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Saturday, 1 October 2011



What were your first memories? I have two very distinct memories from when I was about three years old.

In those days, back around 1951, most women had their babies at home, and a new baby had been born in the house across the street from us. Childbirth was considered a normal part of everyday life. My brother, my two sisters and I were born at home. The local women and a midwife would attend to the mother and baby. A doctor would only called if there were problems. A couple of days later the mother and baby would go to one of the local clinics for a check up to make sure everything was OK. That was about the limit of medical intervention at childbirth.

There have been several pregnancies among my female colleagues’ at school this past year. They seem to go and see the gynaecologists every month and the birth takes place in hospital at great cost. I remember my mother saying to me that the lady who had the baby paid the midwife £1, which seemed an awful lot of money to me, for such a small thing as a baby. Babies sure cost more than £1 nowadays.  

We lived in a small close knit village south of Durban. All the houses were built of corrugated iron sheeting and the insides were panelled with wood. (The village does not exist anymore, swamped by the tide of “progress”). These houses were imported from England during the 1890’s, in kit form and erected on site. The houses were raised off the ground on concrete or brick pillars about 3 feet high, to keep the wooden frame, etc., out of reach of white ants. The dogs, cats, chickens, and the odd pig lived under the houses.

My mother took me to see what the stork had brought. I was very puzzled as to what or who a stork was. We entered a room that was full of the neighbourhood women standing around a bed, their attention fixed on the mother and her baby. They all looked very pleased with themselves, as if they personally had done something to facilitate the new arrival.

I was held up to see at the new baby.  There was not much to see except a tightly wrapped bundle of something being held by the new mother to her breast. I was more interested in this stork thing that brought the baby, I looked under the bed and the only thing there, was an enamelled chamber pot. I looked behind the curtains; I walked around the ladies looking for the stork thing, but there were only women in the room, no stork thing. My antics caused much mirth among the women. No one could make out what I was looking for and I did want to sound too stupid saying I was looking for the stork thing.

Afterwards my mother told me that a stork was a big bird. This puzzled me even more. Why did he have to deliver the baby in the bedroom to the mother lying in bed dressed in her frilly night clothes. Lot’s for a small brain to puzzle over.

Next post, and early memories, is about me defeating the ends of justice and obstructing the police in their investigations. After 60 years I’m still waiting for the police to knock on my door and arrest me for my crime.


Gorges Smythe said...

My first verifiable memory was visiting relatives in another county on a hot spring day. My mother didn't believe that I remembered it at first, until I started giving her details, because I was pretty young at the time.

Jo said...

Hi Phil, I cannot remember this incident because I wasn't born yet.(ha!) My first memory was also when I was three years old. We were travelling by train from Durban to Southern Rhodesia. I will look out for your next post! Love and blessings. Jo

Kay L. Davies said...

Looking forward to finding out about your crime, but I enjoyed your stork-hunt very much!
I remember being in a bed and my brother (22 months younger) being in a crib in the same room. I was probably about three, also. I remember I was very pleased with myself because I had a real bed but Clint was in a crib, so I thought I was grown up.

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

John said...

I enjoyed your post immensely Philip. My childhood closely resembled " Leave It To Beaver", Hollywood's version of life in early 60's suburban America.

Pumice said...


Did you ever find the stork?

I often wonder if all the medical attention has really lowered the mortality rate of childbirth.

Great memories.

Grace and peace.

Joyful said...

Interesting observations from a very young boy.

My first memory I was about 1 and half years old. My mother didn't believe I had the memory until I described it to her in detail. I guess it was rather traumatic for me so I remember it well. I was sick and she had to take me to hospital. I was in a crib and standing up holding the bars. I felt very frightened and mother tried to soothe me but she had to leave me there. When she left, she said she would be back in a little while and she never came back! I was quite upset about it for years though I only told her about it 5 or 6 years ago, lol. She told me then that it was the only way she could get away.

Of course, I do understand how hard it is for the mother's when their children are crying and inconsolable but I never did abide by lying. Ironic it was my mother who taught me never to lie *smile.