It is morning in January. The old, peeling, wooden house joins the chorus of the birds; tui, bellbird, kea, robin, tomtit, fantail and rifleman. The ground’s breath rises, twisting between the seat-high grass, as the bright sun chases away tints of pink and orange. Mountain beech, manuka and tutu peer down the mountain, watching the water weave its way to the Waimak, gurgling softly.
And yet all is quiet.
The house struggles to remember the days of old; of seeing over the trees down into the Waimak, of the parents bush-bashing their own way up from the river, just as the kids do now. Dark, decaying pieces of old logs lay littered below the thick trees, fraying, snapped bind-de-twine holding up years of effort left to ruin. Potions are left unbrewed, their ingredients now scattered across the once-organised platforms.
And it is still quiet.
The rattle of the sliding doors harshly interrupts the quiet forest song. Jay trots out, overly long toenails clicking on the scratched wooden floor. The grandparents are awake.
Bacon wafts up to the attic - where the children are reading by torchlight, so as not to use the limited power provided by the solar panels - summoning them down the rickety ladder. Breakfast is served on a mix-match of plates, some big some small, some yellow, some yellow, some round some square, collected over the years. Kids are cramped around the end of the table or curled up on the fraying armchairs - no longer are there arguments over who gets to sit on the bench at the head of the table; it’s left bare. The house is alive.
Multiple board games (Othello, Monopoly) are stacked in the corner – some gifted to the house by others who come, others brought by the kids – along with many packets of cards, most missing at least one card. The overly competitive children fight to win every game as though it were the Olympics – cheat, president, rummy, canasta, speed, the list goes on and on.
Sun cream, sandfly repellent mixes with the leftover smells of lunch, the children with their togs on; waiting by the door like sprinters waiting for the gun-start. The door opens. They take off, twisting down the beach-leaf-lined trails, known so well they could run it with their eyes closed.
The parents bring down their phones, still on their only charge from home, and stand on one leg, fingers crossed, tongue out, for their daily 5 min check of messages.
The house anticipates their activities over the week – building dams down at the stream, marching up to Top Hut, wandering up to Punch Bowl Falls and swimming in the pools on the way down, bush-bashing our way along the once-a-trail to the pub – as they have done for a generation, and dreads the inevitable arguments – over who gets to sleep where or who won the last game of speed.
The smell of jiff, of window cleaner permeates throughout the air, and the house knows their time is almost up. The family gather outside by the BBQ for a last meal, steak and garlic bread, potatoes and peas, grandparents, parents, children. [something songs (old/folk etc) rings out/like a choir does] rings out, accompanied by the grandmother on the ukulele and an uncle on the harmonica, filling the air with joy and love.
Everyone runs around like chickens without heads, stuffing the cars back full of chilli bins, suitcases, stacks of 2L coke bottles and 3L juice bottles previously filled with drinking water but now empty, leaving just enough room for them to sit.
The house breathes a sigh of relief as the string of 4 cars reverse out the long driveway. Finally, it is quiet.
And yet, a couple of hours later, it longs once again for the sound of memories being made.