This time we went to the New York, and, remarkably, got see all our parents and siblings on both sides of the family during the course of that month. I have three sisters (Kelsey, Rebecca, Susanna) and Jeremiah has 4 siblings (Ben, Missy, Isaiah and Moriah).
“Ha! There’s something alive down there!” I fairly cackled with glee. I love the stereoscope.
Looking through the magic oculars had revealed a hidden world. A critter crawled past and I tried to count its legs. I could only see 6, but it had the plump body and quick gait of a mite. And those clear plump mounds with the beautifully and precisely placed white speckles, those must be its eggs.
I picked up a leaf off my desk and peered at it again. Nothing. I could see nothing. As a kid I had always prided myself in having good up close vision, even if at distance I struggled, but this time I saw precisely nothing. I got out the 10x lens and squinted through it—now I could make out little white flecks that could be plant hairs. I popped it under the scope, and suddenly there was something. Lots of somethings, in fact. I chuckled again and bounced in my seat. Wow, they were tiny!
But what kind of mite could it be? I tried googling and got a list of invasive-pests-to-be-aware-of…..I sure hoped we weren’t the first to find an invasive pest. That would be complicated. But an image search was reassuring—those mites from Chile were red, not clear like the ones I was seeing.
Then I remembered that cyclamen mites and broad mites are microscopic, so tried an image searching for broad mite eggs. There they were, those perfect speckled domes! “Ah-ha!” I exclaimed out loud, hoping somebody else in the office would share my enthusiasm. No one noticed.
I started an email to the commercial crop manager. I guessed that he wasn’t going to share my thrill of discovery, but I had to tell SOMEBODY. I clamped the phone holder onto the ocular and focused on a particularly tantalizing egg, then snapped a photo of a microscopic herd of mites hiding in the nook between two plant veins, and was immensely gratified to find that the photos were decent quality. I tacked them to the email.
The operations manager walked past to the desk. “Hey, want to see something cool?” He humoured me, and glanced at the photo.
“Nice. How are you going to kill them?” he queried, right to the point as per usual.
“Oh, probably try Avid, it’s the only miticide we’ve tested on this crop. Multiple applications….there are a lot of mites and Avid doesn’t kill eggs…..but aren’t they cool?” He nodded and moved on.
Just then the grower in charge of the plants walked into the office. “Hey, want to see something cool?” I pointed to the picture on the screen.
“Wow, what are those?” he asked. He has wonderfully expansive facial expressions, and shared my excitement.
“Broad mites! You know those twisted bronzy leaves we thought were from high EC? They’re full of mites! And look at this!” I held a leaf under his nose. “Can you see anything?” He shook his head. “No!” I chortled, “but here, look through the lens!”
He peered, mezmerized, at the leaf that was teeming with microscopic life. “That’s a good a discovery!” he said. “We would be waiting for those shoots to grow out after we water the pots, and we would be saying why these shoots not better, because the problem is really mites.”
Yes! He understood the picture, and the gravity of the situation we almost found ourselves in. I giggled.
Later that night I continued to talk Jeremiah’s ear off about the mites. “Here, just LOOK at these beautiful eggs,” I adjured him. “They’re gorgeous! And tiny! and….Oh, and how was your day? ….signed a contract sounds good…..in Kaikoura….hey, I wonder if those mites can carry disease?! Oh look, it says here the females are quiescent and the males carry them around on their backs until they’re ready to mate. I actually saw that! I SAW one carrying another when I LOOKED DOWN THE SCOPE!” He nodded and smiled. He was trying to share my excitement.
I can’t quite put my finger on it myself. For some reason I find that miniscule world that is chocker full of life, and precision, and beauty to be terribly alluring. And the thrill of discovery at a successful yet unexpected diagnosis never gets old.
It’s so good to love one’s work.
We’ve had two days of strong southerly rains in Christchurch, making me think with sympathy of the emperor penguin dads huddled in the dark on the antarctic ice, where the weather system originated. This morning a hard frost covered the garden but the sky itself was clear. NZ is a commonwealth country, and, God Bless the Queen, we had Monday off today.
“She’s sleeping a lot, and not eating much. If it’s important for you to say goodbye in person, you should plan your trip for the next two weeks.”
Dad’s email was pretty devoid of sentiment. That was probably his coping mechanism to manage emotion. From half way around the world in New Zealand, mine certainly were raging.
I am the oldest grandchild. Mommom was only 52 when I was born, and since we lived in Saratoga, only 45 minutes from Delmar, we garnered the grandparent attention like no others. We spent a lot of special time together. For me my grandmother’s passing wasn’t a distant fact of life, as it is for so many others who had un-involved grandparents. It was a bereavement; a loss of a source of identity, a loss of a great love.
Before Poppop died I had planned a trip back to the states with both my kids; Milo was 3 and Naomi was 8 months. I had wanted to bring the kids back to meet both grandparents, as a way of honouring them and thanking them for their involvement in our lives. When Poppop died three months later, I didn’t make a trip back for the funeral; I felt I had already said my goodbye in person.
But with Mommom, I felt differently. At the end of her life, she wasn’t able to have conversations. She might have recognized me, but then again she might not have. I was already too late to say goodbye in person. And after she died, I wasn’t sure how to move on. No one in New Zealand knew her. No one could share special memories to celebrate her life and enjoy her legacy, and that’s how she deserved to be honoured. I needed the family for that. I wanted to go home.
My uncle’s statement corroborated: “I will do everything including throwing toys out of the pram to wait until you can make it. You need to be there and we need you there.”
It’s good to be wanted.
The memorial service was set for the end of May, plenty of time to plan a trip. This time I went alone; we had a family trip already planned for July, and besides, I wanted to focus entirely on the Harro family.
My first day in NYC we met Kelsey for lunch in Bryant Park, Manhattan, near her work. Kels was home in the evenings, so we got to reconnect then too.
On Friday we took the train to Albany, where the rest of the family was gathering. My aunt had organized a block of hotel rooms for us all to be close, and under one roof we had maximum time to converse after years of separation. Some of my cousins have kids of their own, a passel of quick-moving boys, and I spent the first evening reviewing their names, wishing I had flash cards. Quinn, Mason, and Colton. Miles and Cooper. Fox, Macaiah, and Teddy. There, I’ve written them, I ought to be able to remember them….if they’d only stand still. I gawked at my cousins Spencer and Crosby; they were young teens last I saw them, now they’re young men. Does Crosby realize that he looks just like Clayton? And Riley is driving! Kevin has bulked out, John now has no hair…..and Duncan has more than his fair share of curly locks. And the uncles and aunts! Everyone has aged, and put on some weight. But their fundamental characters are so stable and recognizable after the decades.
My uncle had invited anyone who wanted to talk to prepare something short to share. I wasn’t quite sure what to say, but wanted to honour Mommom by saying something. My uncle suggested sorting some special memories into categories and seeing if a theme emerged, and said to aim for 3 minutes, max, and I had worked and reworked my memories into a theme of sorts. Then worked on making it familiar enough that I had a chance of delivering it without being a untidy emotional mess.
“How can I look back and encapsulate the gift I had of being the eldest grandchild, of living near Mommom and Poppop when they were young and energetic?
“In three minutes….!
“That’s hard to do. So instead I’ll just share a few favorite snippets of memories.
“Some of my strongest memories are of the things Mommom LOVED.
-the bright green Weeping Willows in spring
-the cheery Marsh Marigolds
-the Fraser Fir Christmas tree, with baskets of dried flowers and chocolates
-her little green car; “I’ve come to visit you in my “Green Apple,” she’d say
She named the practical plastic table cloth that protected the carpet under the kid dining table her “flower garden.”
We drank Red Zinger tea from her special collection of tea cups
Her favorite word was “Lapis Lazuli.”
“She delighted in beautiful things. In warm and colourful beautiful things. And in names…she loved naming things. There is feeling in the names.
“My enduring memory of Mommom is that emotion counts. The feeling of a thing matters. And the words we choose to describe things have the power to shape how we feel about them.
“So in her honor, I will pause to admire beautiful things. I will name them. And I will take time to savour them.”
I had expected lots of grandkids to say a few words, but only one other put their hand up. If I had known I was representing Grandchildren in general, I would have added some more. I would have gone into more detail about the things they did with us—the overnight canoe trips at Follensby, the sizzling apples roasted in the wood stove, the quilt making and car trips to Charleston, getting tossed into huge piles of leaves raked up in the fall, and the birthdays and school performances and music recitals they celebrated with us. I would have pointed out that the activities themselves were fun, but the real value was the love they gave us. It’s a wonderfully secure place to be, when you know your family loves you, unconditionally, regardless of personality faults, achievements, or lack thereof. I was reminded on this trip just how powerful that is. Grandparents and extended family add layer upon layer to what parents can possibly offer.
My dad and his brothers all had something to say. Their stories certainly illuminated who Mommom was, but interestingly enough what they chose to share and how they shared it was also uniquely characteristic of who they are. Stewart made us laugh and didn’t need any notes to carry his tale. Dwight (and Laurie) had show and tell items and a themed story. My dad had a long story with a back story about where Mommom came from with fear and loss to fullness. Ted made us laugh too, and incorporated some philosophy along with sincerity.
A week is a short time to travel all the way back to the USA, but surprisingly it was long enough to be refreshing. The shared history of family is pretty special, as is their love, a love that’s independent of performance and undented by personality foibles. The oldest generation is gone now, but I’m still wearing their affection, an invisible cloak against the wear and tear of daily life. Thanks, Family.
When we were expecting Naomi, we didn’t find out by ultrasound if she was a girl or a boy. We had known Milo would be a boy, and the second time I wanted to experience what it was like to be surprised.
When the midwife handed her to me I had a quick peak at her nether regions. “A girl” was confirmed. I had believed that I didn’t really care if the second was a girl or a boy, but my first thought betrayed me. “A girl! I’m going to do HAIR!”
I’m from a family of 4 long-haired girls, and our close family friends had three more girls. Imagine the fantastic hair dos we came up with.
Since Naomi was a baby I’ve always braided her hair to keep the whispies under control, but we are just coming into the time where Naomi herself is liking fancy hair dos. Yay!
“When is my Kiwi Crate going to come?”
“I don’t know, Milo.”
“Dad got the email that it was coming three weeks ago–WHEN will it be here??”
“It’s really hard to tell, Milo.”
We had this exchange, verbatim, EVERY DAY, for the last three weeks.
Each day he’d come home from school, and ever-hopeful, and peer into letterbox….only to be disappointed. “When is my…….” “Don’t know…” “three weeks!….” “Grrr!”
Until today, when the long-awaited orange cardboard box finally arrived.
Building the kiwi crate project took precedent over afternoon snack, over rugby practice, over dinner….though sadly not over watching netflix.
Kiwi Crates are kits with a science theme. They come with all the pieces to make a project, and kid friendly instructions to follow. They can be built in the attention span of a child (short), and kits come for a couple different age ranges.
Milo has gotten some genuinely cool projects the last couple months involving electronics, hydraulics, and mechanics. He’s good at following the instructions and perseveres to get it right. An engineer in the making.
“We are now on Christmas Vacation! That means fun times, laughs, and treats,” Jeremiah declared. He believes in optimism. The car clock read 9:52 a.m.
The morning had been hectic with last minute packing and cleaning. The kids had been “helpful” in the typical way 5 and 7 year old siblings can be: Harass–Squawk–Sent away to room–Emerge to tease again. I emptied the trash, wiped counters, sent Milo over to the neighbor’s with surplus plums, and squeezed Naomi’s hair into a pony tail. Jeremiah packed the roof rack, strapped on the bikes, and ate the last waffle before starting the dish washer. Doors locked. Garage closed. “Hold tight, garden,” I said to the unmown lawn ringed with cheerfully untidy flowers.
30 minutes later we were zooming down Route 1 when Naomi quavered “Maaahm, I’m going to throw up!” I scrabbled frantically for the barf bucket, shoving it under her chin half a second too late, and felt the pink liquid cascade down my wrist and shower the car seat. She must have had berries on her waffle.
We stopped at Rakaia and stripped down Naomi and the car seat, using the RV wash station to hose out the car seat. The kids played on the playground. Soggy car seat lined with plastic bags, we buckled up again. “I’m hungry!” Naomi declared.
We drove through Twizel through heavy thundershowers. I checked the forecast nervously; just scattered showers clearing predicted for tomorrow, our first biking day. We could handle that.
Naomi petered along for a kilometer or two, stopping to adjust her backpack, take off her jersey, take off her gloves, look at the flowers, adjust her helmet… I acquiesced, a model of maternal patience. Glancing at my watch, then at the ominous white haze I could see on the distant hills, I decided it was time for rapid movement. “Come on Naomi!” Not a budge. I couldn’t see Jeremiah and Milo ahead anymore. “Do you want a tow?” I offered. Nod. The pattern was set for the trip; towing over tantrumming. Pretty good deal, we decided.