Last month, as we stood under the carved archway dividing Duty Free and NZ Customs listening to Haere Mai, I felt overcome with emotion. That silly happy song I’ve never given two hoots about before was making me feel nostalgic for my country. Home.
Bob and the ‘Dactyl watched some loutish lads pose underneath the Māori carving with the obligatory tongue out and tilted their heads.
“Wot are they doing Mom?”
Sadness swamped me. Not only are our children speaking American, they’re not learning important kiwi-isms like taking the piss out of the fierce haka warrior; handy when dealing with assholes later in life. Or understanding, if we want our oceans full of fish by 2037, then the best kind to eat are made of chocolate and pink marshmallow.
The ‘Dactyl is not learning Haere Mai in music class, she taps her cute phalanges to Dinah Won’t You Blow Your Horn. Bob knows how teepees are constructed but doesn’t know a tiki from a troll. Tomato, I hate to admit is now tomaydo. Just wrong.
Throughout our two weeks in New Zealand, the Dimple and I snorted it all up: family, family, wedding, beach, lousy summer, but Bob and the ‘Dactyl kept asking when we were going to the airport.
“I guess America’s home now,” said my Mum, looking forlorn, until we realized it was the journey not the destination. Bob couldn’t wait to watch infinity movies on the plane! Cheers, Air NZ. At least home is still up in the air.
Even though I want my children to feel connected to their roots, it felt right coming back here to the US. We know it’s weird, living in a forest and it’s darn tricky to explain.
One friend, Kary, asked me with a crinkled nose, “Yes, but what’s the best part about being there?” Yanking different images in my mind: skinny dipping in the river, riding the skunk train, wild turkeys in our backyard, bear poop, I gave a lame response. “Family time.”
She looked most dissatisfied. You can attach that answer to any destination: ice-cream shop, bed on Sunday mornings, farting on Daddy’s knee.
On our first day back in the woods, with the Dimple at work, the needle scratched across my idyllic vision of family time. Bob took the last blueberry from the ‘Dactyl, her favourite food in the universe and a jousting match ensued, both using their plastic bowls as shields and bashing instruments. I watched, musing why this didn’t happen at the Grandparents. Why save this charming behaviour just for me.
Looking at the clock, I thought grimly of the next three hours before lunch – and a distraction with the Other Camp Mother – and wondered how I was going to get through 2190 more three-hour slots of child rearing before both of them are at school.
I did what I often do: get angry, then, when they’re gawking at me for losing it, have a better idea. The idea is always the same so it’s amazing I forget it so often.
Rain, frost or sunshine it always works. I’m just like every other mother trying to get through the days – savouring the delicious moments and gritting my teeth through the challenging ones – trying not to wish it away too fast because everyone tells you it will go super quick and then it’s just gone.
An old lady stopped me on the street when Bob was six months old and said, “Enjoy it dear. Best years of your life!”
Old bat, I thought. Obviously she can’t remember the pumpkin poo up the back at 2am.
The woods are huge, peaceful and beautiful but I’m no Buddhist freak that appreciates serene family time more than anyone else.
The honest answer to give Kary would have been we’ve gotten used to it so we’re talking about the positives because that’s what humans do when we’re not ready for change.
We’ve gotten used to feeling like we’re on holiday during winter: beer and wine o’clock at five, eating together every night like the Ingalls family where Bob says the evening prayer: “Thank you pigs for dying so we can eat you!” The Dimple has gotten used to leaving for work at 8.59 and we’ve gotten used to waving goodbye in our pyjamas, then seeing him around Morning Tea. We’ve gotten used to building a fire every day and it makes me feel strong and earthy; two words I never thought I would want to be. We’ve gotten used to no wind, no debt, no deadlines, no stress; we can’t spend a cent here at Camp as the trees won’t take it – I know, the ‘Dactyl’s tried. We’ve gotten used to making toast over a gas flame when the generator isn’t on (although it took me a long time to get used to and I’m still peeved when I can’t heat up my forgotten coffee in the microwave.)
Friends that come to stay – Zac & Shannon, Ross, Paul & Olivia, Shaun & Tania, Kerry & Sasha, Gareth, Dave & Ashley, Alida & Gary, Cari & Brad – get used to it too, especially wine o’clock. They melt into forest time like it’s a lazy boy chair and don’t want to leave. Uncle Clive was the only exception where we couldn’t actually get him out of the lazy boy chair but that’s probably because he doesn’t like wine.
We’ve gotten used to living amongst Redwood trees, sadly without the Haere or the Mai, I think, because deep down we suspect that old bat was right. It’s even worth a little wawder here and there.
As Bob would say – with the only kiwi-ism he came back with – “For Real!”
PSST. Apologies to Aucklandites we didn’t see, we spent our time in Wellington.