My mother in law was a Southland farmer’s wife. She knew all about hard work and new ventures. During her life she was part of the team of two who turned swampland into farmland, then went bush to develop a tourist venture. While there was still some gas in the tank she travelled around the world when things like that were only dreams. She came back to the farm with a chandelier from Italy. You have to admire the pizazz in that.
She and I were for many years, allies in the fight for information. She would compare her end of a telephone conversation and I’d relate mine so that we could piece together what father and son were doing. For a while we moved in concert. She showed me the secrets of blending flavours, of slow cooking, of sweet wines and the diverse sounds of different music. She loaned me books, she backed me up and she washed the faces of my babies and always, always brushed their hair.
From where I am now I can see the holes in her life. The places her past held her tight and wouldn’t let her go. The time her heart broke. We all broke then for a little while, clinging to memories as though life was in the past and not the future. It’s the same now. Long versus short. Each one a loss.
One day this summer we will gather and climb the hills with her ashes. We’ve done this before and it’s fitting both husband and wife should fly on the wind down to the river plains of the southern most tip of this island. After we have said the words that need to be said, we will go somewhere and tell stories and raise a glass to a woman who would have laughed if we’d told her she’d made a difference to our lives. And that’s what I remember most. How much she loved to laugh.