I left New Zealand when I was 19 years old, my first experience of running away. Since then I have tried to come back every two or three years to see my family. Each time I feel compelled to reach out and touch the ghost of my childhood and wonder whether others have similar experiences. I devour chocolate fish and pineapple lumps, (New Zealand confectionary delights), candy floss, mixed lollies sold in paper bags, hokey pokey ice creams, spearmint milkshakes which must be served in an icy cold aluminium container and for a savoury dish, bacon and egg pie with sliced tomato on top. I could buy these in Australia but somehow it would be traitorous to eat them there.
Then there is the drive past the family home, sold when my mother died 15 years ago, but which looks pretty much the way it was when I lived there as a child. I silently name my neighbourhood friends who I roamed the streets with, riding our bikes to play cowboys and Indians down the nearby cul-de-sac. They have long since moved on and I have seen none of them for decades. Their names roll easily off my tongue but their faces are lost in the mist of time.
We drive along familiar routes past old childhood haunts, the beach we used to swim at, old schools and the sports field where I ogled the softball players with a friend who died well before her time. I insist on feeding the ducks and making a daisy chain becomes a must do activity.
I love the conversations with my siblings about mum and dad, camping holidays and when we bought the caravan. They are the only people in the world that I can have these conversations with. This is the thread of commonality that binds us after many years of only sharing brief periods of time together.
All of it is pointless and yet strangely and poignantly comforting. Like toasting your toes in front of the fire on a cold, wet and windy Wellington night.