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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Some more of my story...

Dad and I standing on the front veranda; our house was one of the oldest in the street.

I grew up in a household with books, magazines and newspapers as well as one filled with music. My father played the violin and would often give a little concert for my mother and I. Dad was into classical music and just like in the movies featuring Italian family life, operas blared out from the radio when he was home. Mum also liked classical music but also loved show tunes and the lighter classics. Because I was sent to Sunday school, I also had a repertoire of ‘choruses and children’s hymns’ that I liked to sing as well. I had tried out unsuccessfully for the school choir when I was 9 but finally was accepted in Grade 5! I loved the excitement of eisteddfods but it was only my mother who came to watch.

An old photo of my dad with his violin. He was still up north when this photo was taken
I also grew up in a household where vegetables and fruit were home-grown and jams, preserves and pickles were homemade. We had a large garden as our yard was ¾ of an acre; my dad was in his element! My mother also sewed, mended, knitted and crocheted constantly. By the time I was 10 my parents had expectations that I would help around the house and garden. I had to set the table and dry the dishes each night. On Saturday mornings I had to sweep/ vacuum and dust. In my early teens I had to pick the strawberries that my father grew in a large number of beds for local shops as well as the city fruit shop where he worked. I absolutely hated all these chores and complained that it wasn’t fair that I had to do everything because I was an only child! lol
Dad working in his large garden
Now even though I was an only child I knew that my mother had ‘another daughter’ who was my half sister. Her name was Margaret and as far as I knew, she lived somewhere down south where my Nanna lived. In her photos I could see she had very curly hair and my parents’ friends would often comment that it was a shame that I didn’t get the same curly hair...Yes, I was jealous but now that I’m a mother I can imagine how painful it must have been for my mother to be parted from her older daughter. I also discovered the concept of divorce from hearing about movie stars, then I found out my dad was divorced from his first wife. None of my friends seem to have similar things happening in their families and I often wondered why there wasn’t a wedding photo of my parents on the sideboard like there was at my friends’ houses...??????

Margaret as a youngster; she was only 5 years older than me

In my previous post I explained that my mother was diagnosed with MS eventually when I was 6. For a number of years she had ‘flare-ups’ of the symptoms on what seemed like an annual basis and spent considerable time in hospital. The year I turned 11 she went into remission and this was to last for almost 10 years. Year 6 was the last year we went for a family holiday at Scarborough where dad spent the 2 weeks fishing. I’ve wondered why we stopped going as it was an annual ritual from when I was 2. I guess I’ll never know. It was on this last holiday that my mother commented to the landlady of the flats (they had become friends over the years) that she thought something was wrong with my back as the clothes she was making for me seem to pull to one side. Mrs Ling in turn asked advice of her friend who was a veterinarian...yes a vet!!!! He looked at my posture, asked me to bend from the waist and then told my mother that she should take me to the hospital when we got home.
One of my mum's blurry pictures but the only one I have showing me wearing the body cast. I'm with my friends, brother and sister,  Donna and Lindsay McPherson.
Eventually I was diagnosed with scoliosis or curvature of the spine. My mother was distraught that she ‘had a crooked daughter’ and insisted it was because I didn’t sit up straight... I carried that guilt until my mid twenties when I read an article which stated that it was something that I was born with. Treatment was a pretty hit and miss affair. Immediately I was sent to physiotherapy a number of afternoons a week after school. I had to do the set of exercises each day before school...naturally I hated doing them. But I was trusted to catch a bus to and from the hospital by myself for these sessions so that made me feel a bit special.

At the end of Grade 7, I started more intensive treatment. (That's me behind the teacher!)

At the end of Grade 7 when I was 12, the orthopaedic specialist decided it was time for some different treatment. So the last week of term 4, I was admitted to hospital and put on a device that stretched me (straps under my chin and a strap around my hips, then the attendant turned the handles that the straps were attached to. I believe these machines had been used as instruments of torture, lol) Then when the doctor was satisfied with the amount of stretch, a body plaster was quickly slapped on then the traction was released. I started high school like this; mum bought me a uniform large enough to fit over the cast...I gained some notoriety at school as a rumour went around that I’d been in a horrific car accident. Everyone was nice to me so even though it was a ‘crock’ to be like that, unable to bend etc I had a lot of fun! The plaster casts went from under my chin to where my legs joined my body. The casts were changed about every 6 weeks and sometimes I would be sent home for a week or two without the a cast on. That was absolute bliss! This was the pattern of my life for 20 months...

See my loose uniform! (I'm 5th from the right, second row) This was one of the rare occasions in Grade 8 when i wasn't in the body cast!


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