How tremendous it seemed to my child self. The daytime world. How I longed to be a part of it. From the moment I turned 5 I began hatching plans that would make my mother keep me home from school. Keep me home so I might nest in a heap of cushions on the lounge floor, lunch on chippiesnana sandwiches (don't ask!), and surreptitiously watch Days of Our Lives. As far as I could tell, every subtlety of that secret, domestic realm was caught up in those grains of sand, running so seductively through that cyclopean hourglass.
Pre-children I danced with office life, with going forward PowerPoint presentations and Thank God It's Friday drinks, with queuing, leftovers in hand, for the microwave and morning teas put on by HR, but even as I twirled on my swivel chair, even as I sat in brainstorming sessions, I was dreaming up ways I could legitimately get back there, to that mysterious daytime world. Maternity leave appeared to answer my call. And while two stints at home with babies and small children cured me of the illusion there was anything remotely glamorous about it, any time to sit around watching soap operas, it opened the door to an alternative. To a milder reality, a quieter pace, existing alongside the rat race, yet almost invisible. In-between and post-children I returned to the office, worried that to do otherwise would be tantamount to giving up, would prematurely narrow my horizons. But several years ago I took the plunge: to work from home, to spend five days of the week, six hours of the day, mostly alone, and I have come to love the people whose paths I daily, briefly, cross, to treasure the sedate rhythms of this stay-at-home life.
It is a world of women (not exclusively, however the men are few and far between), of dog walkers, students, and retirees. I value the small, seemingly inconsequential relationships I have nurtured. (Something my husband with his business networks and phone ringing hot doesn't always appreciate, and I am surprised by how hurt I am when he is dismissive of what they mean to me.) The courier who knows me by name, the elderly derelict man in the park who steadfastly refuses to acknowledge me and yet will pat my dog, whose health I worry for with his breakfasts of potato chips and cheap liquor. I am fascinated by the couple who walk, rain or shine, but are never quite together, he always slightly ahead, she trailing behind. Sometimes there are interruptions, welcome or not. A police helicopter circling low, a Jehovah's Witness on my doorstep, a charity I once donated to, ringing to ask how I am, taking their sweet, sweet time to get to the point of their call. I try not to be that person who pays too much attention when the neighbour is having work done or who notices when a car with a new cleaning company's insignia is parked out front, but it's hard not to when you know a place so intimately. It annoys me when those with outwardly busier lives, whose work keeps them away most of the hours in a day, assume I am forever at leisure, that I can chat at any given moment. But then I pity them when I try to book in someone to look at my dishwasher and they can give me a time no more precise than 8am-12pm.
Today my children were grouchy and tired after a big weekend. Can we stay home, they pleaded. No way, I said, thinking of my mother and how closely she, too, had once guarded this precious daytime world.
Last week I wrote of my family's trip south to meet my husband's long-lost hapu. Meg has recently returned home after a very long absence. She writes: "The progress made on Maori/Pakeha relations is the most gratifying change I have witnessed. Most other changes are not encouraging, sadly. I would love Te Reo to be compulsory at primary school… deeper understanding, deeper connection, deeper belonging: that is what all human beings need. Our Western culture is so impoverished in this regard. Working together to create community based on our joint perceptions of the world and giving equal value to both so we choose the best way offers hope for our future."