On February 16 I left Chennai on an airplane for Sydney and a happy ten days with the Rivers family. It was my second visit. I went up in a balloon with Nic, enabling me to cross that particular adventure off my bucket list, and I had a date with Kristina in the city to see the video of a race around Ireland, featuring a friend of hers. It was in a small theater with large bed sized reclined seats, very poshy, and was followed by an excellent Indian buffet. I most enjoyed listening in on the cycling conversation, and sitting on the open terrace in the gathering dusk with Kristina.
But most of the time our almost daily excursions included the whole family, two pint-sized bikes, a double pram, and a destination like the ocean, or a cafe by the beach, or the ferry ride into Sydney. Sometimes we wheeled the pram right onto a bus but a lot of the time we walked, and while we walked the girls rode their bikes.
Ele is passionate about her little pink bike which she powers with her feet and rides whenever and wherever she can. She’ll ride it on the porch but prefers the sidewalk where she can propel it, hell-bent for leather, all the way down to the intersection.
Indi remains a book devotee, and although she is too young to read she can tell the contents of most of her books. Wherever she goes she takes some books, and, of course, Gorilla, unobtrusively tucked under one arm. The books are piled up around her bed, in the pram, or wherever else she is.
Almost daily we go on excursions. As soon as Eleanor gets wind of any move toward “out” she is on the move. The little pink three wheeled push bike is hauled out of the shed and she is scooting around the porch, under the laundry, over the shoes, down towards the alley to the road. The six armed goddess in charge of this menagerie grabs Eleanor with one arm to put on her pink bike helmet, whisks Indi’s larger balance bike (a pedal bike will soon replace this early mobile) out of the shed, gets a sun hat and a helmet on Indi, and stuffs essential supplies into the pram: water bottles, a diversionary apple or pear, and, of course, books.
Indi and I are wandering around an outdoor patio and garden at an upscale restaurant in Sydney when we come upon a fountain in a simulated well. There is a brick wall around the fountain about two feet high with a moat inside where people have thrown coins, “wishing for something else”.* Indi tries unsuccessfully to climb up on the little wall – both girls climb up any inviting wall, ladder, chair or person whenever possible – and then tries to stand on the floor and lean over into the moat to pick up coins, but she can’t reach the water.
“I don’t think you can reach the water without falling in.” I say.
“Yes, I can”, she says with the absolute certainty of three years old, and continues to try.
Again I say calmly and patiently, “I don’t think you can reach the water without falling in.”
But she is adamant, “Yes, I can.”
I repeat myself again, and she retorts, “Yes, I can. I can reach the water in my i-mag-in-a-tion”, enunciating each syllable distinctly. I concede defeat.
Nic is making breakfast for us, Indi on the highest stool and me beside her. Nic says, “When I was young, like you, Indi, my favorite breakfast was poached eggs on vegemite toast. Would you like a poached egg on vegemite toast, Indi? Indi considers this new information seriously, and then, ignoring the question, says, “Were you once a little girl, Dada?
The girls are finally asleep. We sit on the porch in the growing dusk to eat a mixed green salad and vegan sausages of polenta with spices and a delicious crispy golden skin. The conversation wanders around events of the day, and thoughts inspired by the book they have given to me, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, thoughts which always also seem, by association, to include accounts of racing or cycling or the virtues of some kinds of food over others before getting back on track with definitions of happiness or the surprises which come with increased awareness of almost anything. The light changes from pale to dark and then brightens newly with the rising moon, and a candle Kristina has lit. The plates are cleared, the wine glasses refilled, and mysteriously, in the deepening darkness, a bar of rich dark chocolate appears. The last of the cockatoos and other bird voices have disappeared and, enclosed by green shrubbery, head high, we watch the moon in the silent night sky, sailing over roof tops, trailing small pricks of starlight, and igniting another debate about the differences between my North American moon, the moons of Auroville, and of Freshwater, Australia. Nic has figures, Kristina has observations, I have memories. We begin to get silly. Time for bed. End of Day 9 for me with the Rivers family.
Until Next Year!