Mary K has been central to me feeling part of Wetville. When we moved here almost six years ago, people asked me suspiciously why we'd moved here. They often followed up with "Do you have family here?" At first I said no not really, just some distant relatives. But after an uneasy sense that moving here without family ties could put me in the league of rehoused paedophiles, I started to say, "Yes, I've got cousins here."
I remember the day Mum drove Fionn and I over to Greymouth. Mum filled me in on Mary and Lou, as I could only dimly remember them from large family gatherings, most of them a long time ago. A couple of weeks later, I rang in advance and then called round with Fionn for afternoon tea. It was the beginning of a special relationship. Mary and Lou have lived their entire lives on the coast. The only substantial time Lou was away was during World War Two, and he spend most of that in a Prisone of War camp. The only time Mary has been away is when she has travelled to spend time with extended family. Four years ago Lou died. It took me a long time to adjust to Coast life without Lou's stories to add to whatever news I brought to the kitchen table. He and Fionn used to play with tractors as well as eat Mary's superb Anzac biscuits and peanut brownies. Brighid was only nine months old when Lou died, and it took me a long time to pass on her green trousers he thought suited her last time we visited. I still have the small piece of greenstone he gave me one day, waiting until I turn it into something for Brighid, who was with me when Lou gifted me the pounamu.
Mary was a tower of strength to Lou, and their marriage was one that many have admired. Such love and constant mutual support. I love the story he told me once of being drunk when he met Mary (it's not quite the story she tells!). He then said "I guess it turned out alright." I guess!! Their love was palpable and their commitment tested and found true over many years of ill health and nightmares from the war and of a baby who spent just five days with them before a burial while Mary was still in hospital.
Now it is Mary's turn to get increasingly fragile. We've had the occupational therapist in on several occasions lately and a plan for increased support is in place. I'm trying to visit her as often as possible, even when the visits are short and bit rushed. Her physical health is pretty good, but her memory and confidence with multiple tasks or new things is eroding, almost in front of me.
I don't care about any politician and their tax base stories. While I could be working full time, to be with my kids and also spending time supporting Mary is far more important to me and for my family. I do understand my privilege. If Favourite Handyman was earning $13 per hour on insecure contract work, then I'd be back at work 40+ hours and fitting family work in round the edges.
If we had massive job insecurity and low income and we were living in Auckland or Wellington with lots of dependent family, then we might be burying a child who would have lived in Sweden or the Czech republic, as per the documentary on poverty in New Zealand last night. Given my family's genetic vulnerability to respiratory and skin problems, I am absolutely not being flippant. The money to ensure good food and warm spacious housing is what keeps my kids out of hospital and FH working instead of in bed with buggered lungs and on a benefit. We have to vote for a better future for all of our children this Saturday.
There is a lot of talk about a high wage economy from Labour. I might come back to the issue of what should constitute high wages another time. But toilets still have to be cleaned and tyres changed and supermarkets staffed and we must give dignity to this work in how we pay for it and in the services which we offer to all children to keep them well and full bellied. I'm still thinking about my vote this weekend. I'm unhappy with so many things about the political landscape but not voting is just not an option.
Sewing: slow progress but progress nevertheless. I've made one dress and one bag for one niece. I've cut out and started to sew up a dress for the second niece. I am contemplating a) some adult sized bags for presents and b) making a Colette Crepe out of my church fair curtain fabric after all. Sandra-the-flowery-curtain is a concept I am beginning to embrace.
Home maintenance: that old chestnut. Turns out that repainting the roof will be $600-1000 depending on how damaged the roof is on closer inspection. That's with FH doing the labour. Which tells me a whole lot about how lack of funds to fix a roof is the beginning of a descent for some families into unhealthy housing, as the roof begins to leak and the house gets damp. We'll find a way.
Kitchen: Once upon a time, long ago, there was a woman called Sandra who liked to cook. However, she got caught up in other things, and eventually sausages ruled each day, punctuated by takeaways and the occasional extremely simple foray into fish or chicken.
Books: I'm reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I love it. There was no blog post last night because I wanted to read instead and that's where I'm headed very soon.
Garden: As we are on a hill, we haven't been flooded like much of Wetville this week. Nevertheless, it hasn't quite been gardening weather.
Community: Brighid has had two school visits. She loves it. I love her teacher. She loves her teacher. What's not to like right now?
Community 2: I saw my Salvation Army friend tonight (when I claimed to be going to supermarket to buy broccoli which was a useful excuse for buying more wine) and I've found out more about what they need for the Christmas packages. No tins of fruit!! No tins of tomatoes. But everything else very very useful. I often give the kids a chance to choose three nice things each at the supermarket to give to the collection and then I add the rest.