Farewell, Ahipara

We celebrated Thanksgiving a week early and roasted a 12-pound turkey for three people just to have lots and lots of stuffing. My stuffing recipe is an age-old one from my mother, something she improvised with butter and toasted bread. Over the years, I  tweaked it, adding onion and mushroom.  A basic recipe that still causes fights for the leftovers.

I think of my parents often at Thanksgiving, a holiday we came to share out of necessity. They downsized in the early 90s to a condo, and my house was large and within driving distance. The dinner grew each year and was usually more than 20 people. Initially, my mom struggled with no longer hosting the family. I would feign a lack of memory about “stuffing protocol” and the special Jello preparation, and she enjoyed showing me how to do it once again. Over time, we graduated to her standing by my side, giving me her approval. In the last few years, I found her fast asleep in the comfy chair when it was time to stuff the bird.

This year, Carrie and I stuffed the bird together, checking in with each other as to how we each “attacked” the finer points of stuffing, and the torch was passed. 

What a strange Thanksgiving. I stared at the beach and the waves, knowing full well we were leaving this lovely beach home in another two days. Usually, November is cold and rainy with a promise of snow. Instead, we ate our meal in the sunshine out on a deck, listening to the ocean and watching the bush pheasants glide across the high seagrass.

Walking the beach for the final time, I met a 72-year-old grandmother, out with her grandchildren. The strong wind had a chill to it, but that didn’t stop the kids from swimming naked. She chatted with me for a while, as Kiwis are so willing to do. She had only just returned from a few months in Scotland, biking the countryside and camping by herself. No mention of her husband, so I’m assuming she is now on her own. 

Her biking recommendation: the route from Paris to Prague, having biked the course herself, alone. “But only do 50 klicks a day,” she suggested. “No need to kill yourself.” When I asked about equipment, she packs her bike and ships it to her destination. She was adamant about avoiding a rental bike seat. She saves money because she camps and stays at hostels. We talked for some time about the different countries she had biked, and her next destination- Norway! As her grandchildren raced back to her house, she shouted website suggestions to me over her shoulder. I was sorry to be just meeting her as we were leaving.

The hospital staff gave John a beautiful send-off, and we spent our last week saying goodbye to the friends we made. Carrie helped us pack up the house, and I cried all the way down Ahipara Road as we left. 

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