The days of summer

It was December, 2013. It was lively. It was summer as it was meant to be and the lunches were long and legless.

If only life could always be like those motionless days on the back end of Christmas. When everything is done and lunch runs into dinner and everyone collapses come 9pm.

We left all our kids in the care of a babysitter armed with tacos and DVDs and dined at Auckland's newest restaurant.

We died a thousand small deaths over the butter and then gagged on the ancient, line-caught fish. Later I drank rum and Coke (the first time I was being ironic but people told me I was a revelation on it) and got in the spa in my knickers.

I tried to dance, fell over, and lay, instead, on the floor laughing.

It was December, 2013. It was hurting. It was summer as it was meant to be and we were hung-over and had to pack.

Six nights camping: three on the lawn of a beach house up North; three on an island at a DOC site. We lay in bed and held our heads and compiled a mental shopping list.

Wraps and burger buns and iceberg lettuce and apples for their longevity. Marshmallows and skewers and malt biscuits and chocolate for s'mores.

We headed for the hills and got as far as Burger King. We upsized our combos to large and upgraded our fries to beer-battered. They forgot our sundaes.

We forgot to pay at the Northern Gateway Toll. Friends texted from further en route and I hated them for having already passed the worst of the vomitous Old Russell Road.

It was December, 2013. It was dazzling. It was summer as it was meant to be and we dressed for the last night of the year.

Except New Zealand is no place for strappy dresses and bare legs when the sun goes down.

And so while the kids danced on the sand with glow sticks and played air guitar on cricket bats, we dug out track pants and sweatshirts and put on socks with our jandals.

We admired the bonfires, worried for the teens lighting sky rockets in their hands, got stuck into the tequilas with lime and ginger syrup, and, for the first time in several years, saw in midnight.

It was January, 2014. It was frigid. It was summer as it was meant to be and I fought the fanny freeze to act on my New Year's resolution to swim more often in the sea.

Age has turned me from a water baby into a cold water coward. It was bracing, it was bitter, but I forced myself under.

That night we sent the children for $30 of chips while we assembled 17 burgers. No gherkin for her. Extra cheese for him. No beetroot for anyone under 30. He doesn't want mayo. She doesn't like lettuce. Grated carrot all round.

There were pink and white icy slicies to finish.

It was January, 2014. It was basic. It was summer as it was meant to be and at a campsite only accessible by boat, and under the helm of dear friends, I finally learnt to love tenting.

We gathered mussels, caught kingfish andate the last of the Christmas chocolate coins. We washed our dishes in the wet sand, and put off bowel motions as long as humanly possible to avoid the mephitic long drop. We cooked broccoli in sea water, and looked continuously for private patches of grass upon which to wee.

The kids jumped off the jetty again and again. And I showered beneath the cold tap, reaching under my togs to soap myself, looking up to find an audience, a family of five eating Sizzlers, an old couple nursing G and Ts.

This is the life, I said. Simple. Good.

And my friends laughed at us with our suitcases, our tent with its pantry, and at my endless sweeping.

It was January, 2014. It was action-packed. It was summer as it was meant to be and we returned home for one night and approximately 50 million loads of washing before heading to The Barrier.

We stayed in a friend's old family farmhouse. It was our city dog's first holiday and she ran and ran and ran. As free as a bird, terrorising sheep, chasing rabbits, getting stuck in gorse.

I spent days picking out the bidi bidi. There was a generator and a wetback, more cold showers and a pile of dishes as high as the sky after every gargantuan meal.

The children swung on pohutukawa-tied ropes and fancied they took their lives in their hands. The men backed the boat into a marine cave and we fancied we saw Gollum.

We all picnicked on a grubby blanket at the foot off a WWII lookout and fancied we could spot invaders.

It was January 2014. It was excellent. It was summer as it was meant to be.

Sunday Magazine