• Stephanie Hammond

Back to town living ...

We found a flat in the nearby township that was in the former hospital. Once again I was surrounded by people and some of these were a fisher family. They harvested prawns from the sea and processed them right there in the back yard of our building. I would sit with them and peel prawns with them. They earned a lot more for them this way. No health and safety guidelines, or if there were, they were not adhered to. But that wasn’t a concern back then. We sat around the old copper they used to cook the prawns in, shelling and bagging prawns, and talking and laughing. My little girl was in her element, lots of adults to adore her and a huge safe yard to play in.

Before we’d moved to this area, my search for that set of principles to keep me safe, to give me guidance in this strange new life of being a mum, led me to join the Mormon church. We both did, my husband and I. It spoke to that longing inside me for family security. And it gave me the community I didn’t know then that I craved.

Living in the cane cutter’s cottage I had been cut off from church attendance. We had no phone, and I had no access to a vehicle. So one of the first things I did was put my daughter in the stroller and walk to the closest church member’s home and introduce myself. In more ways than one, I was back on track, feeling safer emotionally with people who I felt a kinship with. From that moment, they took me under their wing and invited me to attend church with them. Church was nearly an hour’s drive away and they kindly ferried us along with their family.

But religion wasn’t of interest to my husband. He wasn’t particularly happy that I went, but agreed to not put up a fuss and instead he spent the time with his parents and brothers. He was happy that I was happier now we’d moved into town.

I don’t know why, but flat dwelling is only considered a stop gap accommodation in my culture. The ideal is the stand alone house with a big yard and a picket fence. So although I was content in the flat, our new friends found us a little house that would cater well for our growing family. So once more we were on the move.

Our flat encompassed the old boiler room, which we used as a storage area. When we were clearing our stuff out of this room I disturbed a rat’s nest. Comedians make fun of the shrieking female afraid of a mouse. What would they have said of my response?

Without knowing how I did it, and without planning, as soon as I registered ‘rats’, I was up the wall in the corner, screaming out for help. Suddenly, I was glad to be leaving that flat. How they got in there and how they got to be so at home that they were raising their young alongside us, I don’t know. But they weren’t coming to our new home with us!

(newer photo of old hospital converted into flats)

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