Visitors: Not from Outer Space but from the closer kind… family. Whether they were from Heaven or from Hell, I still haven’t decided but I do know that on several occasions I wished they would go back there.
When we had decided to live overseas and leave all our family in the home country, initially everyone was in mourning as a deep sense of loss was felt on both sides. Slowly this gave way to contentment as the family got on with their business of fighting each other and we got on with the business of establishing our life and wondering who is better off.
Then one day, The Dreaded Letter arrives: they’re coming to stay for two whole months! Acute panic sets in as I’m trying to remember all the things I’ve exaggerated about in my letters home. OK, so our orchard only consists of two nashi fruit and two apricot trees, but it would have been an orchard if only the family would’ve decided to come in twenty years’ time. The fact that our grand view of the river can only be seen from the top of our pitched roof is, in my view, a minor detail. But how am I going to explain that our five-bedroom brick double-garage home is in fact a tiny two-bedroom weatherboard with an about-to-collapse carport and that the photos we sent home were those of a prize-winning Home Beautiful house some 9 km out of town? What’s more, where are they going to sleep?
We’ve got one week to renovate, paint, clear and clean. While visions of a Spray & Wipe commercial keep clouding my mind, I begin to realise that there is no way we’ll be able to finish everything before D-Day. What the heck! Let’s eat our words and get on with it! On our way back from the airport, nervously chatting about the weather, I wish to be taken by a time machine and spat out at the other side of the following two months.
My husband gives them the grand tour through our weatherboard, carefully avoiding the areas we hadn’t quite got to fixing/ rebuilding/ expanding. To my stupefied surprise, there is no, ‘how nice!‘, no ‘this looks good‘, no ‘a bit smallish‘, no ‘HOW many trees?‘, no ‘lovely view!‘ There is no reaction whatsoever! The uncomfortable silence is broken by our two children who are just about to start arguing with their newfound cousin. I feel the urge to pick them up and kiss them!
Their first day is spent going through the rites of speaking well of the dead. It is amazing how many people you’ve never known, die when you leave the country. After a while it’s easier to say ‘oh yes, I remember Johnny!’, than to argue you don’t know the person in order to avoid a complete genealogical history of the deceased dating back to the Roman Empire.
In the morning, after a night of cramped and disturbed sleep because our children kept pushing us out of our double bed, we find our brother-in-law in the kitchen cooking a full English breakfast, using the sausages we had intended to use for a barbecue that night. Only too happy that at least someone is making this place his home, we sit down to eat and eat and eat some more as sausage after egg after sausage is being put in front of us. I long for a glass of orange juice, but am too shy to… wait a minute! This is MY home!
A couple of weeks into the visit we are getting a bit more comfortable with each other, however the unavoidable discussion erupts on nationality and patriotism. A dangerous combination, we now know. Since it was of course our ‘fault’ we emigrated from the old country, it is our ‘duty’ to show we are still loyal to her. Showing signs of favouring your adopted country in sports is the worst kind of betrayal possible. My husband and I telepathically agree not to tell them we are now naturalised Australians and actually like watching Aussie Rules!
The children are fighting constantly and we have a nagging suspicion that their newfound older cousin may have three sixes carved in his skull. Unable to publicly expose him, we scold our children instead, hopefully hinting his parents to do the same. To our horror it all backfires when they start lecturing our children instead! 666-in-training sneaks off with a nasty grin on his face and I vow to wipe it off on the first available occasion. Five years of teaching our children not to use words like ‘stupid‘ and ‘hate‘, is undone in just two weeks of careful indoctrination. Helplessly, we stand by and watch our children grow horns on their heads…
We are now getting quite used to sleeping on our sides and learn to get up at five a.m. so as to beat brother-in-law to the kitchen and make buttered toast for everyone.
When it comes to sightseeing we are quite prepared to take our visitors to see the places they wish to see. If only we knew what they were. It is clear they haven’t done their homework before coming to the Arse End of The World and therefore completely rely on us to take them to see it. ‘Anywhere is fine with us’ they say, which is always assured to be a recipe for disaster.
666-in-training hates (now he’s got me doing it as well) long car journeys and makes sure that we now do too. Every 30 seconds we hear ‘how many more minutes?‘ or ‘I’m going to throw up!‘ We show our visitors some of our pretty countryside and pass a number of geographical features, but as we wonder where this annoying noise is coming from, we realise they are all fast asleep and snoring! Better go back home and talk about dead people…
After nearly two months of us putting up with them and undoubtedly them putting up with us, we take our last drive to the airport, where we share a tearful farewell (now I know how movie stars do it) and can’t wait to get back home to run around the house naked and enjoy our river view from our fruit orchard.