Confession time: I’m not really a great one for housework. I do the necessary things to keep my home functioning but other than that …. it’s kinda piecemeal. If something jumps out at me to be done, it eventually gets done. There’s absolutely no routine to my housekeeping and if I get a better offer or can think of something else to do – I choose that! The downside of this is huge and I am most grateful to my friends and family that continue to visit me, when at times my home is less than! But do you know that there is an upside? The upside is that because some jobs are done so rarely (read – tidying up my dresser top) that I get surprised by what I find under the dust and junk!
One of those pleasant surprises is my little orange duck, that has a secret compartment when you take off it’s wings. I’m not a duck collector. In fact, I think this is the only duck I own. I believe my mother gave it to me perhaps, 35 years ago and I have had it sit on my dressing table ever since. I love the colours and the style of my little duck but most of all I love the secret compartment ….. and what I chose to keep in there all those years ago. And I love the surprise I get when I rediscover it every so often, when I tidy my dresser top!
Inside, the secret compartment is a handwritten poem called, For Mandy, that was written for me, by my dearly loved aunt, when I was 19. I was staying with her one holiday, when I was let down badly by my then boyfriend, which subsequently led to a final break up. I was heartbroken and hurt from giving and giving of myself to this relationship and had come to the realisation that I could give no more and that it had to end. It was a destructive relationship that was doing me no good but I had loved this person for a long time and I was sad. After days of moping around the house, I came home from a walk at the beach one afternoon, to find this poem, sitting on my pillow. I read it and wept and then I lay down and slept – properly – for the first time in days! When I awoke, I got up and began living my life again! The words spoke to me in a way that validated who I was and what I did and what I could become. They were exactly what I had needed to hear.
My aunt was an amazing woman. Her name was Rita M Hughes and she loved to write. As a child, I believe, she used to keep a diary and as she grew up, poems and short stories were what she wrote the most. She had a strong Christian faith and an enduring love of people and their lives. Her letters to her sister, my Mum, had to be seen to be believed! It was not unusual for 10 pages to arrive in an envelope and we would all gather around as Mum tried to decipher Aunty Reet’s scrawl. It was always worth the wait!
My memory tells me, that she really only began to get published after her 40th birthday. My apologies to my Uncle and cousins if my facts are incorrect, as I am only going from my own personal recall. Her beautiful words were often seen in the church publications and she had acceptances of her work by both Radio New Zealand and the BBC World Service. Prizes and placings in many literary competitions came her way and the culmination of this occurred with the publishing of her book of short stories and poems, A Still Small Voice, in 1983. Aunty Reet continued to love Jesus, her family and her friends which basically included everyone else she came in contact with. She continued to write her precious words until, sadly a form of dementia took away this ability. She remained a happy soul and always had a smile for us all, until her death several years ago.
Rita M Hughes remains a great influence in many lives and when I began to put my words to paper, I couldn’t help but think about her. I wondered if she were starting out today, if she would have a blog – I like to think she would! I feel close to her often – she had 3 sons as do I; she loved her family hard as I do I; she was around 40 when she first put her words out for the world to read, I was around 50. I think she would be proud of my efforts here and I know she would be encouraging me to keep going, especially during the times when I am wondering if it is worth it.
So yesterday, as I cleaned my dressing table, I rediscovered my little orange duck. And as I carefully extracted the yellowing piece of paper that all but crumbled in my fingers, I was transported back to a holiday where a 19 year old girl grew up and got on with her life and I wept for that girl and I longed to be her again and I longed for the loving guidance of my aunt – just one more time.
And then I read my poem and I had everything I needed – right there.
I once cried like Mandy
sighed Like Mandy
laughed and leapt
and slept like Mandy,
knowing each tomorrow
I had lived today.
The way was not too far
nor too long,
and if I sing a morning song
and again at evening say a prayer
in just a little while
sweet Mandy will be there.
Rita M Hughes (1978)