The Leper (2)

I fitted into my family in the same way I fitted into society. I didn’t. My father was a minister and my mother one of the original Quiz Kids. My “outside world” expected me to be either a goody two shoes or a younger example of my mother and brilliant elder brother. I was neither of these things. I was an exuberant, easily bored child who looked forward to school just to have company, to skip rope or play hopscotch. We lived at the end of town where the church and grounds occupied the entire block. The church was on a busy road (in a small country town this doesn’t mean a lot), but our house was at the rear of the church and bordered by parkland and the river on two sides. There were no children nearby with whom to play except the Catholic children who lived opposite the church, but for some reason they were unsuitable companions.

I had learnt that the friends of my choice were not to be brought home. When I was five I took Raymond Fardon home. He had asked me to marry him and, as I was giving this serious consideration, I felt I should take him home to meet my parents. That was a real disaster as he was given short shrift and sent home, never to darken our door again. He then totally ignored me and took up with another girl whose parents were no doubt more accommodating.

My next failure was when the Tattersall girl came to town. Her father owned Tattersall’s Hotels all down the eastern seaboard. They would spend three to six months in each town overseeing the local hotel operation. I immediately clicked with Rhonda. We were inseparable at school and walked home together as the hotel was on my route. I stayed at the hotel with her a little too long one afternoon and was forbidden to go there again. When I attempted to bring her to our house my mother always had an alternative arrangement and Rhonda left town before a time could be found.

My mother turned yellow one day and the doctor diagnosed her as contagious.  My brother and I were quarantined and not permitted to attend school so that we wouldn’t pass on this dreadful disease. My brother’s spirits soared as he could continue reading the book he’d started and then start another and another. My heart sank. No-one to play with. How was I going to cope? It would be the same as our Christmas holidays at the beach where the other members of my family would lie in bed all morning reading their books and eating their chocolates whilst I annoyed them all, agitating to go to the beach. Even threatening to hang myself moved no-one from their books except my brother. He stirred out of bed as he wanted to watch. It only gave him something to crow about when I failed in my attempt. I had tied a slip knot in my noose.

How was I going to survive this enforced isolation? Then it came to me. My father had given a children’s address in church about the leper and Jesus. I could be the leper! I raced up to the church and hid behind one of the fir trees. Whenever anyone approached I would jump out from behind the tree yelling and waving my arms around wildly “Stay away! I’m unclean! I’m a leper and my mother is yellow. Beware! Don’t come near me or you’ll turn yellow too.” Most people just ignored me but I got a huge thrill when some crossed to the other side of the road. My new game kept me happily occupied for a day until Dad, informed of my activities, issued a severe reprimand. I was forbidden to continue with this pursuit. Luckily the Department of Education decided that quarantine for family members of someone with hepatitis A was not necessary and we returned to school the next day.

My game then well and truly backfired on me as none of my friends would let me near them just in case I “really was a leper”.

1961.7 Irene,Jim in bed

Written 1st person adult voice in past tense. For me much of the emotion from that written in the child’s voice is lost however there is a lot more in this version.

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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10 Responses to The Leper (2)

  1. Pat says:

    Irene – it’s interesting to read both stories and see how different they compare in their perspectives. As adults, we sure complicate things adding in more stuff. No wonder we get bogged down — you can see ‘responsibility-responsibility-responsibility’ all over it in what’s required of us. I think I like the voice of the child better, as it’s more honest and pure in feelings.

    Obviously, we can’t go back to being a child again. But, this exercise is good in seeing the differences and developing the best of both. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pat, What I think writing as a child does allow you to reconnect to the feelings behind the actions. In this case boredom, loneliness, love for father, fearful respect for mother etc. In the adult version I don’t think these emotions come through much at all. It is more storytelling with the emotion put away. The next exercise is to write in adult voice with the appropriate emotions but I don’t know whether that is possible. Possibly all emotional responses come from the child within us and the two are mutually exclusive. However, I do plan to try one day. Cheers Irene

      Liked by 1 person

      • Pat says:

        I understand what you’re saying, Irene. One is simple and the other more complex. Because the two are mutually exclusive, it takes time to sort out the voices.

        Liked by 1 person

      • And sometimes its difficult to put yourself back in that place as a child. At the same time in my early posts I started with my earliest memories and walked around a house we moved to when I was four. Fascinating the memories that came for each room.


      • Pat says:

        Irene – I like the visualization of walking around in your house. I had never thought of that. I can’t tell you how much this is helping me. First, I couldn’t remember much in my first 7 years and now you’re giving me exercises and things I can do to recreate it. Thank you, thank you. 🙂


      • Pat I’m glad it is useful. I think we all help each other because we have come at different ways of approaching the obstacles that we come across. The house though is a really interesting excercise that I haven’t yet finished as I got sidetracked by something that came up in the house however, at the point I was at I was struggling to remember my own bedroom where I had strong memories of my brother’s room and every other room in the house. I’ll get back to it when I’ve finished the road I was taken down. Cheers Irene


      • Pat says:

        It’s amazing the little detours we take while on this journey. Sure makes life interesting. I tried visualizing going through the rooms of my old homestead last night and wrote them down. I’m still have trouble remembering and when I do I don’t feel connected to it. I’ll keep working at it. I think it’s very useful. I was surprised at the list I made and how much I came up with.

        I like that you’re spending time on whatever sidetracked you. Sounds important and intriguing. Have you written about it — maybe I missed it. 🙂


  2. Pingback: Obstacles: Discover Challenge | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

  3. Norah says:

    Ah, so you did go the way of Peter. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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