In the dark we stand, looking back down the track to her great grandpop's house. 4 generations dined there this eve, celebrating 85 years, a lucky man, a skillful shot, a dogged survivor. We are all grateful he saw off Kokoda and Borneo. That he married a fine lady, whose nickname became Bear's middle name, and built a family on a fine piece of dirt.
We stand on that dirt, in the dark, the voices of the others fading as they enter the other house behind us. I hold Bear close, she works a piece of my neck between her right fingers, holds my upper arm with her other hand. It is so dark, dark like it never gets in the city. But I can see her wide-open eyes in the starlight.
"Those are stars. Twinkle twinkle indeed, the real thing" I tell her. She takes in everything, silent, amazed.
Much is pitch black, but the outline of the tops of the trees can be made out. Above them, the rich spray of unfamiliar stars. Down the track opposite great grandpop's there's a weak reflection from the water of a small dam. In other directions are hills, precursors to the Snowys, and in closer the vines; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc all have their genesis on this land. Like the trees, they can be made out in places, but as black-on-black adjustments to texture and shape.
No cars, voices, music or humming appliances. No bogans shouting at each other randomly. You realise how penetrating the background noise of the city is when you get out this far. Here the frogs and crickets are a different medium altogether, as loud on the ears, maybe, but softer on the soul.
We stand for several minutes. A normally fickle and restless Bear remains fascinated, her eyes still wide, her breathing even and slow. I am in awe too, of the place, the dark, the quiet. And of the little ball of wonder in my arms, this tiny girl who puts such faith and trust in me, to be sitting so calmly in this alien darkness.
I kiss her head. She has coined a new word on this trip; "nang-nang." Nang-nang, her Uncle (beloved's sister's beloved) has deduced, means infinity- everything entirely, expressed as an equation of nang.
I am a grumpy old man in some respects, have been since about the age of 7. But standing there in the dark I realise that Bear's capacity to make me completely happy, content and at peace with the world, just by being herself, is nang-nang.
Summer holidays - Wow. Those summer holidays went by in a flash. Six weeks in the company of these gorgeous, challenging munchkins. I must admit I was (rightfully) a little ...
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