I’ve always been grateful that, as a family, we’ve been able to get by without me earning an income: but never more so than today. Even with hubbie available to do one of the child-care drop-offs this morning, it was still a crazy day.
As it was our wedding anniversary, we met in the coffee shop at 9.15 – me having dropped our son at preschool a few miles away, making sure he had packed lunch, coat and slippers, and he having dropped our daughter at school round the corner, running the tears gauntlet I have thus far avoided.
In the coffee shop we sat side by side in the sunshine in virtual silence, hubbie editing his book, me finishing my post and trying to figure out why suddenly everything was in italics, whilst we both listened (not through choice) to two ladies discussing why one had been deselected as bridesmaid. I’ve learned to block out most coffee shop chatter when necessary, but having been deselected as bridesmaid the one and only time I was ever asked, I had some sympathy.
Once my post was written it was time to go home, chuck some laundry in the machine, and strike something off the writing to-do list for half an hour, before heading back into town, armed with a second packed lunch, to collect my daughter, who is still on half days at school for two more weeks. (Yes, I should have just stayed in town, but I didn’t think, and had to go home to collect her lunch).
Then, with no lunch for me because we ran out of bread, we headed to another nearby town to pick up my bookmarks and buy birthday gifts for my daughter’s friends. Finding the printers proved a challenge and the bookmarks barely worth the effort – poorly trimmed with tick marks still in evidence, though possibly my mistake when I sent the artwork.
Daughter insisted on doubling the party gift budget and would not be moved so in the end we left with giant gifts for the next two parties. Please don’t let her make too many friends at school or we’ll be bankrupt by Christmas.
After a fruitless search for a shark cake or shark balloons for son’s party this Saturday we went to pick the boy up from preschool: 3pm and I was exhausted. Again thankfully hubbie helped a bit by taking son to the post office while daughter taught me my numbers and letters (!) and helped me prepare dinner.
Hubbie played What’s the time Mister Wolf? with the kids while I cooked tea, then I played with them while he crashed from exhaustion. After dinner he admitted to being poorly and disappeared off to bed leaving me to clean the kitchen, wash the lunch boxes and water bottles, and make sure daughter’s school bag is ready for the morning, before going out for another half hour of ball games.
Finally dragged hubbie out of bed twenty minutes before kids’ bedtime, so I could walk the dog. Collapsed on the sofa at 8.30pm with all my post yet to write! (I ended up writing the Claire part this morning, while hubbie did the school run, and little man sang “Bananas in Pyjamas” on loop.)
With extra help, and no job to go to, I just about managed to survive the day, having done a whopping 60 mins work (not including the 2-3 hours I’m about to spend writing this post!) Could I do all that and have a job? No way ho-say as my kids would say.
So, working mums, I salute you. Hubbie, I thank you (and who knew every cloud had a silver lining when you were laid off?). Dad, I miss you, but thanks for posthumously funding my Stay at Home Mum life. I hope you approve. As a stay at home dad and self employed mechanic, I’m sure you would have understood.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
As Claire gazed at the scene in front of her, the early start seemed worth every ounce of effort. Like a mystical mirror, the lake stretched out flat to the horizon. Either side, dark trees framed the scene, both above and below the water’s edge, creating an expanding line of perspective towards her. At the vanishing point, the mountains took over; climbing away to the sky. In the distance, Mount Cook and Mount Tasman fought for brilliant in hues of grey, blue and white.
Claire breathed in the morning air, and watched the puff of cloud as she exhaled. She pulled her jacket closer around her as the icy air prized open her foggy brain. This far south, winter had the island in its grip and she was in no mood to linger, despite the beauty of the scene.
All around her, Claire heard the chatter of disinterested tourists. She could see one or two photographers desperate to grab the perfect picture of absolute stillness and reflected symmetry. She wondered how they could stand the influx of tourists, come to take their quick snaps and move on.
How many visitors accidentally snap the perfect shot, not realising others have waited hours and days for the privilege?
Claire looked at the picture on her phone. It probably wouldn’t pass a perfectionist’s eye, but it looked damned near perfect to her: a magical place.
Shame about the noise.
Unable to stand it any longer, Claire headed back to the bus and the travellers who hadn’t even bothered with the walk but were tucking into breakfast in the café. As she arrived at the car park, she saw a girl load her camera into her bag and climb into a rusty red hatchback.
The girl caught her eye and smiled, seeming to say, “Rather you than me on the bus.” She couldn’t disagree.
Claire climbed down the bus steps, grateful that it was for the last time that day. She felt like she’d done nothing but get on and off the bus, to marvel at one tourist attraction after another until they all blurred together in her mind. She had no idea how she would identify which was which in her pictures when it came time to write the blog. For now she was just happy that she had at least twelve hours before she had to get on the bus again. It felt like escaping from jail.
Wanaka town was bigger than she’d expected; a sprawling collection of buildings spread out along the lakeside. The lake itself shone beneath the blue sky, framed by tall trees still bearing the orange hues of autumn. Claire imagined it must have been spectacular a few weeks before.
A feeling of snow pervaded the air, and it wasn’t hard to imagine the town as a winter resort. It seemed odd that a few weeks earlier she’d been in her shorts: the difference in climate from north to south was much more than she was used to.
Dumping her rucksack in her dorm room, Claire declined Bethan’s suggestion to go for a drink, and walked in long strides down to the shore. Her shoulders itched with a need to get away from people. Following a cycle path, Claire walked around the edge of the lake, beneath the autumn trees, kicking at the fallen leaves beneath her feet.
The further she got from the town the lighter she felt until, at last, the buildings were out of sight and she felt like skipping. It was too cold to sit and admire the view so she kept walking, intent on nothing but solitude.
This is crazy. It’s the beginning of summer at home. Why am I freezing my arse off on the wrong side of the world? Yes, it’s beautiful, but so is Scotland or Wales or the Lake District. Why did I travel the UK in winter only to do the same a few months later here in New Zealand? It’s official; I’ve lost the plot.
Claire spotted a bench overlooking the lake. Perching on the edge she pulled out her phone and checked the itinerary she had downloaded for the bus trip.
Another ten days until we’re back in Auckland, although at least it will probably be warmer back in the north. She read through the schedule again. I wonder if I could fly home from Christchurch.
Suddenly getting home seemed more important than anything else. Even though she knew there was no one expecting her, no job or car or house to return home to, she needed to be back where she belonged.
Vowing to call the airline company in the morning, Claire jumped down from the bench and began striding back to town.