legacies come in many forms and often the most simple are the most poignant. my parents left me, as did the rest of their generation (c. 1919), with one about ‘good shows’.
let me explain. my dad was meticulous about keeping the front lawn tidy, tending his standard roses and mum was someone who delighted in flower gardens. you know, the kind of flower garden with pansies, sweet williams, dahlias, wall flowers, cornflowers – indeed any flower that was brightly coloured and cheerful to look at. the high summer garden that resulted from their efforts was gorgeous and my father always said ‘well it puts on a good show for people.’
however i have never appreciated someone ‘putting on a good show’ more than i did on the early morning i drove into christchurch on february 25 this year. there were three of us in the car and, like thousands of others, we were just wanting to help out post-quake in any small way we could.
we were steeling ourselves for likely aftershocks and what we might see as we entered the city but, suddenly, there it was: a brick house in hornby that was putting on the BEST good show i’ve ever seen! the house had a big front lawn and a skinny path running down the right-hand side of the section with a low front fence and classic ‘front garden’. there was a riot of dahlias, zinnias, marigolds, pansies and you name it – if it was a cheerful flower, it was there. all I could think was ‘thank god’ for the people who had taken the time, love and care to create this wonderful display and just how magical it was at this time to see such a good show.
so, cheered by this, we drove on over to papanui road to take some necessities to our friends’ house which, thankfully, was still standing. this was not the case with many homes around them and driving through merivale’s shopping centre was totally surreal with most buildings reduced to rubble.
we then cut across town, around the cordon to antigua street to acquaint ourselves with some liquefaction. while we were helping clean up in a building supply business, i went into the staff room to get a glass of water.
at first, i was the only one in there. i noticed someone had brought in some home-baked gingerbread and that the table was spread with apples from someone else’s garden and i thought how wonderful it was that people would have the presence of mind to bring each other comfort like this amidst all the devastation.
then this lovely older man joined me and asked if i was there from the army. i should mention that i was wearing my ralph lauren cargo pants (from collins street in melbourne, no less) and i felt like a real fraud. i chose those pants at 4am that morning because they were warm and have lots of pockets. what can i say? i’m practically minded. so i said to him, ‘no, i’m not from the army.’ he then asked if i was an assessor from somewhere at which point i was forced to confess i was ‘just up from wanaka’. he relaxed a bit more with me then.
‘seriously,’ i thought. ‘how bizarre!’ never in my wildest dreams when i bought those (exorbitantly priced) pants did i think i would be wearing them in this scenario or for the reasons i chose them. it made me smile and the guys i had travelled up with thought it was hilarious because they can’t really see me in the army – but you never know in this life.