It was a birthday with a zero, and though initially reluctant, my eldest sister decided to have a party. “Oh good!” I said as I suggested to my husband that we arrange our loop around the South Island to get to her place on the day in question. Our plan was doomed to fail, though, as work plans changed for him, and these days when work is scarce, it has to take priority, and so we found ourselves driving around the South Island in November rather than December, and calling into my sister’s house about three weeks early. Still, my younger sister who lives further north and I decided we should be there, and wanted to be there, and so on Saturday morning we met at Christchurch airport, sans Charlie (much to Charlie’s disgust, but not to her mother’s) and husbands, and drove south.
We weren’t the only ones who travelled, though, and we didn’t travel the longest distances either – our two nieces who live in Australia easily outstripped our domestic efforts. It was the first time since middle niece’s wedding early in 2015 that we were all together, and the first time there had been a family gathering in the area since our mother’s funeral in February this year, and so we marked it (though we almost forgot) with a photo of two generations of three sisters; a bit of familial symmetry is always nice.
We celebrated on Saturday night, but started early before the official event with whitebait (yum!) and a barbecue and lots of summery salad outside in the sun, then later at the party venue even as the rain came down outside, with a few drinks and lots of good (old) music and dancing and laughter and some good food and a birthday cake about midnight, and then more chatting back at the house before collapsing into bed around 3 am.
The next day was relaxed and happy, filled with much-needed cups of tea and restorative ham and eggs and catching up, and distribution of recently harvested avocados and birthday cards and Christmas presents and personalised cards and well wishes for the coming Australian baby, and even some cross-generational middle-child bonding, before youngest sister and I had to depart, giving hugs even though we’re not really a very huggy family, and fond farewells, with invitations for the southern families to visit us in the north, promises to get together again soon, and some emerging pressure on me to have the next party – though I have to emphasise it will be a few years yet before my birthday with a zero comes around.