The following story I entered into the Scottish Book Trust. The main theme was to write a true story based around the word ‘REBEL’.
‘REBELLION, ROCKING and READING’
In the last year I’ve somehow unintentionally managed to get two mature strangers to confess their rebellious childhood antics to me. One nearly set fire to a small building aged ten, and the other ran off to another country with a friend at age fifteen. These rebellious acts were relived with some amusement and even pride. I feel my own rebellion seemed somewhat tame in comparison! However, here is my story and it begins in my birth place: Nelson city, New Zealand in the early 1980’s. I was eight years old.
Firstly, to help make ends meet my mother had two part-time cleaning jobs with the same boss. She met her boss through friends at her local oil painting evening class.
As a young child I often observed their mutual passion for the arts and crafts scene in the city. If there was ever an art sale or gallery showcasing local artists or artisans my mother and I would go along and have a look.
We bonded as mother and child observing different kinds of art: paintings, textiles or sculptural art forms. To this day I still go on these art dates to help learn what is going on in the community and to honour my mother’s memory
My mother’s oil paintings were mostly landscapes or seascapes but occasionally she did abstracts. I remember my mother showing her boss one of her abstracts, and he liked it so much that she was able to exhibit it in his public art studio at the back of his café. This café was the site of my mother’s second cleaning job and occasionally I would tag along after school or on weekends to help.
In Nelson there is a very thriving creative art community. That creativity wasn’t missing from the grand house that my mother was trusted to clean. For example, all the kitchenware was handmade:
A variety of beautiful earthenware in neutral tones from earthy browns, blues and aqua marines. In every room of this grand house an artist or artisan had carved, welded, weaved, painted or pottered unique items.
I remember coming across my mother cleaning a shower unit and saw to my amazement three large copper shower heads in one shower! I often stood in awe at the way things were displayed in the interior of this family home. The interior design was something like out of a slick alternative home and garden magazine. It was vastly removed from my parents’ humble old-fashioned homestead. One example was seeing many different wooden puzzles displayed in a massive bowl, instead of fruit, on a coffee table.
I was told that the black and white mock Tudor house was one of the first pioneer homesteads built in the Nelson area. It may have been built to cater for merchants or local dignitaries around a hundred years ago. The added feature to this grand home was the grounds; it had about one acre of mature native forest. It became my own adventure playground and I often pretended to be an explorer.
Sometimes I stopped and watched ants carrying leaves, listened to birds, caught colourful butterflies or swung madly from a rope before jumping off. I loved the forest.
I was never bored when I went with my mum to the house. I had my favourite places I’d go to, like the rope swing or the large trampoline outside. On the rainy days I couldn’t get away with not helping my mum out with her many chores. Being next to a forest meant many spider cobwebs and I had the job to sweep them away with a very long broom.
One obsession that got me into trouble was in the entrance hall. I was often deployed to polish the intricately carved, mahogany staircase.
I vividly remember my mother giving me new yellow dusting cloths to polish with. At our home my mum would just use my dad’s old underpants for dusting…no yellow cloths required!
The entrance hallway was huge and could easily fit my parents’ whole house! It also contained some interesting pieces of art. The sculpture of my obsession was the life size white rocking horse handmade out of papier-mâché and intricately decorated with pressed wildflowers in a variety of subtle colours. It was eye catching and must have taken many hours to create.
I was forbidden to sit on it or even clean it. I could look but never touch any of the fragile artworks; I just had to stick to polishing the staircase and sweeping away the many spider webs. Every time I was polishing the staircase I would look over at the rocking horse, wanting desperately to sit in the saddle, hold onto the reins and rock.
I hatch a plan to offer to polish so as to get access to the horse and I managed to do this a few times! I rocked that horse as if it was real!
My rebellion didn’t last that long as a family member was upstairs sleeping, and they must have heard the horse creaking and echoing in the hallway. I was scolded by my mum and after that her boss was around more often to keep a close eye on me.
To keep away from the angry adults I retreated to my forest haven to help lick my wounds of rebellion in peace!
Eventually, the owner would invite me to sit with him on his veranda and read National Geographic.
These magazines became our common ground. He never used angry words but instead paid me more attention to read and discuss articles we found interesting.
In conclusion, my rebellion made me read more and all was forgiven! I am forever grateful that my mum’s boss took time out of his busy schedule to help me foster some good reading habits for life!