leah mc­fall

This sea­son is catch­ing. I’m nod­ding, I’m smil­ing. It feels like this pale sunshine is warm­ing ev­ery one of my frozen cells.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Ospring! You bring Welling­ton to a sparkle. Only this morn­ing I wiped pollen from the car, and later saw a woman in a spotty blouse walk­ing a spot­ted dog.

Then – and what a gift this was! – I drove past an open truck. A re­moval guy was sit­ting in the back among the fur­ni­ture, strum­ming some­one’s gui­tar.

I can’t help it: I’m jaunty. This city, this sea­son, is catch­ing. I’m a daf­fodil with­out the yel­low ruff. I’m nod­ding, I’m smil­ing. I’m pos­si­bly per­i­menopausal, but it feels like this pale sunshine is warm­ing ev­ery one of my frozen cells.

I’m not the only one. This morn­ing I drove to a sub­ur­ban su­per­mar­ket for the dull weekly shop. It was in a hub­bub. Af­ter weeks of ham­mer­ing, its ren­o­va­tions were com­plete and there was some­thing of a strip-lit, mid-morn­ing party going on.

“Can I of­fer you a map?” asked a friendly woman in a branded apron as I ar­rived. What a help it was! EN­TRANCE, said the map, of the spot where I was stand­ing. An ap­ple icon de­noted Pro­duce, a fish sig­ni­fied Seafood and, rather alarm­ingly, a tur­tle seemed to in­di­cate the Deli. I’d now find sugar and nuts in the Per­sonal Care aisle, and toi­let pa­per ad­ja­cent to Dairy. It made no sense, but why not mix things up? A lit­tle change never hurt anyone. Some­body, I de­cided, was as lit about spring as I was.

“We have a thou­sand new lines now,” an­other staffer told me. There were lit­tle stands ev­ery­where, of­fer­ing shop­pers cof­fee, pa­per cups of soup, and crack­ers with pate. It was a re­lief to stop, sip some­thing and ad­mire how a fa­mil­iar room could look so dif­fer­ent, re­ar­ranged.

Still, it must have over­whelmed me be­cause I left a whole bag of shop­ping be­hind. I re­alised when I got home, rum­mag­ing for the one with the wine in it. My five o’clock would amount to noth­ing that evening, merely an­other tick of the clock, with­out a glass of wine to look for­ward to. I rang the store af­ter dig­ging the re­ceipt out of the pedal bin. “I left be­hind some chardon­nay,” I said, panic ris­ing in my voice. I won­dered if she thought I might have a drink­ing prob­lem. She told me to bring the re­ceipt in. So, later, I did.

“I don’t re­mem­ber the brand,” I ad­mit­ted to the store man­ager, as she ex­am­ined it for my pur­chases and then in­di­cated they did have it; they’d held it be­hind the counter. She gave me the bag. How funny! I’d for­got­ten the caster sugar and shav­ing gel as well.

“Oh! It was only the wine that I no­ticed was miss­ing,” I ad­mit­ted.

“Pri­or­i­ties!” she replied, twin­kling.

Was it just me, or was ev­ery­one ec­static? The pro­fun­dity of ev­ery­thing just kept re­veal­ing it­self. I paused to give way to a dig­ger driver and he gave me such a look – of ac­knowl­edge­ment and ap­pre­ci­a­tion – that I felt a twist of en­ergy, like his hu­man­ity was touch­ing mine.

Later, col­lect­ing my daugh­ter from school, I watched her clam­ber­ing on the mon­key bars. She’d soon be 6. She’d be­come all legs and arms, like all the other 6-year-olds, busy swing­ing away from their early child­hoods to­wards ad­ven­ture. Does spring force you to no­tice these things? Is that what spring is ac­tu­ally for?

I’m telling you, I’m not the only one. “New begin­nings,” mur­mured our es­tate agent, as she marked our auc­tion for the first of the month.

When you think about it, a re­al­tor is part hus­tler, part ther­a­pist. Think of all the split­ting cou­ples sell­ing houses, bit­ter about their bro­ken dreams, want­ing the best pos­si­ble price so they can box up their crap and get on with their lives? Or new­ly­weds buy­ing a house, imag­in­ing a baby? Or an el­derly cou­ple, say­ing good­bye to their Axmin­ster car­pets, whose next step is the re­tire­ment vil­lage? An agent wit­nesses all this.

“Pull this, George,” says my mum, clos­ing his small fist around green bris­tle in her gar­den. He pulls. “See? It’s a car­rot,” she says, and he con­sid­ers this for a mo­ment. “Smell this, George,” I say, and lean a clutch of white flow­ers to­wards his nose. Terns wheel in the sky over the es­tu­ary, and seven cygnets glide across the pond.

I’m not sure I can han­dle too much more of this, so I go to Ez­ibuy to calm down. “Can I help you?” asks a staff mem­ber, in the sing-song Ge­ordie ac­cent of my child­hood. I ask her to price an item, sim­ply to keep her talk­ing, and think about my grand­mother. I re­mem­ber her van­ished kitchen, dim and friendly, and its jam tarts and pick­ling jars. “Our Leah,” she used to say, ladling sugar into my mug of tea. “Eee, our Leah.”

The clock ticks an­other minute, and I hear it.

Why not mix things up? A lit­tle change never hurt anyone. Some­body, I de­cided, was as lit about spring as I was.

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