Sunday, 15 January 2017

A holiday reunion

It's the new year. I've been thinking about resolutions, the goals we set ourselves for the year ahead, and instead of feeling resolved, I mostly just feel confused. I'm struggling to find time for all the things I have to do, balanced with the all the things I'd like to do, need to do because they fill me up - things like reading, running, blogging, spending creative time with Immy, getting enough sleep, staying in touch with friends and family back home. I feel like I haven't quite got a handle on how to fit it all in. As I type this, the laundry needs to be ironed and put away, the dishwasher needs to be unpacked, my bed is unmade and I need to stock up on groceries.

But today, this corner of creativity feels more important. Today reading feels more important. Today rest feels more important.

After Christmas, Immy and I flew to Perth to spend ten days with one of my oldest friends in the world. We grew up next door to each other, an easy, close friendship that continued through our adult years even though we were physically separated for most of that time. Although the holiday itself was fabulous, the real gift in this trip lay in the long conversations late at night over glasses of wine, the laughter, the reminiscing, the sharing of burdens, the small reminders that popped up in our conversations of when we were kids - and watching our two girls together, mini-versions of us when we were a similar age.

We stayed here, in a big house set into the forest - the kids had a room with four beds in it, and they were in their element. I think they didn't fall asleep until well after ten or eleven on that first night - all the giggling, and whispering, and playing that goes hand in hand with sharing a dorm-style room for the first time. Our days merged into each other, lazy holiday routines established early on in our stay. We explored beaches, forests and rivers. The kids played, rode their bikes, went for walks and got up to all sorts of mischief in that room of theirs. Of course there were tears, and arguments, and struggles with sharing - two bikes, three children. A disaster averted when the owner kindly gave us a bike for Immy to use. As for the grownups - we drank  many bottles of wine, falling into camping chairs at the end of the day when the dinner was cooking and the kids were diverted and we could relax and watch the day slip gently into night. Most nights we went to sleep really early - no internet to keep us up, no TV, just that pleasant weariness that comes from a day spent in the sun.

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Our first two days were pretty chilly - we lit a fire, and cosied up with art supplies for the kids and wine for the adults. We took a walk through the forest to the beach, taking photos and watching the kids run free under moody skies.

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The weather was beautiful for the rest of the holiday. Sunny, and hot, and perfect for the beach. We dragged Immy's shark lilo with us everywhere we went, crammed into the back of the car with boogie boards, beach umbrella, camping chairs, snacks, towels and bottles and bottles of suncream. Beach trips were an epic production, always worth it in the end. The kids loved Green Pools mainly for the bits of crab they could collect in the crystal clear rock pools - a towel would be laid out and a variety of crab heads, pincers, legs would be lovingly arranged before they headed back to find more.

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A few days in, we opted for a change of scenery and set off to explore the Valley of the Giants. My friend and her family had done it before, so Immy and I had the chance for a bit of solo time together.  We walked amongst the treetops, reading the signs, filling in her explorer's card and chatting to people along the way. At the end of it, she declared the forest to be less impressive than her beloved Knysna - 'but mama, the trees in Knysna are MUCH older and bigger'.

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We took the kids canoeing one morning. It was my favourite holiday activity. Immy and I found our rhythm, paddles dipping in and out of water, the sun warm on our skin. We laughed when we almost floated into the side, frantically paddling to steer ourself clear of the river bank. We sang (row, row, row, your boat!) and we talked. We lay back, paddles still, listening to the sound of the water lapping at our canoe, the birds and insects in the trees.

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River swimming and rope-swinging. This was Immy's favourite. She loved this river - it was shallow, warm, and had grass on the banks instead of sand. The kids would stay in the water for hours on end, coming out completely wrinkled, dragging their boards behind them and shivering in the breeze. On our last day there, we took them for a final swim, and our brown river was utterly transformed by the tide coming in from the sea.

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These moments, with these two girls. I would look at them and feel pure wonder, would say to my friend: can you believe it?  That we were them? That they are ours? That we're here together, in this place, 30-odd years after we first met?

To me, it seems nothing short of a wonderful, privileged miracle.

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I've been back at work for five days. The holiday is a distant memory. We are looking forward to the coming weeks, and months. The start of the new school year, my parents arriving, the plans and dreams we have for the year ahead. I wonder what 2017 will hold for my wild, wilful, spirited girl - and for me?

Turn the page, scrawl the date.

Let the new story begin.

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