“The earliest evidence for meat-safe cot dates from 1939: ‘The Infant Health
Association recommends the safety cots (commonly known as the ‘meat
safe cot’) which are stocked by all the large shops’ (West Australian, 17
February 1939). It is clear that meat-safe cots are related to meat safes in
that they both use some kind of meshing or wire to keep out insects and
animals. What is not initially clear is if the cots were originally or sometimes
constructed from meat safes. Evidence from the 1930s indicates that
the majority of meat safes of the period were relatively small and lightly
constructed, and therefore not suitable for building a baby’s cot. Further
evidence suggests that it is probably the function and design that provides
this cot with its peculiar name:” – a rather waffly definition from some online Dictionary or other. I’ve been unable to find a photo but basically it’s a big wooden framed box on legs, with metal mesh sides which lift up to gain access to the infant inside, who is being protected from mosquitoes in mostly rural Australia.
In 1944, when I was four weeks old, I was removed from the city nursery of the Mother and Baby Home where I had been cared for by my Mother and taken to live in a rural area by strangers, where I was kept safe from biting insects by a substantial meat-safe cot until I was old enough to sleep in a bed and deal with other methods of surviving mosquitoes, such as the infamous mosquito coil which stank, burned all night and no doubt was toxic and the sweet-smelling citronella we smothered ourselves in when we slept outside on the verandah during the Summer months. I remember going to sleep in cool air, the constant sound of the dehiscent pods of a huge locust tree nearby ( probably Robinia pseudoacacia) and the seemingly perpetual showers of falling stars. Nevertheless it was a tiny bit creepy; Australian night is BIG, magical, but holds wonders, mysteries, surprises and enormous unfathomable unknowns. I was in awe of the night, still am and my awe has that tiny tremble of something approaching fear, watchfulness and that heightened awareness most adoptees have, the result of the trauma of the loss of their mother and the resulting grief, often unresolved, undealt with or even unrecognised.
Did any of you see Julia Zemiro’s interview with Sam Neill in “Home Delivery”. It was her best yet and Sam was at his story-telling best; reminiscing about his childhood, one of deprivation and loss. He had a privileged upbringing, lived in a beautiful Dunedin house and had a loving family, but was sent to boarding school at a young age, having emigrated to New Zealand from Ireland with his military father and mother. He speaks lovingly of the ancestors, those who are with us and without us. Do watch it if you get the opportunity. It is magical, haunting, beautiful and profound. You’ll find it at http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/julia-zemiros-home-delivery/LE1661H001S00
Apart from the beauty of New Zealand there are many messages here, words of wisdom and thoughts worth pondering. It will resonate with so many who have experienced that split of being attached to two places, the deep love for both, which often makes life uncomfortable, full of compromise and tearing loss, sadness at not having it all, joy at having it all. It will probably resonate for adoptees too, in the mourning for family, the sadness of the loss for what might have been. For those of you interested in loss and Family Constellations work there are things to be gleaned here. I’ve already seen it twice and I know it will stay fresh. Enjoy! ❤