You are coming to visit us soon and so have been much in my thoughts lately. Most particularly because I have written a number of letters to Winton for him to read sometime in the future, possibly after Nana Di and I are long dead and gone.
We see Winton most days of the week and we look after him on Mondays and Tuesdays so he’s very much part of our life. But as I have been writing my letters to Winton I realise that much of what I’m writing applies to you as well, because the people I’m writing about are your relations as well as his and are now a a part of your personal family history.
This is a photograph, taken in 1922, of my mother Kay and her mother Edith. That makes them your great-grandmother and great and great, great-grandmother.
They are both dead now and my mother died on the day after her 90th birthday, just about nine months before you and Winton were born. So you two little guys represent a very important link to the past as well as the hope of future.
My reason for writing these letters is that I wish to create some kind of connection between the family history as I remember it and the world that you and Winton live in.
My conscious memory goes back to around 1946 when we were living in Wellington. However, I have a number of photographs of my mother and my grandmother and some of the stories that they told me about their life before World War II and going back to the beginning of the century as well as in in the 1950s. These are two pictures of me and my mum in Titahi in Wellington in New Zealand. I was too young to remember this particular house.
This is the first house I remember living in, at 14 Clifton Terrace in Wellington
It is sad that you live so far away and that you are growing up, much as Winton is, but without us being able to share in it. This makes your visits particularly special and, to a lesser extent, drawing you into this family history.
We first met you shortly after you were born in Manila and I’m sure one day your mum and dad will tell you of the saga of your becoming a New Zealand citizen and family coming to live in Australia.
It was wonderful to be able to spend that short period of time with you and your mum and dad but leaving was difficult, even knowing that you would soon be coming to Australia and living in Port Hedland.
We have a number of beautiful photographs of you and one of my favourites is this one of you and Nana Di.
I like it because it is very much like the photograph of Winton when he was one day old, both grandsons holding onto Nana and Grandpa creating, even at that young age, those very special links between grown-ups and small children.
The other two that I particularly like our of you and Winton laughing at Grandpa’s jokes.
Winton is still pretty good at it, so I’m expecting great things from you on this visit.
You were last here around the time of your first birthdays and we have some very special family photos of that time. The very best of them is this wonderful picture of you and Winton with Nana Di in the kitchen at 170 Mary Street.
There is also a photograph that has special resonance for a grandfather, a picture of his own sons and their children, showing the beginning of two friendships that will last for many years.
One of the things I’m particularly looking forward to is seeing the two of you together again. The friendship began somewhat tentatively but very soon something very special developed. You were both too young to play together very much. There was some, as this photograph shows but mainly you are quite happy just to occupy the same space.
You did this by the two of you doing things together, often just sitting next to each other in the same small space, happily engaged in your own world but doing with it your cousin nonetheless.
One very special occasion was your first introduction to baby Chino and cafe society in Richmond. You are just a country lad really and not used to the sophisticated ways of urban society so your first baby Chino was quite an experience, which I’m glad to say you took particularly seriously.
Winton turned up halfway through your coffee and, Winton being Winton, was not particularly impressed to see someone sharing Grandpa so immediately demanded a slice of the action.
One of the things that Nana Di and I noticed was that you were a quieter and slightly more reserved child than Winton. But, I’m sure that many of your larrikin behaviours which are now surfacing back in Port Hedland could probably be traced back to the time that you and Winton were playing together.
I particularly remember to two in the bath together. Winton, as usual, was spreading bath water all round bathroom. You were sitting quietly, watching, you’d never been in the bath with someone like this before. But it looked like fun so you began to join in and after that it was on for one and all. Marvellous.
So I’m looking forward to seeing all of our boys together again and looking forward to lots of cuddles from Mr Smiles.