We came to Australia when I was seven, a family of four as I had a younger sister who was four. We didn't have much as we had lived in a rented house in England and got little for the furniture we sold. But both Mum and Dad were determined to make a better life in Australia and they did. It was very hard at first as they had no backup from family, my sister really got sick and some of what they had was spent on medical bills and my Mum couldn't find a job. She took a job as a housekeeper for an elderly man in exchange for the rent on half a house and we had our start in life from that point on. They paid off a block of land and eventually build a small home and went on from there.
When we first arrived there was no money to spend on toys and my sister and I played with dirt and leaves and an old piece of rope, kids in those days knew how to play with nothing. We used our imaginations, something kids these days don't seem to do a lot of. We played on the streets as kids did back then. We played with the neighbourhood kids regardless of ages, it took a lot of kids to play cricket or football so even the little ones sometimes were allowed to join in, if only to help to find the ball. We did have a large back yard so games of cricket were often played there and we played with boys as well as girls. Mind you the girls always fielded and had little chance of having a bat before the light faded and everyone went back home.
Because we had no toys we were often looked on as deprived. Dad said the money had to go to pay off the land and he was right, a home of our own was a priority for him and Mum. So at Christmas, that first year, we had a summer dress each that Mum had made, a sunhat to wear to Sunday school and little else. But it was okay, we had food on the table and beds to sleep in and it was summer so we didn't care. I was lucky as I had a friend whose Dad had a car and occasionally got a lift down to the River to swim under the supervision of my girlfriend's older brothers. If you think back to your own childhood it is those hot summer days that stand out in your memory. Winter was a lot grimmer, colder days, the sweaters Mum made by unpicking adult clothes and reknitting them ( she had learned to do that in wartime Britain) were never in whatever the fashionable colours were and we never had much new except underwear. But we had a warm fire and toasted bread and home made jam was our treat.
One day we came home from school and Mum had a box for us, a neighbour had dropped in a box of old wooden toys. There was a puppet, some wooden cars, some building blocks which my sister loved, a couple of skipping ropes and a diablo. I had never seen one of those. I loved the puppet and had lots of puppet shows with that and some sock puppets my mother made for us. The puppet was Prince Charming as he could dance or any number of fairy tale characters. It was amazing what that box of wooden toys brought out in us. The neighbourhood boys played with the wooden cars on a dirt track, no amount of crashes could dent them. My sister and her friends built with the blocks and Dad smoothed off off cuts from building to add to them. It was a poor sort of gift when we got it but it was the key to a new world.
I think in this stage of my widowhood I am looking for the key to a new world. I just read about lowering your expectations of life and I think that is where I am now. I need to go back to taking one day at a time, not expecting too much and enjoying whatever comes my way. I need to have an attitude of gratitude as we used to say. I need to drop the "poor me" attitude which leads back to me grieving for what might have been and instead I need to make the most of the "wooden toys" that come my way. Things that are enduring, solid, made to last. Things that in time I can pass on to others. It is good to have things to pass on, whether it is second hand or not, if it is usable it needs to be passed on to someone else who can use it. We live in a throw away society and even though we know that is not sustainable we go on using resources thinking that they will never run out. And they will.
I am so luck to have found this site and others where I have made friends and companions for the journey. Anything that brings us together with others is a blessing. Sometimes it is hard to be a woman on my own, being my age, being a mother of a family who are scattered around a big country. But if I live a day at a time and count my blessings I am not doing too badly. I still have food on the table, the roof over my head and a warm bed to sleep in and extra covers to pile on as the temperature drops like it did last night. Okay, I do not have all I want but mostly have what I need. I have a lot to be thankful for. Thanks to the "Born in the 40s or earlier" group for reminding me of that.