The Floppy Adolescent is about to start year twelve, and it occurred to us that this summer might be the last school holidays that we have a chance to take a holiday together. The mister has started a new job so doesn’t have any leave accumulated but his office does close for the Christmas-New Year break so we had a decent amount of time if we left the morning after his office closed and stayed until the afternoon before his office opened its doors for 2018. So we decided to return to New Zealand.

The mister and I lived there from late 1992 until 1997, and we always intended to go back but apart from a quick trip not long after that for a friend’s wedding it’s been nearly twenty years since we were last there.

It was a bit of a last minute decision and I was pretty frantic in the lead-up to Christmas so I didn’t do too much in the way of preparation except book the plane (there’s a direct flight from Adelaide to Auckland again now and we managed to get some pretty cheap tickets, although on our flight home our inflight entertainment did not even include the movies) and a campervan for ten days in the South Island. This campervan thing was something I’d always wanted to do so it seemed like the perfect holiday for what is potentially our final family trip (and you might think that a campervan is one way of ensuring that yes, it is the final family trip and we will never holiday together again, but more on that later).

I’ve always been a bit surprised that I haven’t ended up back in New Zealand. I loved living there. The landscape was wonderful, and we camped and tramped a lot. Like really a lot. I felt like I really got the sense of humour. And living in Auckland we had great jobs with many opportunities that we could never get in Adelaide.

But that’s where we were living when my mum died, and somehow I always felt that if I didn’t come home, back to where she wasn’t anymore I would never truly come to terms with her death. I felt like I needed to touch her absence more strongly and more often than I did (or could) from Auckland.

It’s funny you know, what your body knows before your mind, because for the week before we left I started getting slower. My body was sluggish. At the gym I went to pilates instead of spin, and in the evenings when I would usually pace my way along the esplanade I ambled. I slept. I went to bed early and I got up late, and I had been asleep the whole time but I was not rested. I kept scanning my body for a virus. A ticklish throat, an aching ear? But there was no sign of illness that I recognised.

And then, a few days before Christmas, we got on the plane and as we pulled away from the gate I began to cry. Truly cry, like I haven’t cried for years. And that’s when I understood what was going on. New Zealand was the last place I saw my mum. Twenty four years, half my lifetime, spent making an intimate study of grief and it seems there is still so much to learn.