Thursday, 29 June 2017

#52Stories, Week 22, A fascination with names

This is a topic I made up because I couldn't find one to suit in the list for this week. 

Names, and the fascination of them. 

Is there a name for that ? Surely there must be.

For as long as I can remember I have liked names. Why do we have the names we have ? What influenced our parents to make the choices they did ?

I remember spending my pocket money on little books filled with names, their origins and meaning. They were great for all of the stories I wrote – offering options for character names other than Susan, Mary, Jane etc.

When Dad began doing family research that provided a whole new source and something a bit different to focus on. Discovering the names of aunts, uncles, grandparents and their siblings, and the generations before them as well.

Why did some use their middle Christian name as their preferred name – and why did some alternate throughout their lives. Where did nicknames and diminutives come from ? Why did they just stick with the same names ? I had books with 2500+ to choose from – but mostly the family tree was filled with Mary, Elizabeth, Anne and Sarah & for the boys James, Thomas, Francis, William and John.

Occasionally though there were bursts of originality; Peternell, Kerrenhappuch, Hephzibar, Roxillanna, Zenobia,

I would look for trends for instance when flower names seemed popular, or gemstones. How many Ruby, Beryl, Jade and Pearl were there ? And why not Sapphire; is Garnet a boy’s name or a girl’s ? Or Violet, Daisy, Lily and Rose – what about Magnolia ?

Boy’s names don’t seem to follow the same sort of trends, until more recently. Saint’s names, family names, homage to royalty or clans, sportspeople.

The trends were obvious at school. So many Mark's, Craig's and Steven's; Debra's, Donna's and Susan's in my classes.

How did anyone ever keep track of each other at family gatherings when there might have been a father named James, for his father and several other younger James' possibly children of James' brothers - all named for their grandfather, and then cousins sharing other family names; John, Francis, Mary, Ann, Elizabeth. Were they Jimmy, Jamie, James, Jim or did they have different nicknames ? Little Jim, Jim-Bob (if they were lucky enough to have a second Christian name).

Some names are used infrequently, are they the ones that were popular just at that time perhaps. Others have me really intrigued about why they are repeated through generations. 

Some parents gave their children the names of church leaders, or presidents  - George Washington and Benjamin Franklin; Bramwell; and possibly even godparents - Elizabeth Ginder.

What was so special about the first person to have a particular name, that inspired others to name their children with the same combination and for others to introduce mutations of the original over time. Minnie Mildred appears as a combination in one branch SIX times, sometimes with a surname added as an extra christian name to further point to the original bearer of the name. Plus there are two more who dropped Minnie but kept the surnames. Maybe there is another Minnie or Mildred further back who I haven't discovered yet, who was the inspiration.

#52Stories, Week 21, What other women were role models to me ?

So, role models. Female ones. Which women were role models in my life ?

Obviously Mum and my grandmothers, but who else ? I’ve been thinking long and hard about this topic.

Teachers ? Friend’s mothers ? Aunts, Godparents ? Family friends ? Community leaders ? Celebrities ? Sports people ?

I don’t remember that I had any favourite actresses, not any singers really either. So I guess that takes care of celebrity role models.

I don’t remember any special teachers either – maybe at college though, when we had our 7th form field trip. The teachers who accompanied us then were all young, not much older than us. Geography and Science teachers. It was a different sort of teacher/pupil relationship in 7th form where we were almost outside of the formal school structure and about to embark into the world of employment - or further study if we decided to gain a tertiary qualification. They weren’t a necessity at that time, like they are now. If you didn’t want to be a doctor or dentist or teacher or scientist you just left school and got a job.

But these young teachers were all young married women with successful careers. Surely that was something to aspire to – having a successful career and not foregoing that just because you were married.

Community leaders ? Brown Owl, Arahi…women who volunteered their time to empower girls and offer opportunities to grow and try new things. Who encouraged us to learn and develop the natural strengths we had, or to try something completely new in a safe environment. I am pretty sure it was these two ladies who I tried to emulate when I became a leader myself. It was surely something I had never seriously contemplated – until push came to shove as it often does in the volunteer world. But I loved it, and truth beknown there are times when I miss that involvement. A sense of belonging and comradeship, where every volunteer shares the same goal – to empower girls and young women to be the best that they can be.

Watching the little girl who wouldn’t say boo to anyone when you first met her grow with confidence into a young person full of energy and exuberance, so that you wonder at the transition in awe. Likely becoming a role model yourself.

A lot of what we do in our adults lives we have absorbed through osmosis, or like a sponge from the environment and people we were exposed to as children. Good experiences and bad both teach us something. Resilience, perseverance, contentment, humility and joy.

Hopefully the adults we all grow into will go on to share the good stuff, and the lessons learnt with the next generation in some way. As a parent, teacher, community leader, celebrity, sportsperson…

Sunday, 4 June 2017

#52Stories, Week 20, Stories they tell

So this one has had me wracking my brain a bit. Favourite stories about Mum's childhood, or stories that my grandmothers told as well.

I don't remember too many that Nana told. Apart from the one about her grandfathers both having more than one marriage which got me hooked into genealogy, and ones about her great aunt going to America, and her uncles and their families emigrating there too. She didn't talk about much else. 

There was an aunt who ran a green grocer shop and some twin cousins who were blind. There was also someone else who would shut the doors and windows to them (as children) when they walked by. Who would do that ?! I used to think it was the same aunt with the shop - but now I wonder if it was the step-grandmother ? She also told us that if they were walking along the street and saw their father while he was at work, that they were not to acknowledge him. He was a motor car driver - originally a groom and carriage driver, later a taxi driver. It wasn't a good look to have your kids waving to you as you went about your business apparently.

Occasionally she spoke about infrequently going to visit their mother, but not in a lot of detail. Life must have been pretty tough, I think.

I don't know any at all from my paternal Nana, which makes me a bit sad.

Mum had stories which I remember her telling us though, and which she could tell in more detail.

Sitting in the fields at Grandma's in Middleton Road hiding amongst the raspberry canes and eating raspberries until you were full. Walking from Riccarton to Addington/Hilmorton to visit Auntie Edie. Mis-steering the pram with her baby sister into the ditch drain which ran along the side of the road. Having her hair cut short when said baby sister was born and her father had had enough of dealing with the curls and knots and morning hair drama of a 4 year old on his own. Sunday school at Church Corner. 

The time they were staying at Grandma's and the bed collapsed in the night with Nana and Auntie Anne ending up on the floor. 

The "pet" magpie at Grandma's who was a bit territorial and would hold her hostage as a small child in the outside loo until she could get away using the wooden lid as a shield to make it back to the house.

Sliding down the hill on cabbage tree leaf sleds after school at Highbank because the road was too steep for the bus to navigate.

The time of the big snow storm when her Dad had to hitch a ride on a railway jigger and climb down the intake pipes to get back to work at Highbank, from Christchurch.  The big storm at Highbank that blew in the roller door on the power house, and the slip which buried some of the houses. 

The wild cats that her brother would catch in the bush and bring home to try and domesticate. I can't remember all of their names. Spitfire was one !

Then there are the ones about the shenanigans as student nurses living in the hostel at Waikato...

I hope I have told some of my stories too - in case anyone ever wanted to remember and record them in the future.

#52Stories, Week 19, Mothers' Day

Mum was born in Kurow. The little town that had founded a support system for it's community which became the basis for our Social Welfare system. Where if you didn’t dig the carrots before the first frost, you might as well leave them in the ground until spring – because you would never get a spade into the frozen earth.

The family moved around a lot since Granddad worked with what became State Hydro, in the construction of hydro power stations. Waitaki, Highbank, Mangahao, Maraetai, Whakamaru. But actually looking back, the time spent at Waitaki, the station with it's aesthetically pleasing curved dam across the Waitaki River, near Kurow, was one of the longest. About ten years all up.

Reflecting back on my childhood for this topic - Mothers' Day - I have been thinking about things.

Mum went to floral art and pottery classes at night school when we were kids. She sewed (and sometimes un-sewed in frustration), she knitted and taught me to knit too. Patiently stopping whatever she was doing to pick up all my dropped stitches and getting me back on the right track - for a couple more rows until she had to repeat the process.

Mum loves to read, and if it is a good book don't try to talk to her. She will be in another world, absorbed with story. Oblivious to anything else she might need to be doing - like cooking dinner. Reading, like jigsaws, often resulted in burnt dinners, or dinner not even being started...and fish & chips instead !

She's very determined - she says it is a middle child thing. But once her mind is made up, that is the way things are going to be and woe betide anyone or anything that tries to say or do otherwise. She is a tad impatient too. If things aren't happening quickly enough, or going to the plan - she will be there tweaking things and hurrying them up, to get the desired outcome.

Like deciding to wallpaper their bedroom one day by herself because she was tired of waiting. The wallpaper was a thinner paper than normal and didn't like the extra weight of glue. It kept pulling itself apart from the corners and falling to the floor before it could be stuck to the wall ! But not even something as frustrating and inanimate as unco-operative wallpaper was going to beat her.

Or going to the bank to withdraw the housekeeping money when Dad had been paid (in the days before computers and simple banking) to find that the Government pay run had been delayed. That bank manager must have shaken in his boots every time that happened and he saw Mum enter his building.

To keep us all on our toes, she used to reorganise the contents of all of the cupboards while we were at school. We'd come home and discover that the glasses & crockery or the food wasn't where it had been the day before. Or she would rearrange all the furniture about. That still happens !!

Life seemed so simple. Mum was quite relaxed about things - even the incessant bee stings we would get from that bee & bucket game we made up. We would wait until the grass was long with lots of clover and daisies, get a small bucket (sandcastle size) and invert it over a flower with a bee on it. Then dare each other to remove it and free the angry bee ! When the inevitable happened Mum would just produce a wet blue bag from somewhere (what were those ?) remove the sting, place the bag onto the wound and so "it serves you right".

That go-getter attitude can be a bit frustrating at times. Like when she mentions that she has seen something she would quite like, and you think to yourself "Now there is a good idea for a present". But she just goes ahead and buys it herself, because "why not ?"

She's a great Mum, my Mum. Interested in all sorts of things and with so much going on. I hope we have had some of those go-getter qualities and drive instilled in us too.