After nearly five years she’s here! I felt dazed when she appeared from behind the sliding door at arrivals on Tuesday afternoon. She was like a mirage. It’s taken me till now, Thursday, to truly believe she’s real and not a figment of my imagination. The first day I kept touching her, but not really believing it was her. She seemed taller, wiser, amazingly together after such a long haul flight and beautiful.
Her three nieces met her with welcome banners, wearing their favourite dresses (all their own idea). Only young Alice didn’t ‘dress’ especially for the occasion. I’d had to wake her from a nap to make it to the airport in time – but she’d had a long nap and was full of smiles by the time her Auntie arrived.
As we walked to the exit doors, her welcome banners balanced on her suitcase, Charlotte and Sophie quickly reached out for them, saying in unison, ‘They’ll blow away out there!’. The sun was out, but there was a welcome breeze blowing in from the south to remind Auntie Claire of Wellington’s wild heart. Kite surfers brightly dotted the sky along Lyall Bay as we drove around the south-coast. The open car windows blasted in fresh air to revive Auntie Claire’s senses after being cooped up in air-conditioned air-planes and holding lounges.
We took her to ‘The Bach’ for afternoon tea, where she sat next to Alice for the first time in both their lives. It was as though Alice had know Claire since birth. Auntie Claire instantly met with the approval of her three nieces. They are so fortunate to have her as an Auntie. The love and relationships they are just beginning to build will be incredibly powerful as the girls grow into adults.
When we got back to the house, on the afternoon of her arrival, she was so incredibly amazing with all the girls – she played Yahtzee with Charlotte, Monopoly with Sophie and got lots of giggles from Alice. The very first thing she unpacked, at the in-supressable excitement of Sophie, was my wedding dress! I haven’t seen it since the last century (1999) and she’d brought it over (wrapped up the size of a small sleeping bag). Sophie INSISTED I put it on… so Claire did the honours, whilst Sophie, Alice and Charlotte thought it was hilarious to pull out the underskirts and ‘hide’ underneath the billowing dress (much like my nephews did on my wedding day… but they had a full ‘hoop’ to make for an even better ‘den’!!!).
Afterwards Sophie asked to wear the dress – very elegant (even if a little on the large size for her).
We have just a week, from the time of writing, to spend with my sister – but I know that this time we are sharing will be long lived in all our minds and hearts. This is a time of laying foundation stones, of opening up, sharing and discovering.
The gift of a loving Auntie in the lives of my daughters is one I highly value. My children are only just beginning to realise how amazing my sister is. She will always be there for them; listening, inspiring, guiding… in a way that only an Auntie can – removed from the daily familiarity of ‘parenting’ and having to ‘discipline’. She will probably be the first to learn of their deepest secrets. She will be their counsel, their guide and their mentor. I am so, so grateful to her for making the long journey to be here with us.