The baby named Baby, part 2

January 13, 2013 — 53 Comments

So where was I? Oh yes. We had just finished living at the quarry, and then we were moving.

Do you know anyone who has lived on a farm? Yes? How about someone who lived on a farm, but in a bus? Yes? Ok, well then do you know anybody who lived on a farm, in a bus, with circus performers? No? Well let me tell you the next part of this story so that you can finally say that you do in fact know someone who lived on a farm, in a bus, with circus performers.
I don’t know why we moved from the quarry I really don’t remember. I wonder who initiated the move?
My mother? Did she get tired of pulling her kids down from precarious cliff faces? Was the dust getting to her?
Or was it my father? Did he grow bored of living in that quarry? Was it too unoriginal? Did he want a more curious address?
Well for whatever the reason was, all I know is that the next chapter of our life was… interesting.

There was once a man named Harold, who owned a farm in Whangarei and he must have been a social kind of guy, or maybe just a kind hearted kind of guy but nonetheless, he offered his farm land to many people, the orphans of society who had found no other place to feel at home and somehow the wind blew us in the direction of that farm and so our environment went from being one that looked not unlike the surface of the moon, to a big beautiful farm.

My mother was pregnant. Again. With a girl. Again.

Her name would be Aliyah, with no middle name. She would grow up to be a strikingly beautiful woman but for now, she was just a little peanut inside a little belly and we were living in this new adventure.
How we came to possess such a big bus I do not know, but the next memory I have is being set up on a hill, with one very large bus and the two caravans we must have hauled out of that damn quarry. Our neighbors were Lisa and Carlos who had their own three boys and their own big bus.
Oh, and they were Circus performers.
At 7 years old, the fact that I lived on a farm, in a bus, with circus folk was not at all remarkable. When school friends stared bug eyed at me asking with skepticism ‘So, you a bus. On a farm…. with circus performers?’ I would just shrug my shoulders. My name had been Baby, I had been carried to my mother in a cardboard box, I had lived on the moon. This was no stranger, or no more normal than anything else I had known. This was just my life, but their curiosity amused me.

I enjoyed my life there on the farm. Harold had many farm animals, but his sheep, they were not just sheep. They were his pets, and as he would walk to and fro over the farmland, all those sheep would follow behind him baaing away, faithful little sheep to their kind-hearted shepherd.
Carlos and Lisa shared their little plot of land with two Shetland ponies. One was named Star, one was named Twinkle. They were circus ponies, and Nelly loved Twinkle the most. At 5 years old, Nelly was the perfect size to ride twinkle, and so she would, but that is not the only thing she enjoyed riding all over that farm.

There is this photograph, which I hope we haven’t lost over the years and it is of Nelly, with a white-blonde mullet, clutching fiercely to Moses-Kelly, one of the circus kids who was only 6 years old at the time and there Nelly was, on the back of a little Yamaha dirt bike going flat tack along the ridge of one of the hills. Whose hair was longer? I cant remember, but there they were in this photograph, hair trailing in the wind behind them, barefooted and carefree.
Gypsy love, consummated with a motorbike ride where they left the buses and the caravans behind them in a blur, just happy to be together and to have matching mullets and to be going really, really fast.

When dad got bored from living on a regular bus, a bus that looked like every other bus that every other gypsie had ever lived on, he cut the very back of it off and modernized it by building a huge wooden box on the end of it, an additional living space, which made our home look, not quite like a bus, and not quite like a box, but something a little like a spaceship.

But we moved on from that farm eventually.

Again, I am not sure why, maybe it was because Nelly set one of the caravans on fire but in any case, we moved out our box/bus spaceship and moved into.. a regular house.
Friends of ours had taken a 3-month holiday in the United States and needed house sitters and I’m sure we all nearly dislocated our shoulders from shooting our arms up so quick in keen self-nomination for the role.
So we lived in that house for 3 months, and then mum had the baby.

This is how mum has a baby. She goes to her room. And comes out with a baby. As someone else may go into a room with laundry and come out with neatly folded piles of clothes, this is how my mother does labor. You never hear a thing, you would never know there was a baby coming. With no more than a cup of tea to ease the pain, my mother faces up to the task of giving birth like she does every other task and burden in her life: with silent strength and bravery.

So now there was mum, dad and the 4 girls. Nelly, Teraza, Aliyah and me, Baby. But we had to move, because the Torvicks had come home and needed their house back.

Dad decided it was time to return to The House, so we journey 70ks back west and rolled up our long driveway to see our beloved white house and walked through our front door and down the hall and turned into the lounge room to discover that our tenants had ripped up some floor boards, ripped off some of the panels in the ceiling, and had been growing an incredible amount of dope.
Aside from the remnants of the dope factory, there were also hundreds and millions and billions of fleas. Everywhere.
So we had to leave, but where could we go?
In the early 1900’s, at the top of Te Kopuru hill, a hospital was built to treat the sick from Te Kopuru and the surrounding areas
In 1959, fire destroyed one of the Te Kopuru hospital blocks and it made for some sensational reading in the local papers when it was discovered that heroic nurses battled against choking smoke and flames
 to rescue aged patients and carry them to safety.
Not long after that, and unsurprisingly, the hospital doors were shut for good.

And so the hospital remained. Empty.
How convenient. An abandoned hospital lay only minutes up the road.
So we moved in.
And so began another era of my life that would be a little bit backwards and inside out.
Most children are born in a hospital, and live in a house. But I was born in a house, and now lived in a hospital…
We chose to set up quarters in what was once the maternity ward.
Huge, heavy old wooden doors separated our ‘lounge room’ to a long corridor, with hospital rooms off either side. At night it was the spookiest place imaginable and not just because I was a 7-year-old kid with a wild imagination.
20 years on it still spooks me.
I remember that old ward had a chill to it that felt more than just the winters cold. If you opened those big old heavy wooden doors and stood on the other side, peering down into the empty space you would feel this heaviness approach you and settle silently on your chest. Breathing became labored and despite that icy, frosty chill, your skin would begin to prickle with sweat. If you should be brave enough to walk down, down, down that long cold corridor, you would find rooms still littered with the equipment from a hospital nearly 90 years old. Some rooms just had old beds and chairs and cupboards, sitting under decades of dust and neglect, but others were left just as they would have been the day they were last used. Cots with sheets and blankets for the new baby, still made up, only ruffled slightly as if someone had just picked up her baby for nursing.

These were the rooms that really got under your skin. They had a presence to them. They looked as though people had up and left very suddenly, with no time to gather up even a wrap for the baby.

I only ever went down to those rooms 2 or 3 times, and certainly only ever went down there alone once…and never again would I do that. Like I said, there seemed to be a heaviness there, something you can’t see, but something that settles upon you like dew  and to be perfectly honest, it scared the living daylights out of me. Even typing about it now is causing goose bumps to creep their way up the back of my spine.

Behind our house we had what seemed to be old miscellaneous rooms… kitchens perhaps, that were generally just dark and we only ever used that space to keep our pet lamb, which we called Salam, who died after mum fed it goats milk.
But to the left of our ‘house’ was a building whose bricks had tumbled and crumbled slowly under the burden of time and from the outside looked plain and unremarkable.

This was the old morgue.

A dated photograph of the section of the hosital which would later become our home. The building to the far left was our living space. The building to the far right with the cross on top was the morgue.

We weren’t the only ones who had seen the abandoned hospital as a viable living arrangement. It was a huge hospital, spread out over a very large piece of land. We shared this hospital home with half a dozen Maori families and a typical day for us girls looked something like this: 12 kids, 10 dark, and 2 white (Nelly and I) running barefoot from building to building with no sense of time or structure but for the hunger in our stomachs which suggested it was lunch time, or dinner time.

Spot the blondies. (And me wearing too much of the new lipstick i’d been given)
One of the many collective Hangis held by the other residents of the abandoned hospital

There was a large old pool, which was gated and if you told me it had not been cleaned since the hospital closed in 1971, I would believe you. You have never seen so many shades of green as you saw it that pool water and I truly believe that every frog in the north of New Zealand must have been bred in those murky waters. If you got close enough to the edge of the pool, the water could be seen to be pulsing and trembling, as if it were alive. Upon closer inspection you saw that the movement was caused by hundreds and thousands of tadpoles and frogs. It was an amphibian breeding ground such as you have never seen.

Then there was this old rooster on the old hospital grounds. We called it ‘Rooster’. It was the most pissed off rooster that ever strutted the face of the planet. It hated being a rooster, it hated living in an abandoned hospital, and it hated us kids.
Yes, more than anything it hated us kids.

And so day in and day out, we would play a game with Rooster. If one were to see the rooster, you might be nominated to enter the ‘duel of death’. The aim of the game was for the nominated kid to stand at a distance and put in a decent effort to piss that rooster off. One had to be on their toes however, as rooster would stand there…blood pressure rising, face going redder and redder and feathers rustling more and more and you never knew when, you never knew the moment it would happen, but in the blink of an eye, in a moment known only to Rooster, he would launch at lightening speed and chase you like a cheetah on the heel of a zebra.
We didn’t have a hope, we never did.
He was faster than any of the kids in that block and we knew it and so the fun came in watching the nominated kid try to find higher ground, out of the reach of Roosters angry beak.

It was always hoped that the kid wouldn’t make it, that Rooster would win and sometimes we got lucky and enjoyed the site of some panicked child being forced to the ground and mercilessly attacked by the most pissed off rooster that ever strutted the face of the planet.

One time when we were tormenting Rooster, I was nominated kid. Rooster turned and went for me at a moment in which I wasn’t prepared. I knew I was in trouble, there was no high ground, no tree to scramble up, no tank to scale. It was me, the rooster and about 10 acres of clear, flat land.
Rooster had me in the bag and we both knew it.
But then a van pulls up.
I can’t remember who was behind the wheel, all I know is that the side door opens and it was my only hope. I put my chin against my chest and ran for my very life. Rooster had had enough and should he catch me, he would kill me. So anyway, I’m going running for my life, I can feel rooster on my heel, the wind from his beating wings breathing upon my calves and I think I dove, yes, I dove for the opening of that van and it’s all such a blur now, but I know that I had time to turn and close that door and less than one second later I hear rooster SMACK into the side of the closed van door.

I was safe.
I would live to see another day.

So that is my story.
Did the adventure end with maternity ward which sat next to an old morgue? No. It continued and still continues today.
I told this story because it is a story that has never been told. I have friends that have known me my whole life and have never heard this story. It was begging to be told, and at the beginning of this journey, in light of the tremendous support and encouragement and love that you have all shown me, I felt that I wanted to share with you my deepest and most intriguing story as an offering of sorts, because if I can speak of this, my childhood, then I can speak of anything. And I want to tell you everything.

It was an unusual childhood, I know, but how do I feel about it?

Dear friends, I will speak later on the various heartbreaks that I endured, side by side with my sisters that have left scars like canyons in my spirit and left me with self esteem issues and daddy issues and just about any other issue you can swing a cat at, but for now I want to say that I honestly and truly adore the story I have just shared with you. It is remarkable, it is different and never have I met anyone else that can lay claim to a story quite like mine. I didn’t grow up with a white picket fence. I never had a pet, I didn’t have a middle name and I was delivered to my mother in a box, but there is something beautiful here. I learnt early on that life is an adventure. It is a story and when I am old and I have nothing left but my memories, I sure hope those memories are exciting and interesting enough to save me from senility that little while longer.

Note: I hope you enjoyed reading this story as much a I enjoyed sitting with my mother and my sisters and remembering it all. This story was the ‘nutshell’ version of our childhood and for the sake of making it ‘blog appropriate’ I had to cut a lot out, like the time we lived in tents pitched by the river and how I used to sneak across the fields to the neighbours house and eat his dog biscuits.
I will be writing the full story in a book one day but until then you can read what happened next in my story ‘After living in a hospital, we moved to paradise’ and if you enjoyed the wild antics I detail in that story then you will love the story of the most stupid thing we ever did In Part 1 and Part 2  of ‘A very scary story.’

Thank you as always for taking your precious time to read my stories.

53 responses to The baby named Baby, part 2


    this is such a wonderful story! im so glad you shared it with us. You should really turn it into a book will be great therapy for you as well and i will only take 49% for suggesting it 😀


    Vanessa, you’re a gem! Everybody’s story fascinates me, but yours stands out because of your spirit! You truly have a gift of seeing the good and the bad and the balance between them and the lessons they offer. I love that!
    I think I could read your story all day long!


      🙂 🙂 🙂
      I am smiling so, so wide! Thank you so much!!!!
      I have several stories in my archives which detail what happened next, and different stories from my strange little life. All of them a joy to write and I hope a joy to read.
      I write for people like you. Thank you again.


    Betsy is right on the money with her comment! You are a gem – a very special gem indeed.
    I read and re read your posts and you never cease to amaze me, captivate me, pull me in to your story and make me laugh or cry or be happy and always, always, always inspire me!
    I do believe you will have a Best Seller when you finish your book. As I’ve said before you are destined for great things my dear, I can feel it in my bones.


    Something about your story–the endless moving on–reminds me of this haunting song.


    I thank you for sharing your story. What shows up for me is what you intended to show up: the string that ties you and me together has become thicker and stronger. As I have said before, I am grateful that you exist. Your existence matters – it matters to me, it matters to those who read you, it matters to those you touch. And I am grateful that our paths have crossed through reading you here on your blog.

    I am clear that you are difference that makes a difference. So I say to you, be the difference, use it. Use it to be a source of contribution today, tomorrow, for the rest of your life.

    With my love


    Wonderful story told here about your life. Everyone tells me mine is so different but you trump mine! 🙂 Glad we both survived it is what life is all about struggle and pain and joy.


    this story made my day that’s been quite a challenge so far -thanks for sharing it!


    I was thinking as I read it, this would make a terrific book. I look forward to reading more.


    Splendid story, thank you for sharing. Unique!


    I too never had a middle name and I hated it… mother remarried a man named Tom May and she insisted I change my name too…not legally which made travel to and from Greece an exercise in patience and terror every time…but I digress. At school everyone called me Lisamay….one word….I would explain my last name was May and then I would get Lisamay May….Noooo….Just Lisa…May… that’s it….well what is your middle name? I don’t Have one. Everyone has one….how bout Lisa May is Gay or Lisa June…Lisa September…..But whats in a name…I have had too many to count now….I like to go by Lisa. The irony is I married my last husband whose name is Day. We lived with my mother who was Ann May so there were many guffaws at the May Day connection….which was extremely apropos…which this gives me a delicious blog idea….Whats in a Name??

    This is a delightful and colorful story and a fantastic childhood fraught with unconventionalism and I know from other posts its gets ugly later on. I look forward to your book and I will lap up hungrily all that you share in the meantime. This is your journey and it has made you the beautiful spirit you are…thanks for sharing it.


    Wow! You had me at “Hello.” fascinating story. I certainly wanted to read more. Beautiful, and the photos were such a wonderful addition. Thanks!


    Hi Vanessa, You write imagery in technicolour for your readers, which is a great gift – – when a kid gets hurt sometimes the wound is dressed with a colourful bandage which hides the wound. I wondered if the technicolour was covering scars.
    Every life has a story, thanks for the continued sharing of yours.


    Really really good,a pleasure to read.Thank you


    Wonderful story, thank you for sharing this I really enjoyed reading it! I hope you will write it in a book one day, I’m sure many people would love to read your story! xxx


    Thank you


    Vanessa, your story is fascinating and makes me want to hear more. The glimpse you shared is told with vibrant life. I want to read your book after you write it. We are all unique with different stories. Keep it up! Great job of writing. 😀


    Everyone has a story. Some are beautiful, some are ugly, but all are precious are worth the telling. All those moments that bring us to the currently moment are remarkable. My mum grew up on a farm. My dad grew up having lived in an abandoned box car for a time. All these things went into creating and developing me. There there’s the blessings brought by other family and friends that originate with a greater universal power. You are a blessing. Your life has been a blessing. Your life now, is a blessing to those you open and share yourself with through this blog. Your journey through your one thousand single days will have your revisiting your past as you explore your present and look towards your future as you choose. Your gift of words and telling story – your story and those you imagine are a blessing. Thank you for laying out your story for others. It may just allow others to reflect upon their own story and, perhaps, put their own story into a new perspective.


    Love this! Can’t wait to read your book. If there were a movie about your life, I’d watch it.


    What a great story. Your book will be an interesting read! Thanks for taking the time to write this and share it with us. I always love reading your blog posts.


    Absolutely amazing. I am reading this thinking this is even more zany than the stories my own mother has told me of her unconventional upbringing in Africa. What incredible memories you have. It’s so well written, light hearted and humorous and is keeping me engaged every step of the way. You simply MUST put this into a book. Something nags at me though having read on a writers forum where people have cautioned writers in putting pieces of their expectant “books” online – saying that publishers think of this as writing that has already been “published” ? Now I simply do not know if this is true or not, or how much it harms your chances of actually being published (Self publishing surely is an option?) but I just thought I’d mention it.


    This a truly beautiful, whimsy tale, excellently written! I loved every moment of it, it was saturated with a certain trueness, and a raw hilarity that made it so interesting to read! Keep writing!!!


    Ahh, Vanessa you have such a vivid way of telling your story and what a story it is. Your Dad sounds like quite the eccentric and your mother must have really loved him to follow his whimsical wanderings. Just great,


    Thank you, thank you, thank you, for cheering up what has been a rather bleak day with the story of your astonishing childhood!

    lifeonespoonfulatatime January 14, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    What an amazing story! I always chuckle when I see people trying to craft a “perfect” childhood for their children. What you experienced was adventure and wandering that made a beautiful and complex adult. Which I suppose, is indeed perfect. Thanks so much for sharing!


    Great story, thank you for sharing!


    I love this post; I love your blog and I love you too, Vanessa. Whenever I see a new post from you, my heart skips a few beats and then beats double-time until I’m recovered some time later.

    You know how much I enjoy reading about your amazing life. You certainly have a good story to tell, but you tell it so beautifully and so imaginatively. One moment I’ve got goose-bumps from reading about that hospital; the next moment I’m screaming with laughter about Rooster! Absolutely love it…


    Thats one interesting and wonderful story !! You should definitely write the book on this. It has also inspired me to write my own. Thanks


    Beautiful, beautiful story!


    I couldn’t stop reading for a moment. I love this, and I love that it is a true story. I would definitely read this book. Write the book!!!


    It’s a shame when children realize that their circumstances are unusual and different from the norm because then they lose their innocence, and it’s lost forever. But it makes for good reading!


    A fascinating story. Thanks for sharing.


    Jesus H. Christ! What the heck kind of awful people… I mean, who is so derelict in their duties as human beings that would think its ok to bring a child into a world like that? I’m sorry that my reaction isn’t the same gushing applause as everyone else’s, and don’t get me wrong; the story is enthralling. But the reality of it is heartbreaking, and infuriating at once. I can think of no more an irresponsible act than to bring a child into a world like that; that world is bad enough, but what you had suffered is inexcusable. And then there’s everything that came later.

    In my mind, being parent is a solemn duty of the highest importance. It is surprising as hell to me that you’ve come away from all that you’ve been through with the sort of attitude and vigor that you have. More amazing is that you seem to have done it yourself, as in, alone.

    I’ll reserve my further invectives about people I don’t know for another mode of conversation. But may I ask the following? Knowing that we derive our sense of God from the parents we had, what is your view of God? I feel like you could write a ton on this, and I would like to read it. But I proffer a caveat, my response will not be as restrained as this post. I look forward to that discourse.

    Yours in Contemplation,


      My view of God has developed over the years. I spent several years (and continue to this day) exploring God and learning where I fit into Him and He into me. Yes I believe in God. Do I believe in God because of my parents or despite my parents? yes and no. My mother bought me up speaking of God, we went to church and we would pray every night before bed, every morning before school and before eating meals but she also bought me up on soy milk, not being allowed to watch certain programs and not introducing the idea of Santa claus, the tooth fairy etc.
      As I grew up I had the opportunity to reflect on the way I was bought up, the values I was bought up with and the lifestyle choices my mother made for her family. I chose to drink dairy milk as an adult and have pay tv in the house, yet I too did not introduce the idea of santa clause etc to my children and spent years exploring God and the Bible because it was something I wanted for myself.

      My view of God would have perhaps been different had I understood that our upbringing was out of the ordinary but I can honestly say it was less than a year ago that I was telling a story from my childhood to a friend and realised how unusual it really was. After that conversation I reflected more on what circumstances we had been bought up in and it really hit me how unusual it was. Until then I can honestly say that I did not realise we had a childhood that was very different to anybody else. It was all I knew so it was normal for me.
      I didn’t feel less fortunate than anyone else, I didn’t feel unconventional…. because I just didnt know of a life that was normal.
      Does that make sense?
      Had I realised that moving all the time, living on a boat, living in a hospital etc etc was ‘unfortunate’ then maybe I would have questioned God, but I don’t know.
      All I know is that while I do not allude to it very much at all in this story, we did suffer a lot of hardship and my view of God as a child was simply ‘God protects me, God loves me, God knows me’

      Does this answer your question?


        Kind of… I’m very curious as to how you developed the belief that God protected you, loved you, or knew you? From an outsider’s perspective he didn’t seem to protect you at all, as a result, I would call in to question his love. Him knowing you seems inconsequential since he failed the first two.

        I liken it to the following: there is a fawn in the woods. While trying to escape a fire caused by lightning, the fawn breaks its leg and cannot run. The forest surrounds the wounded animal, and severely burns its flesh and lungs, but the fire doesn’t kill the fawn. She is left in agony for days and days until death merciful comes and takes her from misery. This is needless, absolutely fruitless suffering that a conscious creature had to suffer.

        Much like your situation, one is hard-pressed to conclude that there is a merciful, loving, or all-powerful God at the helm of the universe; in fact, logic dictates the opposite.

        How ,then, did you belief arise? Especially belief in the benevolent and powerful god spoken of in scripture?


    I came across your blog when you “Liked” a post on my Year of Prayer blog. Thanks for visiting, and for leading me back to this beautiful tapestry of writing you’ve constructed. I look forward to examining it further.

    Thus far I’m really impressed. You have a great story to tell and you’re doing so beautifully. I’ve very interested in the challenges you’ve set yourself. You’re becoming a bright example for others.


    I very much enjoyed your story. It heartens me to hear you say that you find it beautiful, because it is. I would also like to point out that your writing style invited me into the story in a delightful way. I love how you described things and illustrated the scenes of your life. I [almost] feel as if I had been there myself!
    This has been a highlight of my day. Thank you.


    Nice story. Stayed in this old hospital with the Marsdens in the 1980s – 90s. And yes there were creepy presences in those old buildings.


    Wow. Now I know why you have such a beautiful mind and unwaivering spirit. I can’t wait to read the rest in the morning.

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  1. The baby named Baby, Part 1 « - August 19, 2016

    […] the circus performers, but the rest of this story will have to wait until next time and can be read here in the story called ‘the baby named Baby, part […]

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