|PS. White dots are marker-pen for identifying purposes - black labs are notoriously difficult to tell apart|
As I was standing at the bedside in Christchurch hospital and later walking home through autumn leaves in the park, I thought about... presence.
Fittingly with the world that us youngsters now live in, most of our grandparents' descendants are scattered around New Zealand and Australia, some even further afield. Out of all of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren (I think there's about 30, though don't quote me on that number) I know that they actually saw the four of us - me, The Man, The Kid and The Girlie, their "adopted" family - the most. Every Sunday, usually.
And it was then that I was standing in the presence of last breaths, knowing full well that there were others unable to attend, crying on their way to airports and just generally scattered around the world but connected through the network of mobile phones, computers and internet, that I thought about my family back in Estonia and thought about presence.
I don't blame any of their children for living afar, just as I don't blame myself for living afar from my own family, but I do know that with the distance comes a price. I am not able to get back at a short notice, just like most of their children weren't able to get back at a short notice, and it gave me comfort to think about "standing in" like that. I was present, and in a sense I was present "for" them. I hope that if time came and need be, there'd be someone standing in for me, too, in Estonia.
(I know it sounds crude, but I don't live in New Zealand because it's far from my family like that. The distance is a... inconvenient side effect.)
So we've been taking it easy on ourselves. Grieving, quietly, but also laughing at the stories we come across and just getting on, which with two young kids is inevitable =).
Playing in the warmth of mornings suns...
...and walking in the light of autumn parks...
And there's something else, too.
Turns out, me and The Man have been thinking about it at the same time, independently of each other, and we only realised that once we gently breached the subject one evening, but somehow during this autumn Christchurch has become a... different place for us.
I was reading Tessa's blog the other night and in it, she said, "I wanted the life I had pictured."
She was talking about matters much different to mine, of course, but the reason I nodded along to her story was: never in my travels around New Zealand had I looked at Christchurch and thought, "Man, I'd love to live here one day."
It had always been that big, smoky, conservatively polite and viciously spread-out city where buses from one end of the South Island met with buses that went towards the other end of the South Island - a transport interchange, basically - and the whole idea of coming to live in it was that it was going to grant us with New Zealand residencies. We were going to come for the earthquake rebuild, get our passports stamped, and then decide where we were going to go next.
Except, sometime in the last few months or so we've come to recognise that Christchurch has... grown on us.
It's mostly people, I guess. Our "adoptive" grandparents (a.k.a neighbors down the hill), a dog breeder we got The Dog from who has now become a friend, Tuesday-craft-night girlies without whom I am quite sure I would've come down with depression of having to live in this city I never pictured myself living in but instead found myself looking forward to, preschool teachers, doctors and pharmacists, even grocery shop ladies - together, and with the fact that Christchurch does have a lot of beauty to it (oh how I now love parks!), I have now found myself thinking that I kind of, really... like it here.
Not everything, but a lot of it, and enough to have started feeling like a home of sorts.
And it's that time that it has taken me to get used to what I never pictured, that I have now started to leave behind the grumpy pickiness of what Christchurch doesn't have - the things I pictured myself living with, like mountains and snowboarding and bush and trails - and instead have come to see it for what it does have.
And it's weird to have found myself at this intersection for I have for so long thought that Christchurch is so not the place to be, and to now recognise that maybe, oh maybe, we'll stay instead - for a while, anyway...
Ehh. Is that what they mean when they say people tend to settle down after 30?
Geesh I'm getting old, if it is...