I used to often take them into the nearby Park, which was huge, & beautiful. The Park contained swimming pools too, & on really hot days they could go for a swim. Although we were warned in the newpapers, not to allow children to bathe naked. Or leave them unattended at the little pools.
It seems perverts were known to lurk in the bushes spying on the little kids splashing, & enjoying the summer fun. A sinister side effect which cast a little shadow on such beautiful surroundings.
It somehow seemed incredible to contemplate in such a beautiful Park, with it's glorious shrubberies, & wonderful flowering garden beds, & beautiful trees. And the lovely winding lazy river that wove it's way through the park, so gently.
We had many happy excursions to the Park grounds, & the Botanic Gardens. And the children hired small canoes, to row up the river. And if someone fell in, well, the river was slow, & gentle, & shallow. Children could easily wade out, with nothing more than dignity harmed.
Every now & then I would try to take the children to different parks & give them some variety of scenery.
We knew of a nice park, with fun ropes to climb, nice tall slides, & swings, seesaws, & unusual cubby house structures, which always seemed to delight them.
There was a stand of bamboo they could run through & hide, & just generally have a great deal of fun. It was quite a parent friendly park, in that there were nice comfortable seats in amongst the shrubbery & carefully tended flower gardens.
On the day in question, I took the children to this park, & as I sat enjoying the sun, & the sound of their laughter, a huge pretty butterfly came & hovered around all the flowers.
And then it came & settled on my arm. I sat frozen. It was very beautiful, very colourful. I had never seen a butterfly of such beauty before.
But I felt cold as ice. And I sat in frozen horror. Not knowing why.
It finally lifted it's wings & flew off, away from the park. I felt very cold. And still. And that hot summer day was suddenly so chill.
I called the children. Insisted we needed to go. And we went home. And I told the HYPH (Happy Young Publican Husband). And, in the manner of men, he laughed it off, probably didnt really listen to me.
Then, the following day, we got a phone call from my stepdaughter's mother, HYPH's ex-wife, to say his daughter had been in an accident. She was in a coma, on life support.
The accident happened the night the butterfly landed on my arm. It was February 21st, 1976. She died on February 28th. She never regained consciousness.
We spent almost the week, at her bedside. We had to return to the Southern City to our children.
We had been visiting the city where she lived a week prior to her accident. We had taken photos and they were the last photographs ever taken of her.
Here she is on the left, our beautiful girl, fifteen years old. A lovely lovely person.
With her father, & her half brother & sister. Her only siblings.
And we took this photo of her in her new jacket her mother had made her, on the Sunday before we left to travel home to our Southern City.
This photo does not do her justice. She had the most beautiful brown eyes. Her hair was so lovely & thick & a rich deep brown.
I think, if this had to be her last known photo, it did her justice, almost. We have another print taken from this negative, & it is much nicer than this. Not faded. Not this hideous distorted colour.
But her mother begged us for the negatives. Her father would have denied them. I couldn't deny a mother the last photos of her only child. And, of course, we never received them back again.
There had been a lot of bitterness over my stepdaughter. Before my time, & then , after I met her father. The mother had remarried. It seemed the stepfather was the nasty party.
And after our daughter -my stepdaughter, but a child of our family to me, - I couldn't help but wonder if he saw the irony of making it difficult for us to see her, or have her.
Joan Baez, Forever Young