I feel absolutely amazing. It’s been a long time since I could say that. What’s my secret? Well, spending a week in my husband’s family beach house in the Eastern Cape had a lot to do with it.
The house sits square in the middle of two rivers, both of which had opened to the sea, and its views are pretty much 180 degrees of ocean. It’s a stone’s throw to the beach at low tide, and a stride through the rivers to the sea at high tide.
We’ve spent at least one holiday every year for the past eight or nine years in this house, but this week has to be the best one ever. Lil A, Dyl and I were the only people in the house for a change and even though we obviously missed the vibeyness and bustle that the rest of the family bring to the place, it was really nice to have some alone-time. Compared to December, the whole little suburb that the house is in was eerily quiet – or, rather, blissfully peaceful.
Cell reception is limited there, and we didn’t connect to the internet at all while we were there. We didn’t even take a laptop with us. We didn’t switch the TV on until our second-last day (there was cricket or rugby or something on, apparently), and even our iPod stayed off – because it had gone flat, to be honest, but still. So without any other people around, without any communications or entertainment tech to distract us, and with dawn after dawn of warm, still, sunny weather, this was more or less the shape of our days:
- 6am-ish – Lil A wakes up.
- 6am-7am-ish – Lil A lies in bed with us in the dark and says things like “Daddy’s sleeping” [pokes him in the face and waits for him to react]; “Light’s broken” [when I say I’m not turning the light on]; “Birdies sleeping” [when she realises she can’t hear anything outside]; “Mommy’s a good boy” [strokes my face and talks to me the way we talk to the dogs]; “Mommy, kiss better!” [kisses me on the cheek]; “I love me, I love me, big hug, kiss to you” [her version of the Barney song]; “Ava’s cheeks, Daddy’s cheeks, Mommy’s cheeks” [poke, poke, poke]; “Daddy’s sore”; “Daddy’s okay”; “It’s okay, Daddy, it’s okay” [until Daddy gives up on sleeping and takes her upstairs for ‘pottage’ ie porridge].
- 7am-9am-ish – Dyl and Lil A go down to the river on the west side for the first swim and splash of the day while I sleep, because some people are morning people and some just aren’t, even on holiday – or especially on holiday.
- 9am-11am-ish – Dyl and Lil A have second breakfast, I have first breakfast, Lil A helps me to load the dishwasher and sweep the floor while Dyl reads.
- 11am-1pm-ish – We all head down to the west river and the beach, swimming, tanning, splashing and mucking about to our hearts’ content (until Lil A starts asking for “pasta” ie lunch).
- 1pm-ish – Give Lil A her “pasta” and then put her down to nap, Dyl and I each find a comfortable spot on a rocking chair or sun-lounger or couch or bed and snooze (daytime naps have not happened for us for about two years, really, so this was a real treat).
- 3.30pm-ish – Lil A wakes up, we put her back in her cossie that’s been drying in the sun, or her lumo yellow boardies, pack a couple of beers for ourselves and make our way down to the river on the east side for sunset. While Lil A paddles in the lagoon and runs up the dunes whenever a little wave comes along, we watch the same little family paddle across to us in their red canoe and settle in to fish in the late afternoon sunlight. They never catch anything, the little boy chats non-stop and the dad stands so still and patient with an indulgent smile and a floppy hat. I want to tell them they make a beautiful picture, but I don’t want to disturb them.
- 5.30pm-7pm-ish – Go back to the house when the sun has dropped behind the hill, wrap up warmly, do the whole evening routine for a happily exhausted Lil A – bath, supper, book, bed.
- 7pm-10pm-ish – Dyl and I lie on sun loungers on the deck with a fire crackling next to us, no other light and no other sound, looking up at more stars than I’ve ever seen at once, talking about meteors and space and the future and other otherworldly intangible things.
These are the sorts of days you live for. They’re the ones that remind you that the way you spend your life is the way you spend your days, and of why and how you fell in love, and that it’s the very simple things, like water and sunlight and a cheerful child, that make you happiest.