Tahunanui

I wrote this story for a competition, it wasn’t placed which means I can now share it with you. 🙂

There are sandcastles being built here under the instructions of a stern blonde four year old and a solemn, two year old perfectionist. I look up from our work to watch as a giant black and tan sea beast pounds up the wet sand towards me. Her jowls flinging saliva and sea foam. My husband laughs as she gallops by at full speed, the stick he threw into a choppy ocean all but forgotten in her unbridled joy.

Her paws are too big for her, she’s only a year old and already weighs 60kgs. Bum wiggling excitedly as she leans her weight against me and drops her tailless wet rump into my lap. “Be careful Mabel!” My oldest daughter scolds. “You’ll break the castle!” My youngest girl breaks one apart with her plastic spade, a sly grin on her cheeky round face as her sister turns to shout at her.

Pushing the wet dog out of my lap, she races back down the beach like a battering ram. Terrifyingly huge and as gentle as a lamb, while my husband calls her name and races her back towards greengrey waves, rolling in and sliding down wet banks of ochre sand.

I’m reminded of our youth. Desperate to catch one another’s attention, singing and laughing as waves break over a darkened beach. He’s showing off for me, doing handstands, holding himself up, falling down again. By the time we’re ready to go home, his mother’s car keys are lost in the sand. We spend hours searching on hands and knees before a chagrined walk home to explain what happened to my future mother in law.

He’s running through the waves now with a giant puppy hot on his heels. Keys are firmly entrenched in my bag, and not his shorts.

Where have the sand dunes gone, I wonder? The beach is eroding. I remember running through them as a child, sharp dry grasses stabbing bare feet, leaping from dune to dune. Stopping as I spy a nest, three blue eggs abandoned within. We take them carefully into our hands and home to nurse the babies inside. They will never hatch, and the stench when they crack open will remain with us forever.

I look back at my own babies, our hands buried deep in wet sand moats. Perfect bucket-made sandcastles make our kingdom. The little one is solemn again, her greenblue eyes wide and earnest, drinking in every word her sister says. Only speaking herself when she knows the words are right.

Their father is wrestling with our Mabel over the entire bough of a fallen tree. She is never as happy as she is here. I understand completely. On the long the trek from Christchurch she sits between my feet, looking up at me with patient eyes.

I remember these moments as I take that walk back down the beach of my childhood, releasing handfuls of her ashes as I go. My daughters are tall, beautiful teenagers now. My husband walks a little ahead of us, we are silent. As the water laps our toes, we take handfuls of our beloved girl and release her into the ocean. Freeing her to the wind, the sand, the sea she loved.

Her last walk, and a quiet, sad return for us back to the car. This beach holds all my best memories, and on the trip back to Christchurch, I can see her again as she runs back from the water to drop her heavy wet doggy weight into my lap so she can lick my face, and tell me she too, loves my beach.

11 October 2012

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