Breaking into summer style

MEGAN NICOL REED
Last updated 05:00 17/11/2013

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OPINION: There is an exiguity. A paucity. Truly slim pickings. Short-sighted when you think about it. I mean, really.

There we are, marooned all winter long, from Queen's Birthday to Labour Day with nought to hang our hopes on, not a measly bone to gnaw on. Scant reason to gather and feast. Not a solitary public holiday to colour the hum, to relieve the drum. (Except, that is, for South Cantabrians whose anniversary always falls on a Monday near September's end, and residents of Hawke's Bay, who get an extra long Labour Weekend with the Friday before off.)

But happy days! The drought has broken. The season of the public holiday is upon us. I kept a log of the first long weekend. It went something like this:

FRIDAY

Eight extras for dinner at six. Fool! I scurried out of the office at 5.10pm. The wind tore at my optimistic silk shirt. The rain made a mockery of my espadrilles. I picked up the kids from their grandfather's. The rocket from the supermarket.

My husband had been texted a list. Walk dog. Make beer batter. Peel potatoes. Heat deep-fryer. Homemade fish and chips for 12. Stupid woman! What are you doing? asked my husband. Sorting the kids' swim bags, I said. Priorities, he chided. Priorities! Sanctimonious git.

They arrived as I was wringing out the togs. Panic stations. I'd prepared a speech for the kids. Please, I said, don't trash the house. (Priorities? I had my priorities. I'd remembered to hide the water balloons.) Tidy as you go, I said.

They dragged every last cushion out onto the trampoline. Dumped the Lego on the study floor. Finish the carrot and cucumber sticks, we bribed, and you can have an ice block.

We put on Monsters Inc. Happily ensconced, we thought. The adults' dessert came out. The kids caught wind of the petit fours and chocolates. Turned feral. Stole and whined. You get the kids down I said to my husband. I'll clean up. Priorities, I said.

SATURDAY

Where's Dad? Gone fishing. What are we doing? Going shopping. But first, I said, first we need to go through your wardrobes. See what still fits. Figure out the gaps. Make a list of what you'll need for summer.

My children looked at me. It'll be fun, I said. Like Trinny and Susannah. You'll see.

It was a beautiful day. We headed to the mall. Farmers first for ankle socks. A happy Labour Weekend 30 per cent off. Two packs of three for $18.19. Isn't this fun!

Kmart and Pumpkin Patch. Searched high and low for a girl's rash top that didn't have seahorses kissing on it, sparkly purple hearts or say something about adorable surfie chicks.

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We ticked off jandals and sandals and summer pyjamas. We're hungry, they moaned. Just one more shop, I cajoled, waving McDonald's before them like a carrot. (If you can in good conscience compare Maccas to a vegetable.)

They chose sun hats they promised to wear without complaint. Lunchtime, they cheered. I got a teriyaki tofu donburi. Had a moment of anxiety over the wasabi mayonnaise or the sweet soy.

We walked up and down with our trays and our bags. There were no tables, except for one in the corner by the toilet. My son sat down. I said, no, that I wouldn't sit there. He said in a big loud voice that he would die if he didn't eat and that he was not moving. Everyone looked at me. I sat down. My daughter spat out the pickle. I ate all their cold fries.

Back home my husband was asleep on the couch. Fun day? I asked.

SUNDAY

He went fishing. Took the kids so I could have a break. Relax and stuff. The empty hours spilled thrillingly forth before me. It was a beautiful day. I headed to the gym. Home now to relax. I deserved it. Even the gym instructor said so.

First, I thought, I'll just clean the house. I made a list. Hand washing, change beds, clean windows, wash floors. I didn't stop for lunch.

No time! There were people coming for dinner. Fool! I raced to the shops. To Farro Fresh. Quality, I thought, over quantity. Approximately $5759.35 later I started whisking cream and sugar for the semifreddo. My husband and kids came home. My hands were whirring. I was sweating. Relaxing day? he asked.

MONDAY

We took the kids to this place where they have butterflies. We were sun-blocked up and sun-hatted out. The wind ripped through us. I could have cried with the cold. And then we stepped into the butterfly enclosure and tore at our clothes. Oh the heat. The heat!

The butterflies landed on us. Sweaty. Prickly. Fluttering, beating wings. It was getting claustrophobic. We checked out the crocs. Neither of them moved. Not an inch. We waited them out. Jumped about. Made a big noise. Fakes!

Over at the petting zoo a buxom girl was milking a goat. There was something mesmerising, sexual, about her repetitive pull on the teat. A small, odd man lurked. Lurked and grunted appreciatively.

Afterwards we lunched at our friends'. It was lovely and long and lovely. Our daughter fell asleep on their couch.

Worn out, we agreed, as we carried her to the car in the fading sun. That night she stumbled feverishly into our room. A raging temperature. Who's that man in the bed, she cried out long and loud and long.

- Sunday Star Times

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