Because we didn’t want Mum to have to stress out about Xmas preperations the day after her mother died, on Friday 23 December, Karen and I decided we’d shop for all the food. If you were in Wellington, you might also remember that as the day that the skies decided to bust open and leak bucketfuls of water all over the place, along with some spectacular thunder and some average lightning. It did this especially in the time that it took me to walk to the bus stop. Then at the bus stop I had to wait a good half hour at least (where I felt stupid cos people were talking about why the buses weren’t coming, and I was like “maybe the rain interferes with the trolleys” and a guy said that it didn’t, and I was like well whatever buddy, it always does, and then ten minutes later I looked up and saw that he was wearing a stagecoach uniform), so I should have left the house later and not got so wet. As it was, I left my very soaked hoodie at Karen’s house, after I’d squeezed it out a little over the sink, and when we came back from Moore Wilson’s, it had puddled all over the floor like a puppy.
Have you ever been to Moore Wilson’s two days before Xmas? We went to the dry good section first, and it was when we were just queuing up with our trolley that they announced that eftpos was down. We waited and waited for a while, and it just didn’t seem like it was going to get back up again, so Karen went home for her chequebook. Then we went to Fresh, and the queue for the checkouts started at the door, so I stood with a trolley and nibbled the tasty things that the clever staff were bringing around to pacify customers, and Karen loaded us up with goodies. It was a surprisingly good atmosphere, despite the rain, and the waiting, and the crowdedness.
I can’t remember what I did on Xmas Eve, except for watch parts of National Lampoon’s Xmas Vacation for nostalgic value. It was every bit as terrible as I rememberd it being. Perhaps I hung out with Lisa Fur some more? Oh no, wait, that’s right, I was doing the supermarket shopping and loading up on liquor and snacks for Anji’s birthday, and I ran into Cousin Jacinta so I took her home with me, fed her beer in the sun and made her Pad Thai.
When we’d started to discuss Xmas, and what we’d planned to do on it, I’d suggested we have it either here or at Karen’s house, so that Anji could make an easier escape if she felt the need, and so we were going to have it at Karen’s, but when she started to be all “Oh I don’t know if I even want to come to Xmas” I said “well fuck that, let’s just have it at Mum and Neil’s cos that’s where I want to go, since you’re not commiting to it”. She came along anyway, and had been extensively consulted over our plan to just eat tapas all day long. Then our aunt showed up and stayed for three hours bitching away. Yes, her mother had just died. I can understand why she’d want to hang out with Mum, I really can. But she was just so so so nasty that I eventually stood up and yelled “HEY KAREN, LET’s GO OVER HERE AND DO SOMETHIGN ELSE!” and also “HEY, YOU KNOW WHAT’s COOL? MONKEYS”. Eventually we all cornered my dad in the kitchen and asked him to say something to Mum, who did get my aunt to leave. Nevertheless, it was too late, and Anji was already in a sulk about how we weren’t having a “proper meal” so she left, and the atmosphere got a lot lighter. We took turns reading The Pirates! And the adventure with whaling aloud, and ate chocolate fondue. The taxi took a long cold hour to show up, and I spent lots of money texting everyone like crazy after midnight. Well, Murray anyways.
The next day was Anji’s birthday so I got up to eat crossaints with her, but not to learn how to spell them, and gave her the birthday present that I’d really spent far too much money on – a big fake leather box filled with margarita glasses and rimming salt (heh), and Havana Club Blanco, and Jose Cuervo Gold, and canned stawberries and coconut cream and chocolate-covered coffee beans, and fortune cookies, and Scholl’s party feet, and and and umm that was possibly it. A couple of her friends came over and we had a drink or two in the very hot sun, and then she took all the food and liquor up to Richard’s house, and Lisa Fur came over.
On December 27, we had the funeral, which my mother had argued my aunt down about the need for it to be in Paraparaumu where Oma had lived for the last twenty plus years and where my Opa had his funeral. Mum’d asked us at the hospital if one of us would mind saying a few words, and since neither Karen or Anji wanted to, I said I’d be happy to, just like I had at Opa’s seven years ago, only this time I wasn’t going to be wearing an old suit of his. Much like at Opa’s, I hadn’t really prepared for what I was going to say. I knew that I wanted to talk about Oma’s legendary hospitality, and about how dedicated to her grandkids she was, without trying to raise the hackles of either my mother or my aunt, and about the chilli jam she tried to foist onto anyone who ever came to her house. The celebrant spoke about how Oma’s father had taught her to use her pencil box as a way of defending herself when she was young because she was so little, and so later another ex diplomat’s wife got up and said “Dee was the only one of us who used to play the pros at tennis in the Phillipines, and now I know why!”. It was lovely all the people who got up and shared small memories of her. Most of them also included stories about the food she would cook. I started crying when my aunt spoke of how Oma always used to order a speckook (I cannot spell that to save my life, but it’s a Dutch/Indonesian type layer cake, and when I say layer, I mean each layer is crepe thin, and it’s a mix of batter and then spiced batter so it’s all stripey. It’s quite rich so you eat it in thin slices) for all the people she knew back in Holland every Xmas, and how every single one of the people that Diz and Mum contacted to say that Oma had died mentioned that they’d just had their speckook delivered, and also that when they got to Oma’s house to start sorting out her things, they’d found that someone had sent Oma one, and so that was served afterwards. People kept coming up to me to talk about Oma, which was cool, but also it was strange, because they were people I hadn’t met before, and I had to do a lot of smiling and nodding. One woman, who was dressed in a tie-dyed outfit with dolphins on, said that I seemed to be the strongest one, and I was like “huuuuuuuuuuuuh?” and when she left she told us grandkids that there was strength in the circle, and I smiled and nodded. Because I’d ever so cleverly not had breakfast, I was starving by that stage, and the savouries were really not doing it for me. I jumped in the car with KateB’s parents to guide them to Oma’s house, and there we all waited in clumps with Aunt Leonie and Uncle Graeme who are on my dad’s side for someone with a key to show up, and we finally got to have some decent food. Then we were told to go through the house and pick out what we wanted, and jewellery was dolled out and oh my god it was just horribly painful. Not because of the emotion, although there was that too, but it just seemed like my aunt was taking out her rage about her children living far away from her out on me and Anji and Karen. Bleh. And it took sooooooooooooooooooooooooo long, and it was so hot, and fuck, it was just a horrible afternoon. It was nice to celebrate Oma’s life at the funeral service, but did we have to go and pick over the bones so soon?
We took Mum’s car so that we could leave, and headed straight for Burger King. When I got home it was after 7pm, and I knew that both Heather and Jessie were in town, so it was time to go out and have many many MANY drinks.
To be continued. Again.