there is my mother, the eccentric artist. often wearing midriff shirts and falling in love with strangers on public transport. her stories of her youth, as free and inspired as any, give me purpose and a sense of self. she has inspired me to love fully, travel everywhere and to never shave my legs. my young, half-sister is boyish, with long sun-blonde hair and a strong naivety. refusing to let go of her true self. she hides her gentle heart behind many layers of tough skin so that only a few know how selfless she is. my brother was diagnosed with aspergers and never finished primary school. he has never said hello to love, let alone gotten to know love, so his obsessive nature (that i share to an extent) feeds into gaming. lands and battles he talks about with wild passion, him the leader of a gaming cult. his skin has seen little sun and his chest sinks down past his ribs. but he is content.
then there are my many cousins, all so grown up now. when i saw them, all tall and talking of boys they’d loved who had broken their hearts, i almost cried. i realised the worst thing about travelling is not being there to see your family grow. they were strangers i’d once babysat every weekend and lived with for months. i was who they came to when they were hurt or sad. in a way, that is hard to explain without sounding weird, it was like they were my children and then suddenly they weren’t. i didn’t want them to grow when i was away, it broke my heart.
my house hadn’t changed. it was a chaotic mess that felt so much like home. under the house was my mother’s glass studio where she would make jewellery, and beside that were cages stacked up to the ceiling where crazed white rats with bright red eyes lived. me and my sister would collect grasshoppers and big insects to feed to them. watching what we imagined as the bloodlust staining their eyes. there was a fascination in watching them tear the grasshoppers apart limb by limb. watching the insects on the brink of death.
my room was at the back of the house, which is now my sisters room. it is pink, which i always hated and i’m sure my sister hates now. a lot of my old things were still lying around. it was a strange feeling. remembering that the girl who used to live and breathe in this room was me. my experiences since leaving home have set me a world apart from her. she was wild with feeling, crazed with passion. sometimes i get sparks of her and it makes me feel alive again.
but if i’d known back then, all i would do and how much life would frighten me, i would have never left my bed. i followed my dreams blindly, and i do not regret it.
i’m not sure if it was summer when i visited but it always felt like it. the sun was heavy on our skin. the girls all played with the hose in the backyard and we left the house when the sun was setting and the air was beginning to cool. those days you didn’t want to do anything but laze around, reading books and sucking iceblocks.
it was christmas eve and i was in the pool with my 8 year old cousin kaisy on my back, her arms safely around my neck. it was late and we watched the scattered stars in the sky, excitement in the air all around us. in an almost hopeless way she asked if i believed in santa claus. when i told her i did, her eyes lit up and she said whispered quietly ‘i do too’. she told me of nights where she’d heard sleigh bells and a deep laugh that had echoed into her dreams. then she was silent. lights on the roof lit up parts of the sky and we both saw the most magical thing. we saw the lightest sprinklings of snow falling slowly down in the air. bright white, like only snow could be. hush, i said to the other cousins and my sister in the pool, look. and all was silent. later one of the cousins insisted it was rain that was caught in the light in a strange way. but me and kaisy are certain it was snow from santa’s sleigh.
i got only a few hours sleep that night, waking at sunrise with the children. it’s funny how when you become an adult christmas is no longer about presents but about the children. the way their eyes light up and they don’t stop smiling, not even when they’ve fallen asleep exhausted that night. you want to do all you can to make them happy.
matt flew in and i picked him up from the airport, having not seen him in months. full of stories of foreign cities and cultures, wearing new scars (with volcanic ash buried under) and thousands of new photographs. he brought with him more presents then i’ve ever received. my favourites being a yashica t4 with film and a pashmina from india. i felt like the luckiest girl in the whole world.
i felt overwhelmingly like i belonged. this is my family, my past. i shared this quiet, homely life with matt and he revelled in it, sunk right down like i did. like we knew noplace else.
the next time i went here, weeks later, i was flown to be a witness for a court case. a part of me died those days. being forced to think about things i’d buried deep enough to be forgotten. watching it become so real. sometimes i wish i could confide everything in this blog, or even one person, but it’s just me alone with it all. i realise now i’ve never let anyone completely in. maybe i’ll always be lonely in that sense.
my cousin kaisy under falling hosewater.
my cousin, sister and step-cousin’s soapy legs.
elise on her birthday.
kaisy wearing fake teeth.
my sister, my cousin and my mother sleeping on my mother’s mattress.
early christmas morning.
my mother and her niece.
my cousins. jayson playing guitar and jami reading.
kaisy and pixie’s legs in the rainflooded gutter.
playing in the rain under streetlamps.
my goosebumped sister.