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to be able to enjoy one’s past life is to live twice

Martial (A.D.c 40 - A.D.c 104)

Chapters is a way for someone to make a mark for future generations. It is a life story told in chapters that reflect on the influences, achievements, beliefs, highs and lows and regrets that make us unique. It developed out of the premise that everyone’s life is extraordinarily interesting to his or her family. Words by Helen Turner Design by Virginia Turner January 2008


Family+ The family

story


W R I T T E N

I N

S E P T E M B E R

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Chapter One

Sophie’s early years


Sophie the baby, 1982.


1982

S

ophie Joanna Smith was born at eight on the morning of 5th April 1982 at Wellington Women’s Hospital. She established at that point that she is capable of making her own decisions. Elisabeth, Sophie’s Mum, was in hospital overnight waiting to be induced but spent the night trying to convince father Peter and the midwives that the baby was already on the way. If she had been a boy she could have been Samuel or Jesse but the Smith family was delighted that after two boys they had a girl. Sophie was a name they liked and Joanna was after Elisabeth’s sister Jo. Sophie weighed in at nine pound two ounces and was six years younger than Caleb and eight years younger than Reuben. “It was an interesting age gap. Apparently Mum and Dad had a break from having children so they could build a house to put us in. They had bought Karamu St as a one bed-roomed cottage. Reuben’s room was the porch and over the years they built a substantial

1992

house around it. Mum said she wanted the boys at school before more children too. I was, possibly still am, very much the little sister. Later I was lucky that we all stayed in Wellington and that the boys lived at home so we really got to know each other.” The backyard at Karamu St was a great background for Sophie’s early childhood. She remembers the old climbing frame that was the centre for all creative play when it was transformed into houses and tents. There was a Para pool too and she developed a love for the water very early on. “I think one of the best times was when we looked after Jo and Chris’s cocker spaniel puppies– all thirteen of them - in the backyard. It is probably a good example of the importance of extended family in our lives, that Mum and Dad would do that for their sister and brother-in-law!” Sophie didn’t play with her brothers much but cousin Chloe soon became her most important playmate.


“Chloe is two and a half years younger so she was like a little sister. We spent a lot of time together because our families did too. Mum and Jo are very close. I remember being very jealous of Chloe because she was petite and blond and blue-eyed, everything I wasn’t. She did some modelling and was on TV too. However I was able to do some modelling for a catalogue for children’s clothing for the now gone James Smith’s shop. “I liked clothes from an early age. For quite a few years I would get a regular new smocked best dress made by Grandma and I am wearing them in a lot of birthday photos. I loved bright colours. I think yellow would have been my favourite colour for a long time. Mum liked clothes too so we have always had that in common. “I went to Playcentre in Crofton Downs for my preschool. I have strongest memories of the ‘racing’ track for riding bikes on and I remember a horse that used to poke its head over the fence. I think I spent a lot of time painting my body and I do remember falling off the fort.” She remembers that eating the ‘mousetraps’ was always a highlight.“They were the standard morning tea – cheese and marmite toasties. They are still my favourite comfort food. I loved macaroni cheese and anything made with milk products too. Unlike most little children, though, I hated fairy bread.”

mark their feet with an S and an R so we wouldn’t get them muddled up! We got into roller blading and cycling when she moved to Tawa when we were in standard one (year three) and they lived in a cul de sac.” Sophie thinks that the best thing about her childhood was that she had such a busy family life. “It was cool that we had so much to do with our family. I didn’t play with Caleb and Reuben very much but I can remember hanging out and watching them in their mad skateboarding days. I was lucky to have a lot to do with my grandparents from my mother’s side too. Grandpa (Maurice Patience) died when I was four but I can just remember him. I have heard others say that he was a bit hard but I remember him always throwing open the door at Baroda St where they lived and scooping me up for a hug whenever we visited. “When I got a bit older I would drop in on Grandma (Joan Patience) on my way home from school when she lived in Agra Cres and have afternoon tea, and sometimes I would have stay-the-nights with her that made me feel special. She was very good friends with Mum and perhaps I took that as being normal and how it should be with my Mum and it has been!”

When Sophie started school she made friends with Rachel Robertson who was her best friend.

Every year there would be family holidays. At Easter the Smiths, the Heyhoes (Jo and Chris) and the Patiences, (Elisabeth’s brother Rob and wife, Diana) and their children would go to Taupo for a holiday and then at Christmas the Smiths and the Heyhoes would have a summer holiday in Nelson.

“She lived nearby up in Fox St and we adored playing with our huge collections of Barbie dolls. We had to

“I grew up probably as close to my cousins as to any other friends.”


Sophie as a baby with the family, 1982.

“

I went to Playcentre in Crofton Downs for my pre-school...

...I think I spent a lot of time painting my body and I do remember falling off the fort.

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Sophie at two years old, 1984.

“

I was uncoordinated and not very graceful but I loved it. I remember the fun of the annual concerts when we got to have costumes. I guess I did at least develop a love of ballet.

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Dad, Peter’s family was in Auckland so they didn’t see as much of them, but Sophie remembers wonderful holidays on Uncle Graeme’s farm and she associates her Smith grandparents with instilling the love of the outdoors in the family. “I remember Grandad (Francis Smith) because he used to take us on walks and he had this amazing collection of hand carved walking sticks and we used to be able to choose one to take walking with us. He had a path named after him and it used to be a family joke that it was a wonder that he didn’t get mugged because he used to pull out any cannabis plants he found when he was walking. “Dad was keen on tramping too and when I was still at primary school he took me and the boys tramping in the Able Tasman Park when we were down in Nelson. Mum made the excuse that Jo needed help with the little ones (cousins Luke and Phoebe) and she didn’t come but I suspect it was those tramping huts!” Sophie took up swimming early on and was very good at it. “I think I had the right body shape for it – long, with big feet. I swam competitively for the Tawa club and went to lots of meets around Wellington. When I got to intermediate school I was in the inter school competitions. By the time I was due to go to high school I had to make a decision about whether I was going to do it seriously. That would have involved getting up every morning at five o’clock for training and I just didn’t have the discipline and dedication to do that. I didn’t miss the smell of chlorine and I could grow my hair if I wanted to although I mostly kept it short because it was my sort of trade mark.”

Sophie the nurse.

There were lots of other activities too. Sophie went to ballet for a few years, which she loved. “I was uncoordinated and not very graceful but I loved it. I remember the fun of the annual concerts when we got to have costumes. I guess I did at least develop a love of ballet and now I like to go and see it whenever there is one in Wellington.” She enjoyed music too. “I was a bit unfortunate that my first piano teacher wasn’t quite on to it and she didn’t realise that I wasn’t learning to read music at all but was learning from ear. This was a bit of a handicap later when I wanted to


Not surprisingly Sophie’s changing interests were reflected in the themes and activities she had for her birthday parties. One year there was a ballet shoe cake, another a Barbie cake then a Bart Simpson cake and when she got older there were adventure outings for the celebrations. “I wasn’t a naughty child I don’t think. I do remember though that I was quite feisty and if ever I got into trouble anywhere it was usually because I was talking too much. That was at school where my reports regularly mention it and at home in social situations. Our family had regular fish and chip evenings with friends on Friday night and I always got told off because I would put my two cents worth into adult conversation.

Sophie with Grandma Patience.

play more sophisticated stuff. I switched to our friend Barbara Campbell and eventually struggled my way to grade four exams but it was hard work. I did learn the cello and the violin at Raroa but I didn’t have much talent for that. Singing proved to be my thing. I started going to a children’s choir in Crofton Downs and then I did it more seriously when I got to high school.” Sophie went to Brownies and then Guides. She enjoyed that until a new leader who was a great stickler for rules rather spoilt the fun.

“When I went to play with friends I always made a fuss when Mum came to pick me up which must have been a pain but the worst thing I can remember doing is stealing a pen from Woolworths in Johnsonville Mall. It was a fancy pen and Mum wouldn’t buy it for me. I remember it because I knew it was wrong.” Sophie enjoyed reading from an early age and loved reading whole series.“I read all the Baby Sitters’ Club books, the Trixie Belden detective series and the Nancy Drew books. Each month Mum would be nagged to buy books from the Scholastic Book club at school. It wasn’t particularly sophisticated stuff but I liked it.” From an early age Sophie remembers having a strong sense of justice and a desire to make things better for others. “I really struggled with bullies. I can remember walking home from school with a girl who was always picked


on and I absolutely hated it. I guess that has proved to be a motivator for me in a lot of my choices in life.” The Smith family’s Christian beliefs were central to their daily lives and Sophie had no trouble accepting them and she remembers that going to the Western Suburbs Fellowship was always an enjoyable thing to do. The Sunday School had young and trendy leaders who made it fun. “I can remember that it was always pretty active. Once we got to throw tennis balls at a big picture of the giant Goliath and our teacher gave us a passport to the biblical world and we got our passports stamped when we learnt something new. I made lots of great friends there too, which was good because outside the church while I had lots of friends I struggled to make Christian friends.” By the end of 1992 Sophie was really excited about moving to intermediate school. Tramping with Dad.

I wasn’t a naughty child I don’t think. I do remember though that I was quite feisty and if ever I got into trouble anywhere it was usually because I was talking too much.


Chapter Two

Sophie’s teenage years


Wellington Girls’ College friends


1993

I

In 1993 Sophie started at Raroa Intermediate School. Up till then she had stayed at Ngaio School even though the family had sold the Karamu St house and moved for a short time to Nicholson Rd and then finally to live in Clutha Ave, Khandallah. “I was very excited about going to Raroa because I had to go by train and it felt very grown up. It was a bit scary at first because I got separated from my Ngaio friends Natalie Barber and Virginia Turner and ended up with only my friend Claire Simpson in my class but I soon made new friends and I loved my time there. “I was at the age still where I would try all sorts of new things. One of those was starting drama. I had been to classes after school but when I was twelve I auditioned and got the part of a nurse in a Khandallah Arts production. I had to be a nurse because I was already too tall to play a child’s role. I adored it although I am quite aware that I had no talent as an

1999

actor. I stayed in KAT for quite a few years and did everything from props to front of house and I was even the youth representative on the committee. “I made good friends there too, and as usual quite a lot of them were boys. I have always found it easier to make friends with boys than girls or perhaps I have found them more interesting. I was really sporty then and of course I was used to them with two big brothers. “I liked fashion and clothes like the other girls and I had to have the latest trend. At Raroa I was really ‘in’ because I could grab hand-me-down skatey labels from Caleb and Reuben. But I was never interested in hair and makeup and in some ways I was a bit of a tomboy. “I was in a school band with some very interesting boys, probably not the sort my parents would have wanted me to associate with. That was fun and I liked the music but it was also partly because I was determined not to be labelled as the ‘rich Christian girl from Khandallah’. I had thought everyone was the


same but by then I was conscious that other kids would comment on the size of our house and like all kids that age I didn’t want to be different.” Hanging out was the biggest activity and Sophie remembers education was less important than socialising at Raroa. There were ‘boyfriends’ – the ones that your friends jacked up for you and then dumped for you. It was all very innocent and until she was at high school Sophie wasn’t allowed to go to the city by herself. As she grew up her relationship with Reuben and Caleb developed. She thinks that she saw Rueben as a bit of a mentor and she asked him lots of advice and talked a lot about spiritual things. She looked up to him. With Caleb she shared a passion for movies and

she remembers really missing him when he went away to boarding school. Sophie chose to go to Wellington Girls’ College for her secondary schooling. She had the option of going to the local co-ed school, Onslow College, where Reuben and Caleb had gone but she preferred to go where her close friends were going. “I just loved the uniform to start with. I felt proper in it and I think by then that I liked order in my life and that was very ordered. Of course after a couple of years I hated it and didn’t like the fact that a uniform took away my individuality. “I soon noticed that a uniform didn’t make everyone the same. There was a definite code as to how to wear your uniform. Then all the cool crowd had very short skirts and wore roman sandals. I decided early on that I would aim for a middle path – not cool but not geeky. I decided that was the safe place to be but I also knew I had to guard against slipping into average. “When I was fourteen one of the most important experiences in my life happened. I was involved in the World Vision Forty Hour Famine. At an all night sleepover we were shown a video and it had a profound effect on me. I knew I had to make a difference so I emailed World Vision and asked them what career I should go for to be useful. They sent me back a long list but nursing really stood out for me. I decided I would be a nurse even though no one in our family had ever been one.” Sophie maintains that decision early on freed up her choices at school.

Siblings: Reuben, Caleb and Sophie.


Three friends, Claire, Catherine and Sophie.

“

I just loved the uniform to start with. I felt proper in it and I think by then that I liked order in my life and that was very ordered.

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“Everyone at Wellington Girls’ strove to do well enough to become a doctor or at second best a lawyer. It was what the school was about and I noticed the old girls asked back for prize giving were successful examples for us to aspire to be like. That meant that everyone had to take appropriate subjects whereas I knew that there were no prerequisites for nursing so I could choose subjects I wanted to do. “I tried Art and Design and French but I wasn’t much good at them. What I really loved was History and to a lesser degree Geography. In 1996 I went to America and Europe with Mum, Dad and Chloe, and I just loved seeing things that I had learnt about. I knew I would want to travel more and luckily the following year I got to go to Argentina, Chile and Brazil on a tour with the school choir.” During the first four years at school, Sophie got involved in everything available. She played just about every sport possible at different times and she continued with playing the piano as well as singing. She was a peer support leader and she got involved in drama. “By the end of the sixth form (year twelve) I had the fattest CV of things I had done. It was all part of the plan to get myself elected on to the School Council in the seventh form. My close friends Claire and Catherine Willett and I spent weeks rehearsing for what we thought would be our top achievement at school. The seventh form got to elect the School Council and from that the Head Girl was chosen. I wanted to be on that or at least be a Prefect who were chosen by the staff. We had to present our CVs and make a speech. “All three of us failed to be chosen and we were totally

gutted. It seems funny to say it but our whole lives fell apart. It made us very cynical about the school. Out of that heartbreak came the idea that we would do something different after our Bursary year. We searched around and discovered the Gap scheme, which involved a year overseas in England doing voluntary work. We all applied and thankfully were accepted. I got in because I wanted to do care giving work and that wasn’t so popular because not many young people wanted to wipe bottoms for elderly people! I knew it would be a good test of whether I could be a nurse.” The girls were accepted for Gap by March and were able to sit back then and enjoy the rest of the year. “We did a lot of things together. We went to heaps of movies and did a lot of shopping. We loved having pizza and video nights. I did go to a few parties with my Onslow friends but really I was pretty geeky. I had a great time at the school balls and I loved dressing up but I was getting really conscious of being so tall by then. Until I got to high school I wasn’t always the tallest and it didn’t worry me but at high school it was such a pain because it was so hard to wear the clothes I wanted to. I had to wear short ball dresses because long ones were only mid length on me! “I never felt the need to get into some of the risk taking behaviour of others my age. I guess Mum and Dad would have had something to say if I had. I always had such a good relationship with Mum that mostly I told her everything and she knew me so well that if ever I tried to lie to her she could tell. Once I set up a big deceit when I was going out with a boy but she soon saw through me. ” Sophie maintained her Christian faith throughout these years too. She went to Youth Group which she loved


and when she was fifteen she was baptised. “I still had completely separate groups of friends though. It was a bit strange when I was baptised because I didn’t ask my closest friends because they wouldn’t have understood. It wasn’t until later when I went to Ghana that I got close girlfriends who had the same beliefs.” Academically she did well. “It was before NCEA and so I passed School Certificate in year eleven, sixth form Certificate in year twelve and I got an A Bursary in year thirteen. “The highlights through those senior years were the school balls. I particularly remember my final seventh form ball because by then Grandma was in the rest home at Malvina Major and I insisted that I visit her to show off my dress between the pre-ball party and the ball. I am so pleased I did because she was thrilled. It was the last time I saw her when she had some understanding and recognition of me. She suffered from Alzheimer’s and I knew she wouldn’t be around to see me on my wedding day. “I had quite a lot of contact with her over the last year before I went overseas. I had moved on from my first job - doing a paper run – and had got a job as a cleaner at the retirement village. At first I would clean Grandma’s room and have my morning tea break with her but as she deteriorated she had to move to where she got more care. Sometimes I could hear her crying all day. It was part of her illness but it was sad to watch.” Sophie realised from that job that she liked working with elderly people and she was, she thought, more than ready for her Gap year in England.

Seventh Form Formal, 1999.


Chapter Three Sophie’s gap year


The family at Shaftesbury.


2000

A

t the end of March 2000 Sophie left with Claire and Catherine in a group of thirtyfive eighteen year olds for England. They had a couple of days orientation at Trinity College in Oxford and then they went off to their various placements. “I went to a place called Shaftesbury in Cheltenham. It is a place that provides supported accommodation for eighteen to forty year olds with physical disabilities. It was very frightening at first because some of the people had terrible disabilities and I found the people with cerebral palsy impossible to understand when they spoke. The challenge was to recognise that even though they had physical disabilities they didn’t have mental disabilities and I had to work at understanding them. Once I did I had a lot of fun with them and appreciated their different personalities. We always worked alongside staff members but we did do the same physical caring that they did and I liked developing those skills. We resisted the pressure to just

2001

be social workers and friends although we did that as well. “I lived in a nice flat with another New Zealander, Natasha. We had free accommodation and a forty pound a week allowance which was enough to feed ourselves and have a bit of spending money. I loved England and Natasha and I would get out every second weekend to visit different places. The locals were amused by this and I even organised a weekend trip to Oxford for the cell group I had joined at the church to show them what could be done! “I can remember back to the day I arrived there and as I was getting my luggage out of the van I noticed that there was a young male staff member and I thought ‘Oh no, I will be distracted!’ I was. The young man was twenty-two year old Luke Gabb. He was a local man and he was one of the caregivers. “Luke was very friendly and he was near our age. All the rest of the caregivers were much older. He


invited us to go to the local pub and we became part of the local scene through him.

We went around and told Luke’s parents and they were excited and offered us a flat to live in.

“I liked him. He was taller than me and we got on really well. I was impressed that he was a caregiver and he was very competent and professional. He really related to the young guys and understood their needs. I thought his value system was the same as mine. He asked me out on a date and our relationship developed from there.

“I knew I wouldn’t get the same response from Mum and Dad. I rang them and unfortunately Mum was home alone as Dad and the boys were off at a car rally. Mum stopped talking and I knew she was devastated. When Dad got home he rang and they wanted me to return to New Zealand at once. I didn’t want that, I still had four months of my contract to go and I was determined to finish it.”

“Natasha knew about us but we kept our dating secret from everyone at work. I fell in love with him. He was my first real boyfriend and I loved that we could be adults and talk about anything. I can’t fully explain to myself how I got into the situation of getting pregnant. I know I just didn’t think of the consequences of my actions and I didn’t think of the future. I knew about contraceptives but I just never thought it would happen to me. “I guess I was away from home and the usual reference points were no longer there. I don’t understand my risk taking. I do think though that growing up in a Christian home and accepting that, almost automatically, meant that at some stage I had to have an experience which would make me make choices for myself. I wish that my journey had not been so dramatic and had such an impact on everyone that I loved.” Sophie was surprised to find she was pregnant but even though she cried all night she was also excited. “When I told Luke he was really happy. Natasha wasn’t so impressed and she went with me to the pregnancycounselling centre. At one stage I rang the abortion clinic but I immediately dismissed that as an option.

Sophie thinks the soul searching really began then. Reuben who was travelling came to visit her for a week and met Luke.“He was very nice to Luke and we didn’t talk about my pregnancy or what I was going to do but I think his just being there made me look at things from a different perspective. I started to think that Luke and I would never be able to be happy together in the long term. There were too many differences. “We had completely different backgrounds and expectations. Even though I loved him there were things about Luke that I wanted to change and I knew that was not the basis for a good relationship. I was increasingly aware that being from different countries would put extra pressures on us too. I started to realise that I had broken my rule that I would never go out with anyone that I wouldn’t want to marry. I enjoyed the life in Cheltenham as a change but I didn’t want it for the rest of my life. I thought that he would make a good Dad but I was not comfortable with being the more educated one and the one with more life experience in the relationship.” Sophie continued to work and only one other staff member was told she was pregnant and she subtly


Luke, Sophie and Luke’s parents.

I guess I was away from home and the usual reference points were no longer there... I wish that my journey had not been so dramatic and had such an impact on everyone that I loved.


Sophie with Hayley.

“

We prayed for the perfect family. My idea of a perfect family was a youngish couple who were Christian and professional people and strangely without a big dog!

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helped out if Sophie had to do heavy lifting and was getting tired. “Being tall was a great advantage because even at six months you couldn’t tell I was pregnant. I did get a lot of sickness though!” The family decided to keep to the original plans which were for Elisabeth and Peter to join Sophie, Natasha and Catherine at the end of their contracts and have a trip around Europe. “Mum and Dad had moved from being upset to thinking through practical solutions. When they came over they met Luke and we had a meeting with his parents. That was a bit uncomfortable because Dad felt Luke, as the older one, should have been more responsible. I was slowly making up my mind to return to New Zealand. “I felt terrible when I told Luke that I was leaving. He asked if I was going could he take the baby. I knew I couldn’t leave my baby with him. He wanted us to have a future together and I thought he was more interested in me than the baby. He didn’t run like a lot of men would have. That would have made the decision making easier for me. But then, once I had decided to leave he could have followed me but he didn’t. When he did come, after Hayley was born, I had moved on. I don’t think I will ever quite resolve the guilt I have about excluding him from my decision making for Hayley.” Back in Wellington Sophie found life very lonely. Both Caleb and Reuben were about to get married to Emma and Sarah respectively and not many of her friends were around. She focussed on getting ready for

Elisabeth with Hayley.

studying nursing at university, and a good friend found her a job in the back room at Freedom Furniture where her pregnancy wasn’t on show. Sophie decided that what she wanted for her baby was to have two loving parents who were ready for a child and that was why she decided on adoption. She was already quite pregnant so her midwife, Kerry Prendergast, put her in contact with a social worker Mary Walker at CYFS and she started the process. “Mum and I were given profiles of couples to look at. I looked at about a hundred but none of them felt right.


We prayed for the perfect family. My idea of a perfect family was a youngish couple who were Christian and professional people and strangely without a big dog! In the end my uncle put a couple, Dean and Wendy Scott in Te Puke, in touch with me. We corresponded back and forth and it felt right even though they had a dog! My social worker wasn’t happy because they hadn’t been through the orientation process but they had started it and once we thought it might happen they went to CYFS. “It all went well until they told me they were not interested in an open adoption. I couldn’t have coped with that. I knew I needed to have contact with the baby and be able to see it growing up properly. I told them that and after they had been to a study day for adoptive parents they agreed it would be OK, which was a relief. We met up with them in Taupo and even though it was nerve racking I really liked them, and I decided they would be the parents if I adopted. It was still an if.” Sophie started university eight and a half months pregnant. She found everyone’s interest in the baby confusing and emotionally draining. “People in shops would ask me when it was due and what I would call it. How do you answer when you are planning to adopt? I knew that it was going to be hard. I decided that after the baby was born instead of going home with it I would let foster parents be the carers for the compulsory twelve days before babies can be handed over to adoptive parents.” On March 19, 2001 at 11:49 a beautiful nine pound five ounce baby girl arrived. Sophie called her

Hannah Elisabeth, Elisabeth after her Mum. “She was so cute and perfect. After working with disabled people I had worried that she would be disabled and that would be hard for the adoptive parents. She was a bit stressed when she was born but that was soon sorted. Mum was with me for the birth and Dad rushed in the door afterwards. He picked her up and carried her to the ward. He wouldn’t let her go. Mum stayed in hospital with me for the forty-eight hours and was my support. That was such precious time because that was the only time I had with Hannah. I had so many visitors that I counted up that I must have only ever had fifteen minutes alone with her. Everyone was very supportive but they all cried. I was very aware that my decisions didn’t just affect me but everyone else as well, especially my family.” Sophie remembers taking the baby to the foster home as the darkest day. That was the day she felt she was giving up her baby. “The foster mother was lovely and seemed to understand because a few days later she asked me if I would like to baby-sit for a couple of hours. That was special. Wendy and Dean had been rung and they came down and stayed with Jo and Chris. We took turns at visiting the baby. And then on the weekend our family all went to Martinborough for Sarah and Reuben’s wedding. That was hard. “About day eight I had a meltdown and thought I couldn’t go through with the adoption. By then Mum and Dad had really softened their stance and they said they would support me to keep her. Mum offered to give up work so I could carry on with nursing. Dad


asked me to review my original reasons. When I did they were still all there. I wanted two young parents with the desire and resources to bring up a baby, and that wasn’t me. “I wanted to be her mother. I loved her but I knew that the best way of loving her was to let Wendy and Dean be her parents. I knew that whatever decision I made I would agonise over it all my life but watching Hayley Sinead as they named her, grow up so far I know I did the right thing for her.” A month after Hayley was born Luke came out from England to visit her. “It felt very strange. I knew that my decision to leave England was the best one. We weren’t right for each other. While he was here he signed the birth certificate and the adoption papers. He gets all the news of her that I do from Wendy and Dean.” Sophie went back to university and she loved the study but she felt different from all the other students. “I was quite lonely. I would have liked a boyfriend but I was totally off limits to boys. I did make some very good girlfriends there.“ The church was very supportive and Sophie really appreciated that when she had got back on track and found her faith again, she was asked to be a youth leader. “I probably don’t say it enough to them but Mum and Dad were fantastically supportive throughout this time. I know how hard it was for them but I couldn’t have asked for better parents. I will always be grateful.”

Above: Luke with Hayley. Below: Peter with Hayley.


Chapter Four

Sophie’s nursing years


Graduation, May 2004.


2001

T

here were particular highlights throughout Sophie’s three-year nursing degree. One of them was a seven-week placement in the burns and plastics ward at the Hutt Hospital.

“I think what I liked about it was that it was very positive nursing because what we did directly improved the quality of the patients’ lives or at least 95% of the patients. The ward also dealt with all ages from newborns to adults and I liked that variety. “Variety is good, but if I were given a choice I would nurse adult males first because as a generalisation they don’t moan and they are keen to get up and get going. But I like children too. “In plastic surgery cases there is a lot of specific nursing around wounds and dressings. I love watching the healing process. Everyday you can see an improvement in patients.” Once Sophie graduated she applied for a job in that

2008

ward but she heard nothing from them and didn’t get an interview. “I was very disappointed but I applied and got offered a job as a psychiatric nurse and I started to get excited about that. Then I got offered a job in the cardiothoracic ward at Wellington Hospital as well but I really wanted to know why I hadn’t got an interview at the Hutt so I rang and asked for an interview so I could ask what I needed to do to improve my application in the future and to find out what I had done wrong. I surprised myself at my bravery but it paid off because my attitude impressed them and when the other candidates pulled out they offered me the job! So in the end I went where I wanted to go and it was good for my confidence because after not feeling wanted I ended up with three jobs to choose from.” Sophie was still motivated by the desire to make a difference in the Third World that had started her in nursing in the first place, but she felt as if she was moving further away from doing that because her skills


were not in emergency nursing. “In mid 2005 I went with the family to New York and just after we got back I bought a magazine with photos in it of a young guy’s experience of a year on a Mercy ship in Africa. I also read an interview about him and I got very excited. “I am a bit adventurous but not exceptionally so and I couldn’t imagine being dropped off in the middle of a jungle by helicopter and having to set up a nursing station. The more I read about the Mercy ships the more I thought that it was for me. I guess it was cheating a bit but I would be able to live in a safe place on the ship and it was something I could imagine coping with. “I was still concerned that my specialist skills in burns and plastics wouldn’t be needed though, but Lord Ian McColl who is the charity’s patron came out to New Zealand and Mum and I went to hear him speak. I found out that they needed a plastics nurse and when Mum heard him speak she felt happy for me to go ahead. I applied the next day in October 2005 and I heard on Christmas Eve that I had been accepted to go in June 2006.” The next few months were hectic while Sophie increased her hours at work and got involved with the fundraising for her trip. “I had to raise about $15,000 because I had to pay for my entire costs for a year. I was amazed at how everyone I knew helped. My church home group and my workmates did heaps and there were movie evenings and raffles. I made the target.”

On 16th of June 2006 Sophie boarded the Anastasis ship in Ghana. The ship’s name meant resurrection and it was an elegant old passenger liner that had been retrieved from the scrap yards in Italy. Its name reflected its history and also that the Mercy charity is a Christian charity. “It was very important to me to be working for a Christian charity. I believe that physical healing goes hand in hand with spiritual healing. As a Christian I am supposed to follow Jesus’ example. He always sought out the marginalised people. I see my job as a nurse is to physically heal but also to give hope to people.” There were many new challenges for Sophie though, and she admits that it was not as wonderful as she expected. She found it difficult to nurse in that environment after being used to all the support and backup in a large well equipped hospital. “I always felt as if it was temporary and that if an emergency happened it would all fall to pieces. It felt makeshift. I hated being left alone to make decisions and when I was given sole charge shifts I was in a constant state of panic. My feelings weren’t rational because there were highly trained people there but not in the quantities I was used to. I was well outside my comfort zone. I was one of the least experienced people on board too.” Sophie found the ethical dilemmas heartbreaking. “I hated the screening of people to select which ones we could treat. There was always such a demand and it was just awful telling people to go away, that we couldn’t help them. We always had to match the demands to what we could supply and that often


Hayley’s fifth birthday with the family.

On 16th of June 2006 Sophie boarded the Anastasis ship in Ghana. The ship’s name meant resurrection and it was an elegant old passenger liner that had been retrieved from the scrap yards in Italy.


Sophie and Bubs, on Anastasis at work.

The very best thing for me though was meeting JP – Jan Pieter De Jong. I noticed him on the third day. He was tall and handsome and I knew he was a Christian.


depended on what the surgeons we had on board specialised in.” The upside was that Sophie learnt a lot and gained experience in lots of new fields of medicine. She also got to share her own specialist skills and taught others the care needed for plastics cases. Another challenge was learning to live in close quarters with so many other people. “When I arrived I was put into a six berth cabin and it was a bit primitive. Luckily a few months in I went into a three birth cabin, but over the year I think I had to get used to eleven different room mates because people were coming and going off the ship all the time. I had signed up for a year but other people were there for shorter times. It was pretty stressful sharing when we were all doing shift work and coming in and out at different times. It was a real exercise in tolerance. I got to make great friends though - particularly Sarah and Laura who I roomed with all the time.” Overall it was a great experience and Sophie felt comfortable enough to apply for an AMP Live Your Dream Scholarship back in New Zealand so she could fund a six-month extension on the boat. “I got short listed and then interviewed by phone but didn’t get it in the end. Still it was good to get an interview.” The hard work was relieved by the social aspects of the ship and by trips into the country of Ghana. “The very best thing for me though was meeting JP – Jan Pieter De Jong. I noticed him on the third day. He was tall and handsome and I knew he was a Christian.

Sophie and girlfriends on board the Anastasis.

I didn’t know where he came from but I sat beside him for dinner three nights later and discovered he was an engineer from Holland. We hit it off immediately I thought, although he maintains he didn’t notice me initially! “He spoke very good English and I was attracted to him because he was very intelligent. He was hard working and very funny – hilarious at times - which is quite an achievement in a second language. We were interested in the same things and I was totally impressed by a guy who, at the age of twenty-one after finishing his degree, would leave the comforts of home and spend weeks in a foreign country digging wells just to make a difference.”


The romance developed under the watchful eye and strict rules of the ship. They had lots of opportunities to spend time together and never got bored. “He is a beautiful man inside and out. I decided after three months that he was the man I wanted to marry. It took him longer to get to that point. After six months when we had a holiday he invited me home to Holland to meet his parents so I knew he was serious. The others on the boat put a lot of pressure on us because there were quite a lot of couples getting engaged or married.” Sophie wanted to introduce JP to her parents and the opportunity came when they joined her in Europe for a holiday after her contract finished. Everyone got on well. Above: Jan Pieter and Sophie, Below: Hayley and Sophie.

“He proposed to me on 25th July 2007 back in Holland. I accepted!” Sophie then returned to New Zealand to resume her nursing, catch up with family and friends and to make arrangements for their wedding and life together. “It was lovely to be back but at times it felt strange because we are so privileged in New Zealand. I had missed the family a lot and all the children had grown so much. I hadn’t seen Hayley for a year. “I am so looking forward to the future. I know that there will be many challenges ahead particularly because ours will be a cross cultural marriage but I just know we are going to have fun.”


Hayley and Sophie, 2nd August 2008.

“

Sophie and Jan Pieter, 2nd August 2008.

I am so looking forward to the future. I know that there will be many challenges ahead particularly because ours will be a cross cultural marriage but I just know we are going to have fun.

�


Chapter Five

Elisabeth’s early years


Joan and Maurice’s wedding, June 1939.


1951

E

lisabeth Patience was born on the 14th April 1951 in a Wellington hospital. She was the third child of Joan (nee Canning) and Maurice Balfour Patience of Khandallah. She was their first daughter.

“My name is a bit of an enigma. I think the Elisabeth might have been after Princess Elizabeth and it was a popular name then. My father, I discovered years later, for some reason known only to him actually registered me as Barbara Elisabeth even though I was to be called Elisabeth. It has been an inconvenience ever since when I go to sign official documents. Barbara was my maternal grandmother’s name.” The family which included ten year old John and three year old Robert, lived in Baroda St, Khandallah a couple of houses away from their paternal grandparents. “Dad’s father, Henry Patience, was a jeweller and I think they were quite wealthy. When Khandallah was newly subdivided he bought a large plot of land

1970

which he later subdivided to give sections to his three sons. Dad, as an architectural student, designed both his parents’ and our houses. When my little sister Jo was born we moved into another house in Baroda St which he designed for the section he subdivided off our original one.” Maurice was born in 1915 and the Great Depression and then World War II had disrupted his education. He had always shown talent as an artist and had loved painting and drawing buildings. After he matriculated at school, jobs were impossible to find so he went to work for the architect Bernard Johns for no payment. It was not until after the war that he managed to get the qualifications he wanted when he went to study architecture and town planning in Glasgow and Liverpool. “In the meantime he had met and married Mum. She always maintained that she had the happiest of childhoods but her family was very poor. Her father, Jack Canning, was an Australian who worked for the


railways. He was killed in a crossing accident when Joan was just six and her mother was eight months pregnant with her sister Muriel. “There was no compensation or benefits back then so Nan (Barbara Maude Canning) rented a house in Thorndon and took in boarders and then left the girls in the care of the boarders while she went out to clean offices at night to keep the family going.” Joan took on a lot of responsibility early on. She was another mother to Muriel and from an early age she became the family dressmaker. She had to leave school as soon as she was allowed to help subsidise the family income. She was apprenticed to a dressmaker in the DIC building. “The DIC building was where Mum and Dad met. Dad worked there too. Apparently he could see her working through the light well and he was so attracted to her that he engineered a meeting.” At the time though, Joan was very much in love with a man called Graham who she knew from the Thorndon Methodist church. His mother had frowned on the relationship though because they were more middle class and Joan wasn’t considered good enough. She persuaded Joan to break it up. Later, after Graham became suicidal, she begged Joan to take him back but by then Joan was committed to marrying Morris. “Mum and Dad married in June 1939 and I always thought she looked sad in her wedding photos. They never celebrated wedding anniversaries and they always fudged when asked about dates. When Dad died in 1986 we finally understood why, because Mum was then free to tell us that she was pregnant with John

when they married. They were both keen Christians and sex before marriage was not acceptable so they had kept it secret for years. They were also very strict with what the rules were for us children. I think that maybe they had got themselves into a situation where they had no choice about what they did and they didn’t want that for us. I have often wondered if Mum would have gone back to Graham. She mentioned him often.” John was born in 1940 and not long after, Morris was called up for the navy. He trained as a diver and was in the bomb disposal unit. This involved the considerably dangerous job of going in after the Germans had been, to detonate the mines they had left in the ports. “Mum had John on her own for several years. They got very close. She went back to work and Dad’s parents helped her look after him. When Dad came back from the war, he announced that he was going to study in the UK and Joan was to go with him but John was to stay behind. Mum was devastated. John was looked after by the family again and he had a lovely relationship with his grandfather.” Maurice came back to New Zealand qualified in both Town Planning and Architecture and very proud of his thesis that he had done on the Wakefield settlement of Wellington. He went into practice and from then on was very hard working and very involved in architectural circles. He and Joan made a good team because there was a lot of entertaining to do and while Morris was naturally shy Joan was very socially confident and a great cook and hostess. “I had a happy early childhood. Dad was great with small children until we got to the stage of having our


own opinions. We were financially well off because business was booming in the post-war period and we lived in a lovely area. “I didn’t go to pre-school but I went just up the road to Khandallah School. Khandallah Park was where we played. It was just like an extension of our back yard. We would come home from school, get something to eat and then take off up there. I remember the boys were always playing war games and as often as possible I would spend hours at Khandallah Pool. Mum wouldn’t have a clue where we were. “I idolised John. He was my hero and was an amazing brother. In many ways he was a father to Rob and me because Dad worked such long hours he didn’t do much of the family thing except at holidays. I remember John would take us to the movies and the

Elisabeth with Rob, John, Maurice and Joan,1954.

I had a happy early childhood. Dad was great with small children until we got to the stage of having our own opinions.


beach and that was quite something for an eighteen year old to have a ten year old and a seven year old tagging along. “Later on when he went to Auckland to study architecture I can remember the excitement when he came home full of great stories. Once he showed us how to do some Chinese cooking with chopped cabbage and soy sauce! He was a highly intelligent man who was so warm and interested in everyone. “Rob and I had a more usual brother and sister relationship. We used to taunt each other but we eventually got on quite well. He was a great athlete and very good-looking. I noticed later on that my popularity with other girls rose because they all wanted an introduction to him!” Joanna, the baby, arrived when Elisabeth was eight and Joan was forty-two. “Mum was really upset to be pregnant. I later heard Elisabeth the teenager.

I think I tended to give up easily and now I wish my Mum had been tougher and made me stick at things. She always smoothed the way for me and did things that I should have done for myself.


that it was John who took her to the doctor to have the pregnancy confirmed. When they told me I remember that I prayed it would be a girl and I can recall Dad picking me up from school to take me to the hospital to see her. Then, apart from praying that she would stop screaming so I could go to sleep and hearing Dad walking up and down the hall trying to calm her, I think I ignored her for the next few years. I was probably jealous because Dad transferred all his attention to her. For years I harboured resentment that when we had professional photographs taken they got lots of her and she took pride of place on the mantelpiece and they didn’t get any of me! We did get on well once I could relate to her as person and we have never been competitive.” The family was very involved in the Khandallah Presbyterian Church and for years it was the focal point of their social life. It had a really big youth group and there were camps and dances. It was a gathering place for friends from all the different schools around Wellington, and Elisabeth remembers that it was also the place where she learnt to mix and socialise with adults and her parents’ friends. “My Dad was a real intellectual and the dinner table was quite an academic exercise. He studied the bible as a textbook and for all his volatility and faults I never doubted his belief in God. I took on these beliefs and have never been shaken from them. When I was fourteen I was baptised in the Karori Baptist

Church to publicly affirm my beliefs and Dad really supported that.” The children were given plenty of opportunities to develop their interests. Elisabeth learned the piano and enjoyed it but hated the practice, so didn’t go as far with it as she would now have liked. She dabbled briefly in Brownies and she did ballet. “I think I tended to give up easily and now I wish my Mum had been tougher and made me stick at things. She always smoothed the way for me and did things that I should have done for myself.” Elisabeth loved school. She thinks she worked hard and felt a responsibility to do her best. From Khandallah School she moved to Onslow College. Her favourite subjects were English, French and Geography. “I particularly remember Jenny Gubbins, my fourth form (year ten) English teacher who introduced us to different genres and made us see the variety of ways of expressing ourselves in English. I loved that. “I left school at the end of the sixth form and I was uncertain about what I wanted to do. None of the usual line up of professions appealed to me. Dad suggested town planning and I went along with that. I got a job at the Ministry of Works but it was very dry and boring. I studied part time at University and the plan was to finish my degree and then go to Auckland to do a postgraduate diploma. The arrival of Peter Smith on the scene changed those plans!”


Chapter Six

Elisabeth’s married years


The courting couple, Elisabeth and Peter.


1970

E

lisabeth met Peter through the Khandallah Presbyterian Church youth group, which Peter had joined to meet people when he first came to Wellington.

“Not surprisingly, he stood out from the moment he arrived! His parents, Gwen and Frank, had moved to Wellington a year earlier and after a year at Auckland University, Peter joined them. He got a job and continued his studies to be an accountant through the society. “I had had other boyfriends, most of them casual, but none of them had ever matched up to what I was looking for. When I met Peter I immediately knew that he was the sort of man for me. I was quite a shy person and I could immediately talk to him about everything and relate to him on a deeper level. We had the same values and similar backgrounds. “I can remember Peter’s twenty-first birthday. I was very interested in him and I plucked up enough

2008

courage to deliver a present to his house! We started going out after that. “Peter had become a keen Christian and our social life revolved around the friendship group we had at church. Lots of couples went on to marry from that group and we are still friends with many of them like Beverley and Bruce Fraser and Jenny and Norm Orange. “Our relationship developed quite quickly. Peter got on really well with my family. He shared a passion for cars with my brothers. I was able to join in a bit there because I liked cars too. I had a very hot little Mini at the time! My parents appreciated his practical skills and his helpfulness and I think they liked that he was training to be an accountant and that his parents were professional people too. “We were both still studying at the time and I remember that marriage came up in a discussion we were having and we decided together that that was what we wanted. There was no great romantic


Elisabeth and Peter had bought their own wee cottage to move into in Karamu St, Ngaio. “It had only one bedroom but quite a big section. It cost $6,800 and we had scraped together a $2,000 deposit by me cashing up my superannuation and Peter selling his car. It was terribly exciting moving into our little home.” The first year of their marriage was all work as they continued their studies. “It was really lovely. I was a very conscientious student because I always deeply feared failing and Peter was a last minute person. I think that year he did very well because we just enjoyed staying at home and working side by side! My good habits rubbed off on him.”

Elisabeth and Peter’s wedding with Joan and Maurice, 21st May 1971.

proposal! I think Peter told my Dad and I remember telling Mum. They were thrilled. “My parents organised the wedding as most parents did in those days. It turned out in a way to be more of a party for them. They invited all their friends and we just had a few of our own. I didn’t have the typical wedding dress though. I was not into meringues so I chose a much more modern gown and a feather hat! I dislike being the centre of attention but I survived the day. We were married at the Khandallah Presbyterian Church on the 21st May, 1971.”

Elisabeth wasn’t enjoying her job at the Ministry of Works. “It was dull and boring. I had to go to Auckland to do the Diploma in Town Planning but Peter was happy in his job so we decided to stay in Wellington and start a family. I have never regretted that decision.” Reuben was born on 2nd January 1974. “I enjoyed being pregnant and I had a long but OK delivery. I took him home to our cottage and he slept in the front porch in the day and inside at night. I struggled at first with motherhood because I got postnatal depression. I hadn’t had a lot to do with babies and I didn’t know what to expect. I felt I was in a tunnel with no light at the end of it. I was very weepy. Mum came to the rescue and gave me a lot of support. She was such an intuitive and wise woman though; she knew when to help and when to step back.


“

It had only one bedroom but quite a big section. It cost $6,800 and we had scraped together a $2,000 deposit by me cashing up my superannuation and Peter selling his car. It was terribly exciting moving into our little home.

�


“I didn’t struggle as much when Caleb was born on the 30th January 1976. I think by then I had good support groups; other mothers to share with and talk to. We enjoyed being fulltime mothers together. In the evenings lots of us would go off and take night classes for recreation. Over the years I did cake decorating, pottery, screen printing and calligraphy.” When Caleb was about seven months old, Elisabeth and Peter went to a seminar on parenting run by the church. Out of that came a challenge for participants to continue to support each other in a group and from that the Friday fish and chip group was formed.

The family in Ngaio. 1982.

“Reuben was a very easy baby. From three weeks old he slept for twelve hours at night and I found that I slowly recovered by having a routine to stick to every day. I think though that I don’t really enjoy the little baby stage. I love them from about nine months on when they are more responsive and a little less dependent.” Maurice drew up plans to make the cottage big enough for a family. They added two bedrooms, a bathroom and a garage. “It was finished when Caleb arrived on 30th January 1976. It wasn’t the end of it though. We spent the next five years in turmoil as Peter renovated the original part of the house.

“We started off meeting fortnightly and that is now over thirty years ago and it is still going! It was such an easy way of maintaining friendships because the only effort required was turning up or providing cake and coffee when it was at your place. As the kids grew up they were able to bring their friends along and it became like an extended family. Now it is the Smiths, the Campbells and the Youngs. The children have remained in touch and Reuben still comes and brings his children sometimes. We had an amazing reunion in 2007 and really it has been a big part of our lives.” Reuben and Caleb went to Mrs Mayo’s private kindergarten in Ngaio. Elisabeth worked there for a while too and enjoyed learning about early childhood education, because Mrs Mayo was very progressive in her ideas of education. “Once the renovations were done I felt as if I could cope with another baby. Sophie was born on 5th April 1982. It was a bonus to have a girl but I again


We started off meeting fortnightly and that is now over thirty years ago and it is still going! It was such an easy way of maintaining friendships

Elisabeth’s siblings and in laws.


She was an amazing lady. She always saw the other point of view and she was always serene and wise... I still make my judgements based on what I think her advice would be

struggled with depression for a while but I knew what to expect and I had a lot of support.” When Sophie was quite little, Elisabeth took her to the playgroup at the Khandallah Playcentre and from that experience she was encouraged to go on to Ngaio Playcentre for Sophie’s preschool education. “That was such a fantastic choice for me. I made great friendships there but I also learnt a lot because of the training all parents had to do. Because parents run it I felt obliged to put my hand up for a job and found myself the treasurer. That was a real challenge but I got some training and I found that I liked accountancy. From that initial beginning I developed the skills to go and work in accountancy once I went back to work. Now my job combines accountancy and preschool as I

am the office manager in charge of administration at a preschool.” Over the years Elisabeth developed a very close relationship with her sister Jo. “She was just the kid sister but she proved to be a very useful baby sitter. I remember soon after Sophie was born, Jo and Chris had married and gone overseas for three months. I really missed Jo. When they had Chloe we spent a lot of time together and Sophie and Chloe became like sisters. “About this time too, Dad started to have medical problems and Jo and I shared the support of Mum. It was very sad. Dad was not very old, he was only seventy-one when he died but he went down hill mentally very quickly. He had been in a bad car


accident with John and had sustained head injuries and I think his problems were probably because of a brain injury. It was so demeaning for this man who had been so intellectually capable and independent and strong to have to go into a rest home. “My relationship with Dad had improved over the years and he was a wonderful grandfather. I was devastated when he died but I was relieved that his suffering wasn’t prolonged.” The family tradition of joint holidays started once they all had families. “We don’t ever tire of them. I think it is because we all like active holidays and it is such fun to have a big age range of people there. That continues because now we are getting all the next generation as well. We are able to afford nicer houses and better holidays too because we can share the cost.” Life over the next years revolved totally around the children growing up. “When I think back, Sophie was the one who benefited most from our improving financial situation over the years. I had my first overseas trip when I was in my thirties, when Peter had a conference to go to in Greece and I went along. It was a real culture shock for me and we did this mad ten countries in ten days dash around Europe that almost put me off going again. But we took Sophie with us when we went with Mum to Australia when she was quite young. There were other trips when she got a bit older too, so she had those experiences that the boys didn’t have. I am pleased that even though through circumstance she had more

opportunities than the boys I think it has helped to give her a wider world view. She is very caring and has a strong social conscience which I admire.” Elisabeth found it really hard when Joan developed dementia. “After Dad died, she had ten good years which I think she enjoyed, particularly watching her grandchildren grow up. She was an amazing lady. She always saw the other point of view and she was always serene and wise. She set such a good example to me of how to let go of being a mother and how to change that relationship into one of friendship. I still make my judgements based on what I think her advice would be.” Life was very busy when the children were growing up but Elisabeth thinks they only faced the usual problems with their teenagers. “By the time they left school, they all had an idea of what they wanted to do. Reuben took his welldeveloped passion for cars to another level. He did a couple of years at university and then he took up an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic and did very well. He went back to university and finished his commerce degree and soon he will be taking over a specialist European car business. “Caleb has also managed to combine his passions into his work. He did a design degree majoring in photography and now he and his wife Emma publish lifestyle magazines for mountain bikers. “Sophie decided to go overseas for a gap year when she left school. I was so excited for her when she was


chosen particularly as the school hadn’t been very encouraging. She wanted to do caring work and some more travel. “We thought all was going well, so I was very shocked when I got the phone call to say she was pregnant. We wanted her to come straight home but we also knew we should tread carefully and let her make her own decisions. In the end we kept to our plans and joined her on a trip in Europe after she had finished her gap term. “The months of Sophie’s decision making were very hard but it was also a time of huge personal growth for me. I was amazed at the grace and generous spirit of other people who supported us. I found that if you are open to other people you receive their love and support. The church people were amazing and they never allowed us to feel as if there was any shame involved. “I felt blessed at every turn. The CYF’s caseworker we got, Mary Walker, was an amazing person who understood and wisely counselled both Sophie and me. Through family contacts we found Wendy and Dean who amazingly fitted all the criteria Sophie had for adoptive parents and felt just perfect when we met them. The midwife, Kerry Prendergast, Sophie got and even the lawyer, Margaret Powell, that she signed the adoption papers with were all just right.

“I felt God’s hand in everything that happened. It was incredibly hard though. Luckily I had a friend who I walked with who was going though the same experience and that helped. “I gave up work a couple of months before the baby was due and I was Sophie’s support person at the birth. Once Hayley was born it was very hard. There was this real baby that was my own flesh and blood and my first grandchild and very wanted and what happened to her was not my choice to make. “In the few days before Hayley went to Wendy and Dean I agonised over Sophie’s pain as well as my own. I admired Sophie for her strength and I think the distraction of Reuben and Sarah’s wedding helped. “Now I look at Hayley and think that what happened was the best we could have hoped for. She has such loving parents who are giving her the upbringing we would have wished for. I also think that I haven’t lost a grandchild - I now have family plus. I realise that one’s capacity to love is endless and that through all this I have gained another family. “Since Hayley was born, the family has expanded. I now have four more grandchildren, Elliot and Eliza, and Malachi and Samuel. “I feel truly blessed and value the relationship I have with them all. As far as I am able I will always be there for them.”


Elisabeth with Hayley, March 19th 2001.

“

Now I look at Hayley and think that what happened was the best we could have hoped for. She has such loving parents who are giving her the upbringing we would have wished for.

�


Chapter Seven Peter’s early years


Frank and Gwen’s wedding.


1948

P

eter Francis Smith was born on the 6th August 1948 in Christchurch. He was the third of Frank and Gwen (nee Lower) Smith’s four children and their second son.

“I was born in Christchurch and lived there until I was three and then the family moved to Lower Hutt. We only stayed there until I was six and then we moved to Auckland where we lived until I was an adult so I consider my growing up was done in Auckland.” Frank came from a working class family in Christchurch. His father was born in New Zealand and spent his working life in the Singer sewing machine factory. Frank was one of five children and he was the only one of them to move on to further education. “Dad studied accountancy at night school and worked in the early years for Hicks and Angea. He then moved to work for the book distributors, Gordon and Gotch and spent his whole career there. When he moved to Lower Hutt he became the Company Secretary.

1968

“He met Mum at the Opawa Methodist Church which they both attended and I think they married during the war. Dad had fancied himself as an air force pilot but apparently he crashed a Tiger Moth plane on his first attempt and then was sidelined into manning a radar station in Bougainville in the very late stages of the war. “Mum was a typist and was a member of the Women’s Army Corp during the war. She gave up work when she married and never went back to paid work. She was a lovely woman. I think I have inherited her instinct for always being able to see both sides of an argument. She never had a bad word to say about anyone.” Peter thinks he couldn’t have asked for a better childhood. “There was not a lot of money at first, and few possessions but our parents always had loads of time for us as kids and they took an interest in anything we did.


I was one of a very close-knit group of six boys who were mates through primary, Pasadena Intermediate and then Avondale College right up to the sixth form. I always enjoyed school and I think those friendships had a lot to do with it. I can be easily identified in all the photos because I was always in the middle of the back row, always the tallest!” Peter thinks that the family lived basically without luxuries but much as everyone else did in those days.

Peter as a baby with Frank, Graeme, Bev and Gwen, 1949.

“Dad was transferred to Auckland when I was six to become the Assistant Branch Manager there. Our family settled in Point Chevalier or Point Chev as the locals called it. It was an idyllic setting for a growing family. We lived across the road from the beach and the suburb really was a community where everyone knew everyone and in a way we were neatly separated off from the rest of Auckland. Only very rarely did I go up to the centre of Auckland because everything I needed was nearby. “I had started school at The Hutt Central in Lower Hutt but I can’t have been there long because my only memory of it is getting my finger caught in a door. I was in primer four when we went to Point Chev. I remember arriving there and having a classmate assigned to look after me. I fitted in immediately and

“I know we didn’t have a car or a fridge when we were in Christchurch and Lower Hutt. We didn’t get TV until we had left school. Entertainment was listening to the serials on the radio or on the weekends gathering around the piano where Dad would play for a singsong. “By today’s standard we had a very restricted diet. Pretty basic food, and we were expected to eat everything in front of us. Mum was a good cook and a little adventurous because I remember that she made a curried mince – raisins and all! I don’t think I ever had a favourite meal but I did hate custard and I still don’t like it. It probably accompanied Mum’s bread and butter pudding which we called rubbish tin pudding. “We didn’t have family holidays regularly. I think I was about fourteen or fifteen when we went away up north and rented a house for Christmas. But we had a lot of entertainment on our doorstep. “For years Dad and Graeme and I shared a passion for making model aircraft and every Sunday afternoon would go up to Ardmore to the Model Aircraft Club to fly them. We would spend our evenings out in the garage workshop making them, especially in the winter when Dad would fire up a coal stove out there.


Mum was a good cook and a little adventurous... I don’t think I ever had a favourite meal but I did hate custard and I still don’t like it.

Peter with big brother Graeme.


“Tennis was a family affair. The tennis club was across the road and we all played a lot of tennis. Mum was a keen player and Dad worked on the committee and became the Club President. When we showed an interest in Scouts too, Dad put his hand up again and managed the project to build a Scout den. “Through belonging to these groups we got to go away on trips and amazingly I once came down to Wellington with a Scout trip and was based at the Scout Hall in Khandallah where my grandson, Elliot, now goes to Keas!” Peter remembers that his parents also had rules and expectations. Each of the children had a set bedtime half an hour apart according to their age. Pocket money was always two pennies more than their chronological age and Frank kept a tally in a book and they asked for money when they needed it. They were all expected to do chores around the house. “I loved chores. I loved clipping the hedge and mowing the lawns and making everything look neat. I still like doing that! “Later on I got a job delivering medicines for the local chemist but to do it I had to buy myself my first bike on hire purchase because Mum and Dad encouraged us to do things for ourselves. “We didn’t expect anything more from them though. Everyone in our suburb lived much the same and I didn’t know there were others out there with more until once when I went with Dad to look at a MarkVII Jag at a home in Remuera that he wanted to buy to replace our old Ford. I was amazed at the house and how the people lived.”

Peter enjoyed school and schoolwork. He decided at an early age that he wanted to be an accountant like Frank and his choices at school had that aim in mind. “I was good at figures and I took book keeping and commercial practice. I liked French but I wasn’t so keen on English. I never considered any other career than accounting. I guess I could see that Dad enjoyed it and he was able to provide well for his family. “I must have been a good student because I was in an accelerant class at Pasadena and Auckland Grammar offered me a place there. I am glad I didn’t go there because I had a great time at Avondale. “I think my childhood was pretty much the age of the golden weather. We had a lot of freedom to play around the neighbourhood by ourselves. A lot of our fun we shared with the McKenzie family up the road where there were five kids of similar age to us. “We would swim at the beach and we would make trolleys for trolley races. We always had a little dinghy boat and we would take off on fishing trips across Auckland harbour totally unencumbered by life jackets! When we were a bit older we helped both our fathers build bigger boats in our back yards. Muriwai beach was not far away for surf swimming. “Once we all got sick of biking three and a half miles to school each day we bought motorbikes and then cars. “Life was very full. We took risks and did some silly things but we were not antisocial. The biggest crimes I ever committed were to shop lift the odd lolly and to supplement my pocket money by helping myself to change from Dad’s drawer – just at a very slow rate so he didn’t notice!”


Graeme, Peter, Pat and Frank, Point Chev,1960’s.

I was good at figures and I took book keeping and commercial practice... I never considered any other career than accounting.


Chapter Eight

Peter’s married years


The young couple – Elisabeth and Peter.


1969

P

eter left school after his sixth form year. He went to work for a sole practitioner accountant ARW Gregory and studied part time at Auckland University.

2008

I missed the beaches. In Auckland we swam from Labour weekend to Easter but the water was far too cold in Wellington for that. But apart from that I enjoyed Wellington.

“I didn’t manage that very well. All my mates were still at school and my study was sacrificed for my social life. During the year, Mum and Dad shifted to Wellington because Dad was made the General Manager at Gordon and Gotch but I stayed behind and boarded with a friend so I could finish out my year of study - not that I had much success!

“I went to work for what later became the big accounting firm KPMG and shifted to studying the Society of Accountants course for my accounting qualifications which I did through the Wellington Polytechnic in the evenings. There was a bunch of friendly young guys at work and several of them were taking the same course.

“Mum and Dad moved into what we all thought was a very grand brick two storeyed house at 84 Calcutta St in Khandallah with views over the harbour. Our house in Point Chev was a typical wooden bungalow and I can remember thinking that ‘we have made it’ when I saw the new house.

“I made friends through work and we had quite a good social time. We would go to the horse races and play cards and meet up regularly. I started to indulge my passion for cars and bought my very first – a Mark III Zephyr. After a while though I began to feel as if I was missing out a bit - there were no girls around in the group and I was very interested in meeting girls!

“I was quite happy to move to Wellington at the end of the year. I found that the wind drove me mad and

“I must have told Mum and she suggested I go to the


by a young guy who was also an accountant and everyone was very friendly. There were a lot of young people there and a great minister. My faith was rekindled and the youth group became the centre of my social life. We did lots of trips and activities together and the core group I mixed with there I am still good friends with, which is interesting because the close knit group of school friends I had has not kept up the contact over the years.” In the Khandallah group Peter thought there was a very beautiful and interesting young woman who totally impressed him because she also drove a hot Mini. She was Elisabeth Patience. “There was quite a bit of competition for Elisabeth’s affections and one particular rival in that close group. I think we all thought we would find our mates in that group and I was the lucky one who got Elisabeth! Most of the group did marry and they are all still married.” The three children, Reuben, Caleb and Sophie, 1987.

Khandallah Presbyterian church that she attended because there was a very active youth group there. “Like most families back then, we had always had a connection with a church. We were traditionally Methodists and had initially gone to the Point Chev Methodist Church. Everyone had gone but the church closed down and then became the local soccer clubrooms for a while. Dad stopped going about then and Mum went to the Presbyterian Church. I was more interested in mucking around with my friends by this stage so I stopped going too. “At the Khandallah Presbyterian Church I was greeted

Peter remembers Elisabeth looked stunning at the wedding and the gospel group sang a Peter, Paul and Mary song, The Wedding Song. The reception was held in the National Party rooms and there was no alcohol because Elisabeth’s family didn’t drink at all. “That was the only disappointing thing. Because there was no alcohol after all the official celebrations the families went in two different directions to carry on the partying. “We went off on our honeymoon in Mum’s car and I financed it with the $53 tax refund I got! We went to Taupo for six days (and I still have a soft spot for that place) and soaked in the hot springs. We had one flash night at the Lake House at Lake Waikaremoana and


Frank and Gwen in later life.

“

In the Khandallah group Peter thought there was a very beautiful and interesting young woman who totally impressed him because she also drove a hot Mini

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Siblings from left, back row Peter, Bev, Pat, Graeme and Barbara. Front row, Elisabeth, Mike and Alister.

The cottage they had bought for $9,500 with the deposit money coming from the sale of Peter’s car needed major renovation and Peter got stuck into that with enthusiasm.


then returned to settle into the little cottage in Ngaio that we had bought.” Both Elisabeth and Peter were studying when they were first married and Peter acknowledges that being married solved his poor study habits. “When I look back I am quite embarrassed by my academic record. I was a very promising student in my early high school days but I never really applied myself. I studied hard that first year with Elisabeth and managed to complete a fulltime course and work fulltime so it was a bit of an indication of what I could achieve. I do regret that I never did a university degree and it is still on my ‘to do’ list. Everyone in our immediate family has a degree except me. My Dad was pretty anti university so didn’t encourage me and I have no problem with my qualifications but it is still something I would like to do.” The cottage they had bought for $9,500 with the deposit money coming from the sale of Peter’s car needed major renovation and Peter got stuck into that with enthusiasm. “My father was your typical DIY man and was very practical so I guess I just followed on from him. I am still always doing things around the house. I get satisfaction from it and I like to be busy.” Peter and Elisabeth soon made a deliberate decision to start a family. Elisabeth wasn’t enjoying her work and it was either a shift to Auckland for her to continue her studies or start their family. “I sometimes think that we should have gone to Auckland for her sake but we didn’t and pretty soon

Reuben was on the way. I have always loved being a family man. I had a great childhood myself and in many ways I have tried to recreate that for our children. “I had immense respect for my father Frank, but I have also tried to have a different relationship with my own children than he had with us. He didn’t have a close loving relationship with us. He was all for equity and treated us all the same but he didn’t have a specific interest in us as individuals. He was totally a father rather than a friend and he wasn’t very demonstrative. I think now that my children are grown up I have a real friendship with them.” When Peter finished his accounting qualifications he left KPMG looking for new opportunities and to get away from one of his bosses who he found difficult to work for. “Ironically I went to the Cornish Group for five years but soon after I got there it was put under statutory management and who should turn up in that role none other than the old boss I didn’t like! I decided after that to move away from chartered accounting and I went to work for Polygram Records. It was an exciting time there partly because it was a great period for music with big groups like the Bee Gees, but the hours were horrific because as Chief Financial Accountant I had to often get stuff to the parent company in Holland at short notice. I did a few twenty-four hour efforts! “After sixteen months there I decided I wanted to be in control of my own destiny and I looked in the paper and found that a small accounting firm Mason and King were looking for a senior person with the prospect of becoming a partner. I went there and that is where I still am today.


“I became a partner and from 1980 until the mid 1990’s there was just Gray Hughson and myself in the partnership. I knew Gray from the Youth For Christ organisation and a lot of our contacts and clients came through church connections. When we took on a third partner, Gray decided to leave but he still works in the same building on a floor below us.” Now Peter is relishing the thought of giving up work in a very few years and has resigned himself to not ever being a chief executive, an ambition he once had, because there are other things to do. “I am very conscious of not putting things off, life is too short and there are things I want to do. You can’t beat your genes and neither of my parents lived to a ripe old age. Mum had high blood pressure and had a massive stroke when she was sixty-nine and even though Dad was a fit active man he died after a brain haemorrhage when he was seventy-three. “Neither of them had a lot of time to enjoy their retirement. They moved back to Auckland and had a house in Mission Bay which backed onto a reserve. Dad was the honorary ranger on that reserve and he would spend a lot of time there walking their dog. There is a memorial walking track named after him. I was devastated when they died and it was sad because they were wonderful grandparents. “One thing I think my parents gave me was a strong sense of family and I still have a lot to do with my siblings. We have an annual get together and

Elisabeth’s family is much the same so we have an amazing extended family.” Included in that extended family is granddaughter Hayley and her sister Brienna and parents Wendy and Dean. “When Sophie went away on her Gap year to England we never imagined our responsible daughter would end up facing a pregnancy on her own. It was a hard time for all our family but in the end it really affirmed our Christian faith because she seemed to be helped with her decision making at every turn. In the end instead of losing a granddaughter we feel as if we have gained a whole wonderful family.” “Now I am determined to have time to do things with Elisabeth, my children and grandchildren. When children are little they need their grandmothers but I think as they get older grandfathers can be lots of fun. I have had a few health scares with troublesome lungs the result of a bout of pneumonia and despite all Elisabeth’s efforts to keep me away from cream I have had a mini stroke (TIA) so I am determined to really enjoy every day. “I have lots to do. I have a motorbike to work on, a stamp collection to catalogue, my Italian to improve on and some more travel to do. This is as well as the degree, the house in Taupo and… the list goes on. I have loved my career but it is nearly time for it to take a back seat and enjoy the wonderful life I have with my family.”


Peter with Hayley, March 19th 2001.

“

I have loved my career but it is nearly time for it to take a back seat and enjoy the wonderful life I have with my family.

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Sophie's Biography V2  

Written by Helen Turner

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