It was 27C today and the warm haze that hung over the Jura mountains reminded me of a hot January in Adelaide until turning the other direction showed the jagged, snow-covered pyramid of Mont Blanc looming over the lake.
Milly scampered like a puppy through the overgrown grass and weeds at the top of Parc de Trembley and deigned to acknowledge her ardent suitor, Marlowe, as he ran ahead of her, conveniently flattening the greenery so that it would not flick in his girlfriend’s face.
Sapphire decided to have one more day of rest at home after spending the week recovering from what the doctor thinks was gastro. Echoes of the run-around, worry, expense and time away from school and friends that she endured last year hung unspoken in the air but for it to occur without warning the morning after I made a slap dash stir fry from frozen prawns was surely no coincidence.
With instructions to check her temperature three times a day – via the armpit and the arse – the first few attempts ended up with us both doubled up with laughter in her retro bathroom.
The next few found that the electronic thermometer mysteriously switched itself off whilst ensconced in that oh so soft and special place and we laughed again at how we’d wasted five minutes of stilted conversation in an effort to forget about what was placed where and how it’d have to be done again.
Despite these indignities, all signs have been pointing to normal and plans are afoot to resume intake of sweet foods and rice as well as a triumphant return to school tomorrow.
This was part of the news I shared with my best friend who was talking to me from Australia. In different hemispheres, seasons and time zones, we sat in our respective living rooms and talked of our children, her husband’s brand new PhD, Christmas 2012 and the latest series of Survivor. The warmth and humour of her voice flowed through the ear piece as I slurped my coffee; for the thousandth time thankful for the free calls to Oz that Love Chunks had negotiated.
Dog fed and humans freshly showered, it was time for the Day of Rest to start. However it was no surprise that Sapphire wasn’t overly keen on joining her father and myself as we ventured across the border into Divonne les Bains, France for a fresh oyster and crab platter shared with some lovely English friends. Standing under a hot tent ripe with fish-pong was not her first choice of ways to spend the afternoon.
“I’ve got homework to do,” she said, hugging me even tighter than usual. “And because you and Dad found me that wireless speaker yesterday I might even dance while no-one’s at home.”
“Go for it kiddo,” I said, reaching for the keys. Pointing my finger at Milly, who sat with her tail wagging slowly, having figured out that she was not accompanying us, I said, “And you need to be a good dog and look after Sapphire for us, okay?”
“Geez Mum do you have to say that every time.... It wasn’t that funny the first time....”
At Divonne we found a car park in surprisingly quick time as the locals seemed keener on getting in the lake for a swim than scouring the markets for late specials on prosciutto and goat cheese.
Gianna knew what to ask for. The rest of us stood back as the Italian-raised, French-speaking Londoner spoke fluently enough that the stall holder came over later for more conversation. Two huge steel platters of Brittany oysters, Spanish crab legs and prawns on shaved ice arrived, all to be washed down with humble bottles of icy cold white wine.
We stood at a water and prawn-juice-sticky table right next to the gushing stream, brushed occasionally by other punters strolling past with their own platters, enjoying the sunshine. Today was the day I was finally converted to peeling a King Prawn and savouring the fruits of my labours. Friends, food, weather and location all equated to perfection.
Walking back to our cars, the greengrocer was packing up for the day and keen to offload her crate of plum-sized cherries. She filled our brown paper bags to bursting and then shoved more into our hands. “Take them,” she urged.
Hearing my Aussie drawl she said, “We sell Australian cherries at Christmas time but they are not ..... erm they are not so big and are not so sweet.”
How could they be, as recently-introduced interlopers in a country not designed to grow them? We shook her hand and thanked her for our generous load. Nearby, the patissier was also preparing to clean out his display case and both a lemon meringue and a caramel chocolate tarte found their way into another brown paper bag.
We farewelled our friends and, climbing into our hot car, LC and I remarked on our luck in meeting them; a chance thing when we were both out walking our dogs one morning last August.
When we got home, Milly was at the door with her tail wagging madly and Sapphire was in the middle of making her own lateish lunch. We hugged again and talked of a few new holiday ideas for the upcoming Summer break that LC and I had been discussing during the drive home. “Oooh yes, that sounds great,” was the response as she bounced on tippy toes. Thirteen year olds don’t allow themselves to consciously bounce on tippy toes unless it’s something really, really uncontrollably good.
I grabbed her again for another hug. She lingered too, understanding why I was extra clingy today.
My best friend had rung me this morning to share news other than reality TV updates and Christmas plans. An eighteen year old son is in hospital, fighting for his life.
How do I show my sorrow and horror and sympathy for a family so far away? My clumsy but immediate response was to simply enjoy every single moment of today which might seem rather ironic or even disrespectful coming from someone who wasn’t so sure she wanted to continue herself a few years back. She sure as hell does now though, and is happy to admit that she often busts a gut trying.
There’s no sense to be made or answer to be gained from why this is happening to an eighteen year old, none at all. Just bite every cherry and breathe in every hug.