Topic: Ewan by Alexandra Tomkinson

Topic type:

The story of a special boy named Ewan was Alexandra Tomkinson's entry into the 2011 Memoir and Local History Competition.

Archived version here.

Shona Fernns had three children by the time she was nineteen and Ewan was the eldest. He had a bright, sunshiny temperament, and loved those the times when his grand-dad took him out in the car.

Walter Fernns watched as his precious grandson got up in the morning, turned on the television, then the heater before organising his own breakfast. Shona had never realised that to be a mother meant you should get up and organise the day’s routine. Walter stepped in before the children were sent off into care.

After a few months, Walter felt that his daughter could cope on her own, so he didn’t visit her as much. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the answer as Shona was soon back to her old ways, not even bothering to do the children’s washing. Now everything began to fall apart.

Walter and Maidie, his wife, had Ewan for the weekend. She got a phone call to say that Ewan was to be placed in foster care. Maidie felt the hours drag by before her husband came home after work, to be told what had happened.

“Quick!” he said. “Pack Ewan’s clothes while I pack my own. I’ll take him up north until this can get sorted out. He is better off here with us rather than with strangers. I’ll ring tonight although I won’t be able to tell you where we are.”

And he kissed his wife before taking Ewan to the car.

After sending her two daughters off for school, Maidie had just started making the beds when her phone rang.


“This is Janice Peters from CYFS. We have concerns about Ewan so he won’t be returning to his mother’s. Please can you bring him to our office in town where his aunt will pick him up?”

“He’s not here! My husband has taken him out of town and I don’t know where as he is not telling me.”

“We have had a meeting where we decided what was best for Ewan,” Janice informed Maidie. “You know,” she added, “we could have you both arrested for kidnapping.”

Maidie wasn’t sure if she was serious or not.

“That’s all well and good. It’s easy for you to decide what to do with our grandson without regard for the love we have for him. He would be better here with us rather with some lady he doesn’t know, even if she is his aunt. So you try and arrest us, then see what a story we’ll give the papers.”

“You are breaking the law, Mrs Ferris. We had a sitting in court, and the judge has made an order concerning where your grandson is going to live.”

“Well, you can go back to the judge and tell him to unorder his order and that Ewan is to live with us.”

Maidie slammed down the phone, which did something to vent her frustration at a system that was so often wrong.

“How dare they!” she fumed, as she luxed the carpets. “Wait until I tell Walter.”

That night when Maidie was telling him all about it she heard beeps on the line.

“Hang up, quickly!” she instructed Walter. “It sounds as if someone’s trying to listen in. Love you.”

Maidie had a sleepless night, tossing and turning. Finally, glancing yet again at the clock; she saw it was six o’clock. Yawning, she climbed out of bed, deciding to make a cup of coffee before her bath.

Afterwards she woke her daughters up for school. She was startled when the youngest, Margaret, sang out from the back door, “Mum! Come and see this.”

Standing with Margaret, Maidie watched the most glorious sunrise ever.

“Thank you, dear. It is just what I needed after all this worry about your father and Ewan. Come on. I’ll make pikelets for your breakfast.”

Just then the phone rang. It was Ms. Peters again.

“Mrs Ferris? We have had an emergency meeting, and I have decided that you and your husband should probably have custody of Ewan. We’ll be in court first thing this morning. I meant to ring you last night, but we rushed this through so fast I forgot.”

“Oh, thank you very much.” Maidie was overcome with joy. “I’ll tell Walter when he contacts me.”

“Ewan, come on. We’ll go for a walk up to the shop.”

“Me want to go in car.”

“No,” his grandmother informed him. “We are going to walk so we can look for ladybirds, or maybe there’ll be a rainbow over the sea. Do you think we might see a ship out on the horizon?” she asked him as she took his hand.

Ewan didn’t answer, but kept on screaming instead.

“Be careful,” said Walter. “What will the neighbours think?”

“They know exactly what to think! He is plain spoiled rotten! Ewan! Stop your noise or you won’t get a treat.”

Crossing the road, she encouraged him to look for bugs. Walking up further, they stopped to look out at the ocean where they saw an ocean liner. Finally, they reached the dairy, where Ewan ran around saying, “Me have this, and me have that. No, I have this.”

“When you find the money tree, Ewan.” Maidie was laughing as she responded. “When you find the money tree.”

They finished their shopping and headed for home. She took Ewan’s hand to cross the road, but he stopped abruptly,

“Grandma, look! I found the money tree!”

“Great one, Ewan. Word must have got around. There’s no money left on it.”

“I tricked you,” he said, giggling. “Didn’t I, grandma?”

She smiled down at his upturned face. “Yes, you really got me that time, Ewan.”

Next day Maidie had had enough of Ewan ignoring her once his back was turned. She turned him around, and began to speak angrily to him. “How many times ...?”

Suddenly she realised Ewan wasn’t looking at her; he was closely watching her mouth!

“Walter! Did you know Ewan is deaf? He’s taught himself to lip-read. It’s incredible. He must have taught himself while watching television.”

Maidie’s voice was incredulous. She had only heard about special children like this through the media.

“Yes, Shona told me,” he responded. “She never kept the appointments, so the poor chap didn’t get his operation for grommets.”

He was watching the news and suddenly she heard him yell out. “Hey, sweets! You’re not going to believe this. The government has just announced a budget which means the nursing staff are working Saturdays to clear the backlog of patients needing the exact operation we were right now talking about.”

It was hard to know who was more excited, Maidie or Walter. A month later, she waited at home to hear how the operation went. The hours ticked by.

“I should have known,” she muttered to herself as Ewan walked in with Walter. He was holding a bag from Mcdonald’s.

“Grandma, I hear now.”

And, smiling happily, Ewan went into the lounge to play with his cars.

Now was the time for Ewan to be prepared for school with intensive speech therapy to help him to speak more clearly.

Everything Maidie tried to teach him, he learnt. They had ten months to work together, and Ewan did it in eight. The more words he had, the more he wanted to learn. Now his life was so much more than watching television or playing with his cars. For Ewan a new world emerged, full of exciting things to do.

His grandma proved her love by being firm, but loving. Fair and just and, if he was really good, she would buy him a few treats now and then.

On his first day at school, Ewan hugged her, “I love you, grandma.”

“I love you, too, Ewan. You have had to learn so much and I am so proud you. Come on! Your teacher, Miss Bennett, is waiting.”


‘Ewan’ was written for the Memoir & Local History Competition 2011, run annually by the New Zealand Society of Authors (Bay of Plenty Region) with support from Tauranga Writers.


This page archived at Perma CC on October of 2016:

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion