My niece Melissa was born when I was 19 years old and working in Queenstown, just before I headed to Australia. I remember queuing up to use the pay phone in downtown Queenstown so I could ring home and find out whether my sister’s baby had been born. That’s how you kept in touch before mobile phones. I was very excited to be an aunty for the first time. I had been diligently knitting a baby jacket and booties in a soft mint green. In those days you had no idea of what sex the baby would be so mint green was a safe colour, appropriate for either a boy or a girl. For some reason I thought that the beautiful and delicate layette should be finished with a hard dark brown ribbon. Maybe this was my clumsy gesture towards hoping that this new girl child would not be constrained by her gender but the effect was really quite hideous! I hope my sister changed the ribbon. Now my niece is a mother of three and one of my favourite days this trip has been the family BBQ at her home.
It was a glorious summer’s day in Paraparaumu when the clan gathered at Melissa’s for a backyard BBQ, New Zealand style. We sat on the deck overlooking the lemon tree which was dripping with bright yellow fruit. The broad leaves of the rhubarb plant dominated the vegetable patch and the corner of the chook shed was peeking through the trees.
The barbeque was cooked over an open fire, in cut off drums, not a gas bottle in sight. Billowing clouds of tear inducing smoke only added to the day. Steven and Graeme, Melissa’s husband, grabbed the barbeque tongs and contested bragging rights for the best chef and fire maker. Australia versed New Zealand with no clear winner but both men excelled at the art of chest beating. The steaks and sausages were delicious.
The children exhausted themselves on the rugged climbing equipment that Graeme had built and the giant trampoline. They were delighted when their uncle Stu was brave enough to join them on the trampoline and act as a bucking bull, he tired of the game long before them. I loved hearing the laughter and voices of my great nieces and nephew, there are too few children in our lives these days.
The rest of us talked, sipped wine and beer, watched the children and checked out Stu’s new girlfriend. Luckily she received the family tick of approval. We also redesigned Melissa’s house as this vibrant family is now spilling out of their home. I refrained from asking my youngest nephew and his wife about their plans, or not, for offspring. Very restrained of me.
We all lined up for the mandatory family photo, nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts, siblings and partners. Three generations of our family together. I wished that my children had also been present. Mum and Dad would be happy.
Days like these are precious.