Christmas was approaching with the summer sun, glaring down with an intensity of an oven. Sunglasses on, shorts and t-shirt with matching jandels (flip flops) “don’t forget the sun lotion,” he muttered to himself gazing through the open doors out over the calm ocean waves, a gentle breeze soothing him. Water bottle in hand he looked down at Charlie who was bouncing around like she’d never been to the beach before. Smiling gently he took her hand leading her onto the deck the verandah keeping them in the shade.
“Please dada beach,” she pleaded beseechingly her short curly blonde hair flying about her face as she jumped up and down in excitement.
“Go on Glyn,” I said with a bemused smile. “Charlie needs to use her energy,” I laughed.
“All right, I’m going,” scooping Charlie into his arms charging down to the beach whooping loudly, making other families turn smiling at their antics. Charlie screamed in delight as she held on tightly shrieking as Glyn charged over the hot sands and into the ocean waves letting droplets of cold water soak them both. Turning back to our cabin Glyn and Charlie waved to me laughing with the greatest of enjoyment. It’s so beautiful to see.
This will be our first Christmas in New Zealand, it seems so weird after years of cold and snow, not that Charlie will remember much since she’s only three. We migrated here six months ago, Glyn having being offered a fantastic job opportunity we just couldn’t turn down. We live in Rotorua on the North Island, lots of lakes and beaches not too far away; it’s like a different world, a slower pace of life if you like. Stunning scenery surrounded us, so lush and green, the flowers so vibrant in colour and fragrance. My favourite is the Pohutukawa Tree which is known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree. Tall with gorgeous red flowers covering them, they are beautiful, so much more colourful than home. Mind this is home now, slowly getting used to being here. I for one miss my family back in the depth of Cumbria; though I don’t miss the freezing cold winters or snow.
Watching Glyn and Charlie enjoying the waves before settling down to build a huge sandcastle I smiled enthralled with their enjoyment wishing I could stop this moment in time capturing them on camera. Maybe Christmas would bring me a camera. Turning from the window I began to make a picnic, looking forward to joining them. I made ham and cheese sandwiches, apples and kiwi fruit were already in the cooler, along with more water and lime juice for my adorable Charlie. Picking up my sunnies, chilly bin (that’s what they call them here) and the sun lotion Glyn left behind I walked on to the deck locking the door behind me. Leaning on the rail I watched the gulls flying noisily overhead hovering on the gentle breeze. Lots of families were on the beach sunbathing, swimming and surfing, kids running around as if there was no tomorrow. Finding Glyn I stared in wonder at the sandcastle they were building, glancing up smiling Glyn waved. Grabbing the blanket and cooler (damn I mean chilly bin) I sauntered towards them grinning. This was the best way to enjoy family time.
“Mama,” shrieked Charlie dashing towards me across the black sands, “look what we built,” she laughed delightedly running around me until I was quite dizzy.
“Charlie love, slow down,” I said smiling. “Take the blanket to you dada,” I appealed to her.
“Blankie to dada,” tearing the blanket out from my hands she was soon running back to Glyn leaping at his chest bowling him over backwards. I could hear the oomph as his breath wheezed out of his chest. Quickening my pace at the sudden silence I looked down at them hands on hips as my laughter bubbled up. Grinning widely Glyn dumped Charlie on the sand picking up the blanket spreading it out for us all to sit on.
“Food,” Glyn said smiling happily.
“Yes, Glyn you’re spoilt rotten,” I laughed giving him a quick kiss.
“Kiss,” squealed Charlie.
Sitting down on the blanket Charlie tumbled into my arms sand and all, her hair was matted with it, her pink and blue swimsuit full of sand as if she’d deliberately shovelled it inside.
“Go wash in the sea with dada Charlie, then kiss,” I laughed as her mouth turned down. “Mama no wants a sandy kiss,” I said pressing my finger on her nose making her giggle. She was never unhappy for long.
“Wash dada,” she said jumping on Glyn again, “wanna kiss mama,” she appealed.
“Your wish is my command oh Princess Charlie,” he replied picking her up racing down the beach into the waves. I could hear Charlie screeching as they tumbled through the cold waves again. They were soon back, wet and breathless shaking water all over me, now it was my turn to squeal much to the delight of other families close by. Taking a towel I threw one at Glyn while wrapping another around Charlie who was snuggling on my knee.
“Food mama,” she said looking up with her sparking deep blue eyes, her blonde curls drying in the sun starting to spring out around her head.
“Kiss first,” I said raising my eyebrows at her. I loved my mummy kisses, tucking her arms about my neck puckering her lips she kissed me gently.
“There now mama, food please,” she demanded.
Opening the chilly bin (it’s going to take me ages to get used to the different names of things) I took out the sandwiches and juice knowing neither would last long with these two gannets.
Silently we munched away watching other children play.
Looking to the horizon you could see White Island a plume of smoke rising into the air, it was strange to think we were sitting so close to an active volcano, it had made me shudder the first time we came to Omanu beach. On the far left was the Mount as the locals called it, it was a lovely place. I was looking forward to climbing to the top sometime this summer. On the right the bay curved away towards Maketu another lovely beach, very different from Omanu though. It was stony with rock pools, tiddlers, crabs and seaweed in abundance. It was nice to be able to collect shells from the beach. I was hoping Charlie would walk with me for a while with her bucket to see what we could find.
We each had a bottle of juice or water and drank thirstily, we’d learnt quickly not to let ourselves get dehydrated; the sun here was very different from England, hotter and more intense. Glyn settled back on the blanket closing his eyes. I took the sun lotion spraying it on Charlie’s arms, legs and neck before spraying it on Glyn with a giggle.
“Carol,” he yelped so I sprayed more.
“Can’t have you burning Glyn,” I giggled.
“Wait until I get my own back woman,” he muttered closing his eyes again rolling onto his back. Charlie grabbed the sun lotion spraying her dad on the stomach making him yelp again glaring towards me until he heard Charlie giggle delightedly. “Ragamuffin,” he mumbled deciding to ignore us both.
“Walk with mama, collect shells Charlie?”
“Yes please mama,” she said excitedly picking up her bright green bucket.
“Hold hands now,” I reminded her.
Her small smooth soft hand slipped into mine as we walked toward the Mount looking around for seashells of various colours, shapes and sizes. These moments always made me wish for my camera which I had lost in transit. Charlie tugged me along squealing every time she found a shell she liked. Our collection grew as we walked. After walking for ten minutes we stopped looking back deciding we should return wading through the waves keeping out of the way of the baby jellyfish. Splashing and laughing. Soon Charlie was dragging her feet so I hauled her up into my arms where she quickly fell asleep snuggled into my shoulder. Arriving back at the sandcastle and Glyn I jabbed him with my toe, moaning he opened his eyes.
“Going back to the house Glyn, she’s tired out.”
“Ok love, will be back a bit later,” he smiled.
“Don’t stay out to long, remember your last sunburn.”
“You worry too much Carol, I’ll be fine,”
Sighing I left him to bring back our things. Up over the sand dunes was hard going carrying a toddler, nearly breathless I arrived on the verandah sitting on the swing to catch my breath. I must have nodded off; it was Charlie’s whimper which woke me. Thumb in her mouth she settled again. Rising off the swing with Charlie in my arms I noticed the door was open, glancing back at the beach Glyn was nowhere to be seen. Walking inside I found him slouching on the couch watching rugby on TV a beer in his hand.
“Typical,” I snorted walking past him to Charlie’s room.
“Nice sleep sweetheart,” he said, “you both looked so cute.”
“As always,” I tossed over my shoulder..
“Get her to bed, be nice to have some us time,” he said tenderly, ruining it with a loud belch. Giggling I continued down the hall laying Charlie gently on her bed kissing her brow, wandering back to the lounge I was soon snuggled into Glyn on the couch.
“What are we going to do for Christmas Glyn,” I asked.
“Depends on if you want to try something new or not Carol, we can BBQ and spend the day at the blue lake or have a proper hot roast like in England.”
“Doubt I want to slave over a hot stove on Christmas Day in this heat,” I grouched.
“Didn’t think so,” he laughed kissing me.
“Do we have all the presents organised, are we putting up decorations when we get home?”
“Of course we are silly, we have to show Charlie a good time. We need to visit Santa as well, there’s a good one at Harvey Norman’s from what I’ve heard. I’d love a photo to send back to our parents.”
“Great idea, it will go great with the calendar she did at playgroup.”
“Glyn,” I asked shyly, “Do you think….” I trailed off.
“Do you think we could try for another baby?”
“Really, wow this is sudden,” he grinned.
“Well what do you think?”
“I honestly don’t know. Charlie’s a bit of a handful isn’t she, I wouldn’t want you to get over tired,” he said seriously.
“Maybe a baby would help calm her down, someone to help look after?”
“Possible I suppose. If you’re really serious then I don’t see why not love, I’ve always wanted a houseful anyway,” he grinned.
“Just remember you’ll have your fair share of things to do Glyn,” I laughed contentedly.”
“Thought we were talking about Christmas at the blue lake?” he questioned.
“Oh yeah, sort of lost track then,” I smirked.
“So we start our own new traditions, but what are those traditions going to be in this sweltering heat.”
“It ain’t that hot yet Carol.”
“Feel like I’m melting, how the heck can you celebrate in this heat?”
“It’s called shade and air conditioning.”
“There won’t be any air conditioning at the lake.”
“Maybe we’ll get a nice gentle breeze?” Glyn suggested.
“If there isn’t any breeze you can BBQ on the deck at home.”
“Yes Carol,” he sighed.
“What’s for dinner?”
“You hungry already?” he replied.
“Nope, just wondering since it’s your turn to cook,” I giggled.
“Charming,” he exclaimed. “How about some steak with pasta salad and a glass of crisp white wine,” he suggested.
“Looking forward to it already,” I muttered kissing him.
We missed the thud of little feet on the floor continuing to kiss until a little voice piped up.
“Me kiss too,” breaking apart there in front of us was Charlie with her blankie and thumb in mouth regarding us seriously.
“Come here poppet,” said Glyn picking her up nestling her between us we both kissed a cheek each.
“Have a good sleep Charlie?” I questioned.
“Yes fanks,” she said drowsily.
“Bath time sweetheart, then you can have some dinner.”
“Ok mama,” she said lifting her arms to me. Bringing her onto my lap I stood up turning to Glyn. “You have about thirty minutes to get dinner ready,” we marched off towards the bathroom chatting quietly. I could feel Glyn’s eyes on my backside which made me grin as we shut the door to have some girly time.