Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Small Detour into My Past . . .

On the road they call `the Forgotten Highway` which winds its way alongside the Wanganui river from Taumarunui, there is Herlihy`s bluff to negotiate. In the 45 years ( yes . . .45yrs !) since I drove over this now tar-sealed road, there have been afew changes, one being the shifting of the road itself, to a lower level cut out of the cliff side after a person was killed by falling boulders. It has never been a safe place to dally, even with the magnificent views of the river on the other side of the road ! 
The first major change I found on the journey into my past was. . MY BRIDGE HAD GONE !! Far out, I couldn`t believe what I was seeing. Where was the wonderful old wooden Te Maire bridge that you could walk over as well as drive across the rattly boards ?? All I could see was this concrete 2-way eye-sore,(so sad to find the big old end bits sitting amongst the bush on either side) - no character at all, built 8yrs after we left the district. Oh well I thought, nothing else can get any worse  . .  how wrong was I .
Metal, windy valley road, bush-lined for most of the way - old Kahikatea, Totara and Rimu dripping in lichen - cool, a million hues of green - NZ bush I remember. This part was thankfully the same, right down to the tree ferns and sound of Tui. . .
On past the bee hives and angry looking bull, around very tight corners, remembering when my mother, in the family tank (Vanguard car) rounded such corner to collide head on with a horse !! There really isn`t anywhere to pull over, you just have to be extremely good at maneuvering in tiny spaces . . . At the end of the road is the farm `Patunga` where I spent the first 12 formidable yrs of my life - a large sheep and cattle station. Slowly around the last corner I crept, dust flying up behind me, expecting to catch a glimpse of the 102yr old homestead and . . . . . no orchard or hillside, just a newly built add-on glaring down at me - I swear I nearly drove off the road !! Whaaaaat is this ? where are the big old 100yr trees, the walnut with swing, the ponga summer house, the fantastic old veranda, the gardens my mother always had looking so pretty, I drove into the driveway and again . . where is the tall shubbery that we played in - the old cattle-stop was still there, but the house looked so unlike it was in my memory that I cried. No one was home, which was a good thing really, as I must have looked a sight - a crying crazy lady . . .

Feeling sad and emotional, I drove back down the valley road, across the ugly bridge, up past my old school site which is on the farm that once belonged to good friends, whose children I had spent many happy days with, ( one of the sons, Ross, married my cousin), the school closed down many years ago with the building being used as a haybarn, thats another crying story that I won`t get into yet !! Across the road from the school stands the Te Whakarae Hall, once the pride and joy of this  spread-out farming community, the scene of many country dances ( I can still see my parents getting dressed up in their best clothes, my mother with her bright lipstick, sparkly necklace and swirling dress ( it is the 50`s remember), my handsome Dad in strides and sports jacket), the men in one corner with the beer, the women around the kitchen end, fern leaves decorating the walls and powder on the wooden floor for dancing. This hall was used for meetings, Womens Division days, sports events, especially badminton tournaments, plus any school function was held there - now it is derelict and abandoned. . .  I know times have changed, life has moved on from those long summer days, but you know, I do wonder if it is always for the best, there was such a sense of belonging .. it did tug on my heart strings.

3 comments:

bettyl said...

It's always sad to find out that things have changed so much over the years. My heart goes out to you. But you have your memories and that's what counts.

Graham said...

Wow!... I sure can relate.
Over the Christmas, New years period I went back to where I grew up in the fifties... I was saddened at the changes, no character in any of the new town buildings or farm homesteads... Even the narrow metalled roads are now wide tourist occupied routes. No kids riding bareback along the grassy verges, and no cattle standing knee deep in the stream... sheltering from the day's heat under copious weeping will trees... I know all this because it was what I remembered from way back.. and somehow I expected it to have not changed... I doubt I will return...

Marcia said...

It left me feeling quite sad but something that did happen was driving back into the Waikato area about 2hrs north, I felt a complete sense of belonging and realized that after all this time, this is where I fit now . . I will go back to Te Maire because I have always wanted to take my children and show them where I come from - I think I am pleased I went by myself first !
Ngaio (Marcia)