Thursday, 6 December 2012

The last ramble of 2012

 When you hear an old well-known Christmas song, do you just hum along to the tune or do you really listen to the words? For the first two Christmases, here at World’s end I could not listen to my Christmas CDs they made me too homesick. But Christmas feels naked without Christmas songs playing on the hi-fi, so I bought a Melissa Etheridge Christmas CD, new Christmas songs new memories. For the first time I actually took the time to sit and listen to the words of the songs. I discovered that “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” a song I’ve heard every Christmas but never listened to is appropriate now especially for us living so far from all our family.

Through the years
we all will be together
if the Fates allow”

Like most families spread around the world, our Christmases here are quiet, but we have begun to develop our own special routines and traditions. One of these traditions is dressing the tree with homemade decorations by the Butterfly. The other is Christmas lunch, the Mauritian cooks, the Butterfly helps and I sit back and do nothing! We’re getting there, it’s a slow process and there have been a disaster or two. You have to “forget” about the home traditions and not try to recreate them it just doesn’t work. The fates have been good to us, we have friends who seem to go out of their way to help make Christmas busy and though we miss our family back home during the silly season, we don’t get time to brood over it.


This year the fates have allowed us to be with our family once again to celebrate together and we are all looking forward to it. Our counting worm is getting smaller and smaller and the Butterfly is taking great pleasure in artistically crossing off each day. She is practicing a Christmas song every day so she can sing with her Gran at a Christmas concert. She has her carryon bag all sorted with things she wants and needs. We also will be bringing the Butterfly’s favourite companion, Frederick Le Frog! Against advice, Fred will be joining us on our tropical holiday. Apparently, he can’t stay at World’s end he’ll get lonely and there will be no one at home to hug him at bedtime. That odd-looking stuffed green toy frog has shared the Butterfly’s pillow every night from the day we brought her home, I don’t think she will sleep right if he’s not where she can get to him, but I’m also concerned she will leave him somewhere. But I shall leave the safety of Fred up to the fates and allow him to hide in the Butterfly’s carry on in the hopes he does not wonder off on his own. The Mauritian is trying desperately to finish his loudspeaker project so he can listen to them before we go. I’m not holding out much hope though, between the long hours he works, his obsession with gym (we all know about that) the demands for his attention from his daughters and the to do list I wrote for him he’s not left with much time to build them.  The Lollipop has been caught up in the excitement; she even has to put her artist flare on our counting worm each day.

And me, I’m hopping along happily getting myself into a panic about just about everything. I am not only looking forward to introducing my lollipop to her extended family but I also finally get to meet my youngest niece “Turn the page.”  I get to have long chats with my mum about, well, everything, and get my fill of mum’s cooking. I am looking forward to seeing my dad sitting in front of the Christmas tree dressed in his infamous “Mr. Furly” shirt and handing out the presents to his grandchildren. I am looking forward to the hot sticky Durban weather and the annoying Hadedas. I am looking forward to walking along the beachfront and strolling through shopping malls trying to avoid the smelly masses. In short, I am looking forward to swapping our quiet small town suburban Christmas for a hustle, bustle busy noisy hot tropical Christmas with family. Be assured that I shall be flying back to the end of the world with lots of blog able reflections and sentiments. Even now as I type these words, I am smiling in anticipation! What an awesome feeling. But, what I am most looking forward to during these up and coming six weeks is our ten days in the Mauritian’s island of birth. I look forward to meeting his extended family and watching him interact with them and I can’t wait to tour the island with him and listen to him drag up memories from his subconscious and share them. I know he will be feeling very sentimental for our time there and I know he is going there with some sadness. We have made no plans for our time there except to go to his father’s grave and say our final goodbyes. For the Mauritian this trip is a trip of closure and acceptance, for him saying a physical goodbye to his father will be the end of his mourning. I will be there in as support because he will need me there but I am not looking forward to that moment. But the excitement of seeing a new country and visiting the places where my husband’s first memories were formed override the feelings of sadness that will be with us there.

Lately the Butterfly has been belting out Christmas carols while in the bath. Now I listen to the words as they bounce off the walls around the house and out the backdoor to the neighbour’s kitchen window. The memories those Christmas songs and carols invoke no longer hurt, now I can marvel at how the Butterfly’s memories are being formed and I wonder what she will and won’t remember in time. I ask her what the songs mean and if she understands them and we talk about them and their origin. I love listening to her talk as she thinks things through and comes to an understanding, I love watching her learn. She often sits next to her sister on their “Uncle B” couch and sings to her and the Lollipop just looks and listens. Then a few days later the Lollipop will be playing with Mr. Bear and singing a vaguely familiar tune. My girls love music I think it is encoded into their genes!

It’s the first of December, the Mauritian is celebrating his fortieth birthday early with friends and its gotten rather noisy. The Lollipop is asleep, the Butterfly is watching movies, and I am listening to our guests and the Mauritian laughing loudly and long to some dirty comment. It’s such a comforting sound, the sounds of happiness and friendship; we have good friends here at world’s end. We have been extremely lucky; the fates are truly on our side.                                                                                  It’s the early hours of Sunday morning and there is now officially less than two weeks before we fly home. It occurred to me as I send Uncle B and Granddad Boom on their merry way that we weren’t saying goodnight to friends, we were saying goodnight to family. They have not replaced our blood family nor have they filled a gap, they have forged their own place in our lives and become our family. We will be celebrating and commiserating together as time goes by. The Mauritian and I have everything we need; we have each other, two gorgeous daughters, a big extended family spread throughout the world and good reliable friends who we miss every day. We live in a beautiful country where we are happy, comfortable and successful. We want for nothing! But we have been blessed with new friends who have become more than that, they are a part of our lives just like our blood family is a part of our lives. They invite themselves for Sunday lunch, babysit our kids, help us when asked and turn to us in their times of need or happiness. We have two families, our blood family and our Kiwi family, you cant get any more blessed then that.

This Christmas season, I think, will have a special meaning for me. This year there will be so much laughter noise and happiness as we celebrate with our families. This year there will be sadness because the reality is it will be a while before we will see our blood family again. This year there will be tears when we pay our respects to those that have died. This Christmas season there will be gratitude. Gratitude for the invention of aeroplanes, cellular telephones, the Internet and that marvellous invention called SKYPE. Gratitude for family and all the baggage that they come with, for the friends we’ve know all our lives and the ones we’ve forgotten. I am grateful for the children that keep us grounded and young if a little flustered and emotional. I am grateful for the welcome, acceptance and chance to start a new and better life in a new country. Most importantly this Christmas I am grateful that when someone asks me if we have “family” here at World’s end I can now say “Yes!”   

For me and my family there has been a big build-up to this Christmas, our entire year has revolved around these coming six weeks. There is no fear of too high an expectation because no matter what’s happens it’s just going to be awesome to be around and amongst the familiar and the family. There will be new people, places, sights and smells for my children to learn and absorb. There will be reuniting with friends and family, we will visit the places we grew up and bore the girls with our “when I was your age” stories. What fun it’s all going to be! In the end we will endure a 24-hour trip back to the end of the world, to our new lives and our new home. South Africa will always be the home of our heart because that is where the Mauritian and I began our journey together. But World’s end is the only home my children know, it is where their friends are, where they will go to school, where their memories begin. Thanks to those we now call family World’s end is now also our home!

So as the New Year, Christmas and our departure fast approaches this will be my last blog of 2012. What a year it’s been, especially the second half! Two birthdays in the space of two weeks meant a whole lot of baking, next year I shall be combining their birthdays! The Butterfly started school, the Mauritian changed jobs and we seemed to be busy every weekend entertaining or being entertained. We spent some quality time with good friends in a very beautiful part of the country and taken loads of day trips to the little towns and villages that surround the mountain that dominates our little piece of earth. There have been sleepless nights, sick children, far too much rain and hundreds of cocktails consumed. The girls are growing and learning everyday and every day they are teaching us something new. We are carving out a niche for ourselves here at the end of the world and every year it grows a little bigger and little more comfortable. Next year will bring with it new challenges, and exciting adventures. Next year we have no plans, we no longer need to settle into life here, nor do we need to plan a trip or help the Mauritian find a new job. I don’t have to ready the home and family for a new baby or prepare anyone for the start of big school. There will be no frantic search for a new home or calls and emails back and forth to immigration consultants.  Next year we will just be living at the end of the world, going about our lives like every other Kiwi. I look forward to that. Next year I am not going to make any resolutions, I am not going to put myself under pressure. Next year I am just going to be and let life unfold around me. Perhaps turn my mind back towards publishing...

One final thought before I sign off. These past four years here at World’s end we have concentrated on settling in and learning about how things are done. It has dawned on me that while doing this we have not once looked back. To succeed in a new country you can’t look back you have to look forward and keep driving forward no matter the obstacles in the way. It’s been tough starting from scratch and learning to rely on different people. Unlike the Mauritian I don’t make friends easily so dealing with strangers while finding a Kindy for the Butterfly and then been subjected to other parents I didn’t know was torture for me at first. I still battle to say more than a fleeting hello to other school mums but I’m getting better at small talk. The Butterfly’s open and friendly personality helps because she has no qualms about introducing me to her friend’s parents and arranging play dates. Fortunately one of her “best” friends lives across the road from us so last minute play date plans are possible. The Mauritian’s ability to converse with people has served him well here; he is a natural at networking. It’s because of this ability that he was able to move up the corporate ladder so to speak. I have learnt that in order to get on and carry on I have to just make small talk and realise that sometimes a stranger really means it when they ask how I am.

So now with just a week and a bit before departure and after what I hope is my final panic attack that I haven’t done everything I shall bid you all a fond farewell for 2012. As you head towards the Christmas weekend I hope the shopping is not too hectic or too expensive and that everything runs to plan. Remember to stop and really listen to those Christmas songs that are constantly playing wherever you are. Have an awesome, loving laughter filled and blessed Christmas everyone. As 2013 dawns may you leave the hurts, mistakes and sorrows of 2012 behind and hold the fun, laughter and love in your hearts and in  this new year may you only look forward and forge onward no matter what.

 Haere rā katoa, aroha me ahu. Love and light!                                                                     
"...Hang a shining star upon the hightest bough,
  and have yourselves a merry little christmas now"