Boyo and I have just spent a long weekend in Christchurch, New Zealand, visiting my family. I haven’t taken Boyo back to Christchurch since January 2011, just before the shocking February earthquake struck, taking away life and landmarks, and changing the very fabric of the city forever.
I have been a little emo lately, dealing with the aftermath of a long winter where I struggled with chronic sinusitis and bronchitis. I don’t have asthma yet I needed an asthma puffer every day for months. Not so much fun. Yet as I gradually got better, I was still a little down. Finally, I worked out that I was homesick. I missed my family and my hometown. The Welshman came to my rescue, bless his little cotton socks, organising tickets and car hire.
Boyo and I flew into Christchurch on Friday afternoon, and flew out Monday afternoon. Friday afternoon was spent collecting my brother who was coming to camp with us at Dad’s rural place, and stocking up on essential supplies like milk, bread, breakfast cereal, Cookie Time biscuits, juice, L&P, bananas, sweeties and chippies. Oh yes, absolutely essential.
The little Holden Barina Spark we had booked was so tiny that the back doors had door handles that looked like part of the window structure. Took us ages to work that one out! It was so teeny tiny that Boyo and I couldn’t fit both our bags in the boot. When we went to collect my brother, and his mattress, and blankets, and backpack, it was, shall we say, a bit of a squash. Poor old Boyo shared his backseat with all our luggage, and later, all the groceries. Luckily, as he had easy access to the chippies for the long trip out to his Grandpa’s house, he was more than content.
When we’re in New Zealand, we try to stay on Australian time, meaning that Boyo goes to bed about 9pm and wakes up about 8am. This works a treat as it minimises the jetlag. Yes, you can get jetlag from two hours’ time difference! It works quite well, because Boyo thinks he’s getting to stay up really late, but in actual fact, is going to bed about 45 minutes early. Tee hee.
Our tummies do get a little bit confused though when it comes to mealtimes though. I had breakfast, morning tea and lunch between 9am and 1pm on Saturday, and by the time dinner rolled around, I just wasn’t hungry. My dad came to the rescue with bacon and cheese toasties. Bacon for the win!
After we dragged ourselves up and out on Saturday morning, we headed off to see my Grandies, stopping by the Darfield Bakery on the way (world famous in Canterbury, or Darfield at least) for classic Kiwi raspberry buns. Delicious squashy white buns filled with raspberry jam and topped with pink icing. Excuse me, I lost track a little bit there.
We spent a lovely morning with my Grandies. I had been expecting them to be older and smaller and slower, but I was a little bit shocked at the changes. You can see them winding down slowly like an old clock which is starting to lose time. I was so grateful for the opportunity to say hello before we have to say goodbye, eventually. We managed to fit in another Kiwi classic for lunch – good old fish and chips with Wattie’s tomato sauce.
The texts were flying thick and fast between my brothers, my Dad, my nieces’ mother and me, trying to work out when we were going to catch up with people. It was all a little bit complicated by the fact that some brothers don’t talk to other brothers, and my baby brother doesn’t wish to breathe the same air as his daughters’ mother, let alone be in the same place at the same time. I have to admit to getting a little bit cross. I was here for mere days, and my main focus was for Boyo and me to soak up some time with my Grandies and his Grandpa. Catching up with everyone else was a bonus – one that I treasured but also one I was willing to jettison if need be. I just didn’t have the emotional strength to deal with such goings on.
Finally, a plan was worked out. We would see my big brother (well, the eldest of my baby brothers) on Saturday afternoon, because he had commitments on Sunday. He was very keen to teach Boyo how to use his paintballing equipment. I was very keen for this not to happen but in the interests of family harmony, and knowing how much paintballing is my brother’s passion, I gracefully agreed and tried not to freak out too much! Oh, it was all worth it. The look on Boyo’s face! The sheer excitement of watching three generations of my family work together was just delightful.
We spent far more time than necessary trying to work out arrangements to catch up with my nieces and their father. It’s far too boring to go into but let’s just say that toxic relationships don’t make for great communication between separated parents. Owing to the fact that my Dad’s house doesn’t have mobile phone coverage and my brother’s phone was broken and couldn’t take voice calls, I wound up driving 15 minutes down the road, stopping on the side of the road by sheep paddocks whenever I got coverage, texting between my brother and his daughters’ mother Save the drama for your mama.
Sadly, as it turned out, we never did get to catch up with my nieces and Boyo’s cousins, as one of them came down with scarlet fever and therefore they were all highly contagious.
We wound up with a free day on Sunday, and our plan was to spend the morning pottering around my Dad’s gorgeous gardens, then head into town to check out the cargo container shopping village in the city, do a spot of shopping at that Kiwi cultural icon The Warehouse – where I was hoping to get some kids All Black clothes for Boyo, have some lunch and drop my middle brother home. What we actually wound up doing was spending ages in The Warehouse where we managed to catch up with my baby brother, sans nieces sadly, and his fiancee, and then having lunch in that most salubrious of establishments, McDonalds. Oh, keeping it classy in downtown Christchurch.
On Sunday morning, my awesome Australian time plan experienced a bit of an epic fail when Boyo woke up at 6.30 am. That would have been a sleep in at home, but in Christchurch, when he’d gone to bed at 9pm, it was the equivalent of waking up at 4.30 am. So our day started a little earlier than planned. Worked out well in the end, as we had a more leisurely start to our day.
We headed off to my Grandies again, via the Darfield Bakery again. I bought them a couple of enormous family pies, which I chopped into quarters and popped into their freezer. I wanted to buy flowers but thought this was a better idea. Please feel free to send me pies whenever you like. I did waver briefly when the shop assistant asked if that was all, gazing longingly at the chocolate cream buns, though.
Then it was all over, red rover, and time to refuel the hire car, and head out to the airport, and say goodbye to my Dad.
I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity say hello before we have to say goodbye. I absolutely loved catching up with my brothers, and watching Boyo spend time with his uncles. It has literally been years. It was amazing to just sit in the presence of my Grandies and soak up their company. I was deeply saddened by the evidence of the ravages of time and ill health, but my Granddad is still a cheeky bugger, and my Grandma is still erudite and funny and busy trying to look after everyone.
I’m thankful for the time my Dad got to spend with Boyo, and for the opportunity he took to have a few days off, just pottering around, sitting and chatting, and even having a sleep in or three.
I didn’t get the chance to see much of my earthquake-ravaged city, but I think I might actually be thankful for this.
This Thankful Thursday, I’m thankful for family and reunions and for brothers who sucked it up and got on with it. But mostly I’m thankful for the opportunity to say hello before we are going to need to say goodbye. Oh, and lambs. I’m so thankful for the gorgeous lambs!