Yesterday my Mother, sisters, nieces and I went to visit two of the dearest people I have ever known. I call them Uncle and Aunty as they are my Dad's cousin and his wife, but growing up they were really like grandparents to me. Most Saturdays my family would get up and pile into our old Ford to go and visit them. We would leap out of the car and begin to call out before even knocking at the door sometimes, and out they would come, my little Aunty in her glasses with her beautiful smile and my Uncle who would call us all "bubba" and hold our faces while giving us big kisses. Dad and my Uncle would go out fishing in my Uncle's boat, and my Aunty would make her big thick pancakes for the rest of us while we took over her house. Sunday afternoons my sisters and I would invariably set up a pitiful chorus and my Aunty and Uncle would be descended upon again; we were always happy there, and we always felt welcome.
When we arrived yesterday, we didn't yell as we approached the door. When it opened, my Aunty still had her beautiful smile, but she had very little hair because of the course of chemo she's just undergone. My Uncle didn't call me bubba, but he put his arm around me and said I was beautiful. They both looked exactly the same and yet so different; I noticed they were tired, and older, and yet they didn't seem smaller - I think I finally saw how strong they both are, something I never really noticed as a kid. Being with them at their house was so beautiful but it hurt, even though all the memories were so happy and the love was just as tangible; I wasn't thinking about all the years we've missed or the all things I didn't notice... Maybe it was just rediscovering or, more accurately, reclaiming something that was so happy and pure and mine. It's brought back memories of some of the unhappy times in my childhood but maybe that's not a bad thing; having what they give is worth it, and makes those memories less sad. I can't wait to go back there, and for Vincent to know them, and to try to give them back some of what they gave me.
I don't want this to be sad so I'll tell you something nice. I was a fart factory of a child (although we weren't allowed to say fart; it was strictly 'pop' in our Victorian home), and being comfortable at my Aunty and Uncle's house, I used to drop them all over the place to my more polite and proper sister's humiliation. Once, she told me off for doing it (in a nice way; desperately embarrassed, not annoyed) and my Aunty said "Oh, she's alright. Better out than in!". I didn't need telling twice; I triumphantly marked my territory for years after.
Then last night my sisters and I went out for a late 'sister dinner', something we don't get to do very often being busy and with one of us living out of Auckland and being in high demand when she's here. My sisters are two of the best women I know; they are both devilishly funny, fiercely intelligent, exceptionally beautiful, have survived things that would have killed most people, and do what they can to make things better for other people, often sacrificing themselves to do so. And in spite of everything, they love me; they really, really do.
Finally, when I woke up this morning tired and a bit upset, the first words spoken to me were "Good morning! I love you". They are the first words I hear every day, accompanied by a big hug and then maybe what D'Arcy Niland calls 'a bit of a cuddle'.
Last night, my sister asked me why Vincent and I want to have a baby now. I couldn't answer, but I think those three things that happened in less than twenty-four hours of my life, and those people, might go some way to answering.
My dinner's just arrived. I still feel tired but I feel happy and lucky. I wish everyone I love could have it like I do. This weekend's taken it out of me, but I could have it taken a lot worse.