I am a total coffee snob, I always have been. I was one of those precocious children obsessed with hot chocolates, looking forward to weening myself onto mocha’s one day – and eventually my target goal – a flat white, my mother’s coffee of choice. I left so many little notes across Auckland at random cafes and eateries, I would give the hot chocolate a star rating, I would thank the waitress for kind service and they always started with something cute like ‘from the girl in the blue beret’ or ‘9 year old hot chocolate critic thanks you for a great afternoon tea.’ Nerd. Complete, coffee snob nerd. It’s no wonder that I now have two delicious little brothers, 8 and 10, who can reel off a dozen go-to cafes in Auckland, the best yum char, the worst dumplings, where to get an authentic Italian pizza – and yes – the best places for the best hot chocolates. After hearing their angelic little voices this morning, and I have to really enjoy these moments before they turn into teenagers and grunt for a decade – I got a sudden pang in my chest, thinking about all the ways I am a lost without them – and how strange the grown-up world is, without children around to give it some light and dynamic.
Traveling without my brothers has been a bit like losing a sense or two. If I see someone picking their nose in public I have no musketeer to turn around to and giggle into my fists. If I experience bad customer service, or a rude man rushes past me on the street and knocks my bag off my arm, there is no little ninja to shriek ‘Oi!’ with meaning. I wander into lego shops and watch the trailers for upcoming animation movies, remembering that world of immense joy – in the shape of everyday discoveries. On one magic walk with my brothers in Auckland, we came across a light blue unidentified object – so of course it wasn’t plastic but a new kind of jewel. We have spent long afternoons looking for fairies, eating brownies in local cafes, scootering and complaining about school, going over homework and agreeing it would be a lot more fun if the teacher printed the worksheets in full colour.
A world without my brothers is full of tax, leering men, job hunting, and yes – dinner parties, parties full stop, catching up with friends, keeping on keeping on, and every shade of what we have decided ‘independence’ to be. It is a quiet world with too much space, every room is so large without an astronaut pinging around inside of it looking for life, no one chiming on for the upteenth time about – how much they feel like going to Barilla Dumplings – how we should fire up some prawns for a snack – the adult world is a blank canvas. I can see the peace of the place, and why so many grown-ups have opted to stay that way, and not decorate their homes with mini versions of themselves. Of course, anyone who has children in their lives – learns in time – that children are not the reflections of their parents, but unrepeatable beams of light – little souls that give the world its reason, its character and its incentive to continue.
Whether we choose to claim the truth of our purpose as adults to develop the environment, commerce, education and opportunities for future generations – it is an unescapable truth. My brothers are both the most incredible people I have ever met, and one day they will both come to Europe on their own, to travel and scale themselves against the big wild world – and having known I was here it will be strange, yet familiar. When they feel scared, and alone, I’ll be able to tell them how scared and alone I was too. When they ring me with a broken heart, I’ll be able to share in their pain – and draw them a map out of the labyrinth of grief, and how many wrong passages I took to eventually get out. We cannot save ourselves from our own humanity, as advanced as we are, apparently, the more we allow ourselves to feel – and challenge – the more wisdom we will have – not just to pass on – but to bridge the great distance between our lives – and the lives of our young.