Sue recently rediscovered bundles of letters, aerogrammes and postcards that she, her parents and siblings had written to each other over about twenty years. These took the family through French exchanges to New Caledonia, years at Otago University, Mum and Dad at conferences and of course the OEs. They brought back little details of home, the jokes, the everyday happy times and the leaving home.
It’s a dull, low-cloud afternoon in Karori. In the jaded mustard Californian bungalow the little girl in her snug woollen dressing gown has forgotten about the red plastic slide from the toy library. The pram is abandoned on the cheap cotton rug that covers the grim Karitane-yellow carpet.
A dull-hearted me is dreading the dark, the hours from breakfast to lunch through time that loses meaning when you’re numbingly tired. Why the glum? It’s my first ever night of lone parenting, with two lovely (but lovely is irrelevant) little people who rely on me for every jolly thing – nappies, tucking into bed and picking up again when sleep is just a sick joke.
Dad? Hello! Yes, you’re welcome to stay tonight. Come straight up.
A grandfather steps into our home. He hasn’t been to Wellington since Christmas, what a treat. The little elephant he draws on her hand takes me back thirty years. Can I have one too? A bedtime story? “Get Slinky Malinki and hop into bed, Papa will be there in a minute.”
The bruising busyness of careers has sapped my father. We had to share him with so many others. How had I forgotten this side of you, Dad? Have you been there all the time? When did I lose you? Welcome back.
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