Letter to my grandson (xxiv)

Dear Winton

A couple of weeks ago, it was decided for various grown-ups reasons, that your mum would pick you up from daycare. Your Nana and I normally pick you up around 4 o’clock in the afternoon but your mum is working and picks you up about an hour and half later. Apparently, you were in tears when she arrived.

I’m not certain why you were crying, but I felt terrible. I thought that you must’ve felt abandoned by your Nana and Papa and it must’ve been terrible being one of the last children to be picked up and that you must been so lonely.

I remember when this happened to me when I was small. The first time must have been when I was three or four years old and we were visiting a farm somewhere. I went into town with the relative (let’s call him Jim) in what was a pretty old truck even in those days.  I remember that it looked something like this


When we got into town, Jim left me in the truck with the engine running. I remember him explaining to me that it was quite safe and that it was because the truck was very hard to start. But most importantly I was to sit still and stay where I was.

It was a pretty scary experience because I didn’t really know that the truck wasn’t going to drive off with me in it and it was shaking and rattling quite a bit.  Not at all like Papa Paynes beautiful Chrysler Saratoga which was the only other car I ever rode in.


I did whether Jim was reliable or not and I didn’t really like being alone in the truck.

So I set off to look for Jim. Naturally enough, I couldn’t find him and got lost in a strange town. I don’t remember exactly how everything ended but someone must’ve seen a small tearful child standing in the shop and come to my rescue. Jim was duly found. I don’t remember what happened after that. I suspect that Jim got into more trouble than I did, if he actually told my mother and grandmother what had happened. But it was my first experience of being alone, completely lost and not knowing what to do.

The other experience was my first night at Scots College in Wellington as a boarder. The family had moved to Auckland and it was decided I should finish the last term of the year as a boarder.  I think it was also part of the general plan to “straighten me out”, “teach me a thing or two” or some other misguided idea about what an eight-year-old needs.

I remember the first night  sitting on my bed alone in the dormitory just after my parents had dropped me off.  I had nothing except my school uniform and my pyjamas. I left my friends and my extensive toy collection at home in Ngaio and the family would soon be moving everything to Auckland.

I don’t remember being frightened but I do remember thinking that the world had changed and that it was going be pretty lonely from now on.  I also remember not being particularly daunted by this. It was only for a term and I’d be off to Auckland.  I didn’t recognise it at the time, but it was the first time that I realised that often you can find yourself on your own but you can also look after yourself if you can be brave.

I’m just sorry that you may have been asked to learn that lesson at daycare.

So I rang you the next week on Thursday night and got you on the phone and said,  “Would you like Nana and Papa  to pick you up from school tomorrow?”  You said, “Okay.” I have not heard you say that before and I thought we had a deal. Then I heard your mum say, “No, Winton, you’re not going to Nana and Papa’s place now. It’s tomorrow after school.” So much for my understanding of the situation.

We picked you up the next week at 4pm as usual. You were standing waiting with your coat  and backpack on and holding your dummy and your blanket. You leapt into your Nana’s arms.

See you next Friday 4pm sharp.

Looking forward to that beautiful smile.

Red door edit



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