Kate grew up in the U.S. and moved to New Zealand thirteen years ago with her then-husband and son who is now seventeen and a kiwi. She is a volcanologist who left university teaching a year ago and is figuring out what to do next. She feels drawn to write memoir, looking to the past to help work out a fulfilling, wholehearted future.
When I was fourteen I spent much of my family’s European summer vacation boiling under the surface. We visited friends and toured for almost two months. I loved seeing the world; I hated my parents.
On a cliff path in southern England we stumbled on a pub called the Blue Ball Inn, a tiny building with a thatched roof and a big blue ball hanging in front. Mom had read that it was a local gem; she gasped and grinned, overjoyed at our luck. Dad said no.
Mom rarely said what she wanted; she said she didn’t care, and we found out the truth when she sulked and made cutting remarks to punish us for not reading her mind. In this case she begged to go, anguished pleading followed by teeth-gritting rage. Dad went quiet, his face tight and stubborn. We kept walking, all the way into town.
We ate at a cheaper place, which Mom said wasn’t cheap enough to justify sacrificing something glorious for greasy tourist nothing. She ordered the cheapest thing on the menu and after several minutes of not eating started to cry and left. My brother and I choked down a few bites of fried fish. I glared at my father, realizing the meaning of that phrase I had read in novels, impotent rage.
Two days later I got my period for the first time and felt relieved, hormones not insanity, thank God. My mother quietly cheered me on, conscious not to embarrass me in front of the others, and we went shopping for fun, one of the only times I did that with her. She bought me leather slippers that I sank my feet into, lined with deep, warm fleece. I had never had anything so wonderful; loved her for this luxurious splurge.
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