Friday 22 December 2006
At the dinner table, Aidan slooooowly finishing his dinner while the dirty dishes sit, waiting for his excellent clearing skills. I can’t believe we have been in this house just one week. The menorah gleams in the window behind me, all 8 (9) candles alight, the wildflowers Marianne brought us for Hanukkah dinner sit next to me, and the Christmas tree stays its rambly self in the corner. We’ve got the art from the art tube up on the walls now (mostly posters from the Morris museum in Augusta and the National Gallery in DC), and it’s a cozy space that somehow feels like us, even though it isn’t a house we know well, and isn’t our furniture at all (although lots of it I love).
Yesterday had a ghastly beginning. At 8 am, on the first day of summer vacation, I discovered that Naomi, who had been complaining about an itchy scalp, had a wild case of lice. Really breathtaking. It took my breath away for several minutes, as I tried not to say words my children shouldn’t hear and simultaneously to remember everything my friend Jim had told me about dealing with lice. And then I started on her head, and you don’t need any details. At first I was beside myself with misery—there were nits on nearly every strand, and I knew this would be my entire day—and that I’d finish in a day only if I was lucky. So we moved next to the window where the heat and light were (it’s very cold here after two days of strong southerlies) and I worked and worked on her head. I also remembered that my friend Jim (whose parenting I’ve always deeply admired) talked about sometimes finding it a lovely bonding experience with his daughters. And so we sat in the sun and I held her head and it became a meditation about how much I loved this growing-up girl, about how this was a day devoted to the careful care of her. And I thought about parents who have to take careful care of very sick children, about parents around the world who are profoundly less fortunate than I am, who would trade their limbs for the chance to have a girl who went camping at school and got headlice. And so for about 10 hours, I did this careful parenting job, and we talked and listened to Harry Potter on the i-pod and watched a DVD from the Paekakariki school on my laptop. Michael came home from work early, and we washed her bedding and bagged up the stuffed animals and pillows, and set about creating a no-lice zone. And that was the day. Aidan listened to Harry Potter and played on the computer, I felt itchy all over (no one else in the house seems to have it) and the whole family was working together for the common good. Not the way I’d have chosen it, but not a ghastly day at all.
And today has been a delight. After an interview for Kenning this morning and a talk with Mark L (it’s good to be reconnected with folks there), the kids and I hung out in the chilly summer day until Naomi got a phone call to go over to a friend’s house. There I stayed and talked with the parents—really lovely, interesting people—and Naomi played with her friend and Aidan played with the little boy next door. The grown-up conversation ranged from world travel (which they’ve done a lot) to politics (he’s from the UK, so we talked about how long you feel ashamed of your home country’s policies and joked about whether NZ would likely bomb Figi). But mostly it centered on the central topic of many of those I’ve talked with here: why Paekakariki is the best place in the world to live and bring up children. The last person I talked with focused on the enormous opportunities for children to create their own path here—for bands to start and soccer teams to get organized, and other activities to form around the desires of the kids. This talk today was about how hard it would be to find the combination of elements that’s here: an extraordinarily international, diverse group of people, a liberal and active community, a high percentage of artists, Maori, professionals, tradespeople all in the same area—and all within three blocks of the sea (the village is only 3 blocks deep). Somehow we have stumbled onto a little jewel of a community in a jewel of a country. That’s not a bad way to feel.
Love to you all there, from our summer to your winter (which, depending on where you’re reading this, is probably just slightly colder),