Koala park near Brisbane, Aus

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Take a Mental Picture

Take a Mental Picture
I did it...again. Left for the weekend and forgot the battery charger for my digital camera. You know this one...pull out of your driveway, wondering if you've forgotten anything. Camera? Check. How's the battery strength? 2 bars out of 4? That'll work. Maybe. Only it didn't. I made it through one Aquaduck (tank-like truck that turns into a boat) tour of Rotorua, plus nearly an entire Maori performance (snapped the obligatory picture of warrior-performer with outstretched tongue) before I got the battery-with-a-slash-through-it symbol of camera death. Shoot. I can't shoot. Battery's dead. No worries. The glow worms we saw after our hangi (meal cooked in the ground) wouldn't have shown in the dark, anyways.

My friend, Andrea, and I drove the hour from Rotorua to her home near Whakatane while the kids slept in the car. Again, nothing to see here. No need for pictures.

Then comes another glorious Kiwi morning, when the sun is shining and the kids are racing like puppies around our friends' home (along with the family's new puppy, a Miniature Doberman Pinscher named Trixie). That's when the shutter withdrawal started. I can't take pictures? (Never mind I could've borrowed my friend's camera. I rarely follow through on asking for photos or retrieving them from the Internet). How will I remember this day? Blink. Pause. Take a mental picture: See Fiona's friend, Hailey? Her long hair is heaven-streaked with 3 colors: blonde, blonder and blondest. Her little girl mane whips the air as she bounces on the trampoline. Up and to the right. Down. Up and to the left.

Blink. Pause. Take a mental picture: Fiona, long brown hair loose and swinging, bounces, too. She's wearing a pink Sydney Harbour Bridge t-shirt, plus flowered Capri pants I bought in South Africa. She's landing on her walnut-sized behind and laughing, laughing, laughing...

Blink. Pause. Take a mental picture: Kalib, a towhead with a short haircut and tiny tail is dragging the Flying Fox up the hill. He pulls the stick seat attached to a rope attached to a wire strung between 2 tall trees. Were they pine? Or fern? I can't remember. This backyard includes a lush mix of both, and a crooked stream with clear, clear water.

Blink. Pause. Take a mental picture: Finley, wearing a light blue lion head t-shirt and tan shorts from South Africa. He climbs 3 wooden stairs to reach the handle of the Flying Fox. "Mom, mom...look at me!" he shouts. I say, "Okay, honey, I'm watching." Finley pushes off and glides across the wire along the stream. He stops at the end of the line and scooches himself back towards the start. "Did you see me, Mom?" he yells. Yes, I saw. I won't have a picture, but I saw. I'll remember.

Blink. Pause. Another mental picture. My friend, Andrea climbs the garden stairs wearing denim shorts, princess-waist plaid cap-sleeve shirt and gum boots (rubber boots). She's thin with layered, streaked blonde hair, blue eyes, straight teeth and fair skin. She wears her beauty casually, easily. She's carrying a metal shovel to clean the pigs' pen. ("What will do you with pigs?" I ask. "We'll eat them," she says. "What about the cows?" I already know the answer. "We'll chop them up and eat them, too," she says. I try to envision where the "streaky bacon" the kids and I like lives inside the small black pigs: the sides? Around back?

Here's what my camera can't record: the taste of the flavored coffee Andrea made with a tablespoon of honey. Or the baloney and peanut butter sandwich Finley made by himself that I didn't sample. Or how good it felt to sit in shady grass and watch 4 happy, healthy kids..Or the sting of sweat and sunscreen on my neck during a 9 a.m. run that took me from view of one green mountain, toward another and back Or the jumbled feeling I get in my stomach during these good times when I think about the fact we'll have to leave New Zealand. Or the lump in my throat that catches sometimes when I realize I won't see Sean witness these daily miracles.

My camera can't record the nostalgia I feel when I hear the local radio station play Simply Red's "Money's too Tight to Mention," followed by the Bangles, "Eternal Flame." And I couldn't snap my smirk when I heard Laura Brannigan's "Solitaire" (another 80's aerobics class classic).

I can't show you a picture of any of today's events. But I can still close my eyes and return to the shady spot in the grass, to the Flying Fox, to the laughter (and the whining) of 4 little kids. Since I've written about this day, I can relive it by reading about it. It would be a shame to travel and feel these things just once. Blink. Pause. Take a mental picture.

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