
Puberty’s arrival alerted me much later to a clearer reason. I wasn’t born until two years after the shutter had been clicked.
Apparently we couldn’t afford a second, more inclusive family photo…
We weren’t poor, we just didn’t have much money. When kids at school talked about their TV shows, I could only murmur in ignorance. Only when I turned seventeen did we get a television; an event that made all those years of staring into the corner of the room suddenly worthwhile.
But further back, at about age five I embarked on vegetable avoidance therapy. Cooked potato was okay, but greens, pumpkin and tomato―no way! When Mum introduced me to golden-tinted Buttered Potato, I couldn’t get enough of it. My efforts to produce the same colour and flavour failed miserably, no matter how much butter I added.
I refused to believe my older brother who told me she added pumpkin. I knew Mum wouldn’t deceive me.
But she did.
In my defence, dear reader, my diet is now far more omnivorous, though tomato remains as a bit-player in my gastric intake.
We weren’t poor, but we had plenty of what money can never buy.
My parents married as the 1930s Great Depression was loosening its
financial and social manacles; and as their first two children arrived, war clouds were gathering over Europe. Safety and security were thus etched into our family, for times were tight. Even for post-war baby-boomers like me.
I loved helping dad in his carpentry workshop, with its benches, table saw, a buzzer and a thicknesser that planed rough lengths of timber, and a mortise-drilling machine that cut square and rectangular holes for precise cabinetmaking joints – like lowering a vertical chain saw onto the frame. I’d often hold joints in place while he glued, dowelled and clamped them together. There was dust, wood shavings and so many ways of getting dirty. And so many tools to take down from all those racks.
Dad’s carpentry business required a truck. A 1924 flat-tray Chev with no sides; wooden spokes; no front wheel brakes and no doors on the cab. We all sat on a mattress behind the cab on our family trips; like the two and a half hour, seventy-five-mile trip to visit my mother’s family. At twenty-eight mph cruising speed.
He always promised a sixpence (five cents) to whoever saw the first kangaroo, but we could never agree on who saw one first―and at such a high velocity we couldn’t have kept up with any kangaroo we might have glimpsed among all those slowly-passing trees…
Label it child abuse today, but not then.
Summers lasted forever; playing under a garden hose or swimming in the dam that offered opportunities to cake ourselves with soapy, white cyanide mud from a nearby derelict gold mine, before we washed it off as we returned to the water.
Afternoon Sunday school every week of the year was a strict affair, for missing three Sundays in a year meant no prizes offered. Some kids were awarded ten-year medals for not missing once!
The church had begun among Cornish miners during the 1850s Gold Rush as the “Life in Christ and Second Advent Association.” Their legacy shone through a clear commitment to biblical authority, and musically through traditional Cornish Christmas carols and the rich, four-part harmony of congregational hymn-singing through the rest of the year.
These Godly, hard-working models of Christian discipleship augmented the security of my parents’ love for each other and for all of us.
In wrapping up, with so much more still unsaid, I must confess to not living up to my introduction. Thankfully, my parents had five kids. We only had four.
But does having five grandchildren let me off the hook?
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