My first years of life were spent in the caretaker’s cottage at Scotch College in Hawthorn. My parents and grandparents lived there after the war. The cottage was surrounded by a cyclone fence that seemed so high to me then and I was quite isolated from other children. I had a bit of an identity problem. In later years I heard my grandmother echo my same concerns. This poem, that spans many years, is for two voices.
Nana! Why are the walls so high
around these college grounds?
Why am I here all by myself
is there only one of me.
Why do you old folk all wear grey
Is the war over yet?
Nana the yellow soap hurts my eyes
it’s making my pinnie all wet.
Why must I look like Shirley Temple
Who is she anyway?
Nana where is my mother now
why have the men gone away.
Girl! Why are the walls so high
In this damned institution ?
Why am I here with mumbling old witches
Is this some cruel restitution.
Why do you young folk all wear coarse blue
Is it National Service again?
Girl! Why is my hair so fine and grey
It’s that blower thing you wave at me.
Just why must I look respectable
I’m too old for that anyway.
Child where is your mother now
And did my husband pass away?