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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Auckland, 1

Water is beading on the sun room windows. It is cold in this beautiful city of Auckland. Not freezing, but just cold enough to make you shiver and then to make things even chillier the homes are not heated, so that you can't leave the cold outside, it follows you. Little heaters buzz at angles in the middle of each room, trying valiantly to take away the chill.

Yesterday, it was so warm in the sun room, I sat in the sun like a cloudy version of my own being, desperate to be warmed up. I drank in the sunbeams, and in doing so, I drank in the past.

Nearly twenty years ago I lived in a house with a sun room. I remember discovering it the day we moved in. The windows were lined with thick white insulation, and the heat in the middle of the afternoon was delicious. From that room you could see the pond in our new backyard, the swing set, and an abandoned corner of the lawn where bushes curled over on themselves creating the perfect den for secret girls-only parties.

The yard outside this sunroom in Aukland is inviting in a similar way. From here I can see a little girl's playhouse, and through the large window on the side of the playhouse, I see that it is stocked with all the perfect little girl toys. A small table and chairs, a little cabinet for dishes, a broom, a sunny yellow rug.

Curled over one corner of the play house is an orange tree, which has dropped fruit like precious jems.

Yesterday, my twenty-month-old daughter, Noelle, toddled around the playhouse, grasping tiny oranges in her mittens. Like a trained reflex I bent over her, “Don’t pick that up!” but as soon as the words left my mouth I realized how absurd it sounded. I stopped for a moment, forced myself to unwind.

There aren’t many things, really any things, I will allow my daughter to pick off the ground around our townhouse in Los Angeles. Mostly, it’s trash or covered in oil trickling down driveways. It’s not safe for her to get dirty there.

But here, as I watched her rub dirt from an orange down the front of her tan coat, I breathe a steady sigh of relief. Harmless, it will wash off. This is a kind of dirt I’m used to, the kind of dirt I used to get into when we lived in the house with the sun room.

I was ten years old then. Quite a bit older than Noelle, but as is the case now, I wasn't in America. Our home with the sun room and the pond was in England.

Annie and I frequently raced along the backyard with our neighborhood friends, scrambling through homemade obstacle courses.  These courses included obstacles such as, scaling the stone wall that lined our back yard, jumping over the pond, swinging on the swing set twenty times and skidding for the home stretch to our den of bushes. 

No doubt we were covered in dirt by the end.  

Back then she had light brown curly hair and gaps in her smile from missing teeth.  She was only eight.  Now she is twenty-seven, and her teeth have all come in. :-)  And her hair is still curly, but high-lighted with pretty blond streaks. 

She is why I'm in Auckland, sitting in this sun room, sinking into my past. 

Annie has fallen in love with a New Zealander and will be married in two weeks.


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