One summer's day in January 1940, a schoolteacher in her late twenties by the name of Mary Arlidge was driving her Baby Austin 7 motorcar to Lake Waikaremoana when her tyre burst. She was in a remote part of the North Island, which was not an ideal spot for a flat tyre. Or so she thought.
A bloke in his mid-thirties – evidently, quite a charming chap – by the name of Lionel Jones happened to be driving past. Also a teacher, Lionel did the chivalrous, decent thing and pulled over to help her change the tyre. And without giving every detail in the life and times of Tim Roxborogh and all his prequels, Mary must've appreciated Lionel's skills with a jack so much that they were married the Christmas of 1940, before starting a family in the spring of 1941. Their third child was Jenny Jones, who would one day become Jenny Roxborogh and have four children of her own. The youngest of those was me.
So, in short, no flat tyre on my late granny's Baby Austin 7 in the early years of World War II, then no baby Austin Dean Roxborogh, born 22 August 2023! Though that said, one of my favourite memories from my wedding day in 2017 was my wife Aimee's 96-year-old grandmother, June Cosgrove, surveying the reception and declaring in her regal way, 'None of these people would be here if not for me!'
I guess the lessons are that humans need each other. And coincidences, twists of fate and perhaps even a bit of divine intervention are present in all family mythologies.
The first time I heard about Granny and the Baby Austin 7 was the day our own baby Austin was born, as relayed by my parents. With Aimee of the age where it's considered an unnecessary risk to allow a pregnancy to go past the due date, we arrived at Waitākere Hospital early on the morning of 22 August to be induced.
It was during a brief run of perfect blue-sky late-winter's weather, meaning we could sit outside by a stormwater pond in between sessions of Aimee swallowing small vials of special liquid.
By mid-afternoon, we thought we were going to be in it for the long haul. No sign of any contractions and a growing sense that the serenity of a stormwater pond can only stretch so far, our minds were drifting to tales of women waiting up to three days before labour arrives.
Back in the hospital for another vial, it was at 4.05pm that Aimee felt the first twinge. I know this because I saved the Notes folder on my phone labelled 'Contractions'. The next one came 22 minutes later at 4.27pm. So far, so normal, except not, because the third contraction was at 4.28pm. One minute later!
Then with contractions every one to three minutes, frantic calls were made, a painful trudge to the birthing suite conquered and while standing up, Aimee went through what was clearly the most intense contraction yet. But definitely just a contraction...
It was 5.55pm, less than two hours from that first twinge. And then we heard it. A cry. Given Aimee was still upright, let's just say our midwife Annie pulled off one of the catches of the century, ably assisted by my sister-in-law Tiria. Austin Dean Roxborogh had entered the world! And just like she was when his sister Riley was born four years earlier, Aimee's mum Kathy was on hand to cut the cord.
No one believes me, but entirely by chance, he arrived to a Bee Gees song too. My lifelong Gibb obsession is widely documented, but I swear I'd made two playlists of birthing songs tailored to Aimee's tastes and not mine. There were the relaxing tunes for the labour and then the inspiring, uptempo ones for the big push! Only problem was, Austin appeared so quickly, we never got to the big-push playlist. As luck would have it, out of more than 100 Aimee-centric relaxing songs, Spotify just happened upon one of the deep Bee Gees cuts I'd snuck in there. God bless the algorithm. Or perhaps it was meant to be?
Several months on, life is hectic and relentless. Tiredness feels a permanent affliction and I'm craving exercise. And sugar. And carbs. But through the chaos, there's joy and gratitude. Aimee's an incredible wife and mother, and her dedication to being the best parent she can be is inspiring.
As for Austin's big sister Riley, she couldn't be more proud of her baby brother. She adores him and judging by his extremely cute, one-dimpled smile, the feeling is mutual.
My parents thought we'd named Austin after the car from the story 80-something years ago, but I insisted on no memory of ever having heard that family yarn before. Which makes it even better. And even though we chose 'Austin' for a whole variety of reasons, including its traditional associations with leadership and with being a good, dignified person, who isn't a sucker for a great twist of fate?"
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