My sister, Brenda Kingi-Booth and her hubby the lovely Ivan have twin boys. Although looking nothing like each other, I cannot for the life of me remember which is Ciaran and which is Alex. I can recognise which is which when I use the pet names we gave their ultrasound scans – I’d best not write the first here in full as it is particularly politically incorrect but its short form is JJL (name released on application – it’s very funny). The second is Bubbles.
They turn 5 next Monday. I stayed at their house last night. I had forgotten how early little people rise.
Ivan got up with them. That is how the door got opened for the dogs. That is why, before dawn, a rainsoaked border collie began sticking her snout in my armpit until I rolled over and she could spoon me. Licking my face followed, and my cackling attracting the children.
One shot a spotlight in my eyes.
“Hello – I’m Alex.”
“Yes I know that. I’m your Aunty. You may remember from last night. I was the one who was your Aunty then.”
“Yes. Would you like to see my flies?”
“Thank you, I have already seen your flies but do please show me again.”
Brings in jar. Three dead flies. Brenda tells me later preschool wouldn’t let him have living things in a jar at school so he took dead ones instead. Kid plays by the rules all right – guess who won that round?
“This one is Weez and this one is Buzz and this one is ….”
I forget what it was. By that stage the laughing had started. Brenda arrived.
We snuggled, wet dog between us, until the hysterical sobs of laughter finally attracted the attention of the coffee wielding Ivan. On seeing his wife and her sister in bed in fits, his dear little face lit up. One can only imagine what he was thinking. Men. Compassionate souls. He kept popping back to make sure we were all right and to ensure there was nothing at all he could do for us. To reassure him we kept him busy making coffee.
Brenda dropped me home on her way to buy fabric. We’re all arty – she’s particularly clever. She framed the momento I found lying innocently on the ground nowhere near a broken church. It will have its own little story one day, while I think through what to do with it. It’s a treasure now, part of our family history.
We picked grapes in my garden. The leaves were saucers of rain water. It is something worth watching out for as you harvest. Saves the need for giggling and squealing.
And then I slept again. I was tired today. The long weeks have taken it out of all of us. Town (online and offline) is tired and scratchy and the day was wet and grey. Ken Ring’s doom and gloom predictions coupled with the emotional fatigue after the beautiful memorial service (and let’s be honest here – too much wine and not enough sleep) have left the city dormant and still.
Not a bad thing. We need a rest.
We need to process a lot of things. The earthquake hasn’t just knocked facades off buildings, it seems to have knocked them off people too. Walls are falling all over new Christchurch. There is an easy intimacy here now, if you let it happen. I think it comes from the shared telling of stories. “Where were you – is your family all right – how is your house?” And you ask everyone, every stranger, and half the time you discover they are your cousin or they worked with your Dad, or they have kids at the same school, or they went to the same funeral you did, or they tell you of someone you hadn’t realised has gone.
And you form friendships and discover common bonds. You discover people you didn’t know, people you really like, people you feel you have known for years. You talk about all the no-go zones, like politics and religion and how that differs from faith. And where your will is and who your executor is, and you support and share and couch surf, and cry and laugh and love.
We’re coming into the starting gate now. Next weekend is the last weekend of daylight saving. The nights will close in, the beds will be cold, the houses damp, the town silent. It will be the start of the time when we will never need each other more. We need to keep each other close, to support each other in every way we can, remember to forgive and apologise when we get angry, and to continue to play.
Because the family that plays together (even with three dead flies in a screw top jar you weird and funny little boy) stays together. And I shall be doing my bit to make sure we do.