Day 2: The Boat Ride

By Mary Beth

“Are we still on the driveway?” Annie asked as they drove from their new little home, early in the morning. She had woken up even earlier, much earlier, and so had Cora.

“Yes, we are,” said Mommy. “It’s a long driveway.”


“So the house could be far from the road.”

Annie considered this for a moment.

“Are we on the driveway now?” she asked as the car bumped along the dirt road.


“Why are we still on the driveway?” she asked.

“It’s very long.”

She paused another moment. “Now are we on the road?”

“No,” said her father.

Daddy had to slow way down for a duck, which was wandering around the road, oblivious to its danger, and came within a foot of another car which did not slow down for it.

“That duck is a wandering around the road like an idiot!” said Mommy.

“That’s because there are no sidewalks!” Annie cried defensively. “There are no sidewalks in this town!”

Mommy had to admit she was right. They all agreed that someone should build some sidewalks, so the ducks would have a place to walk.

“Annie, what animals do you think you’ll see on the boat today? What are you hoping to see?” Daddy asked her.

Annie thought for about half a second. “A giraffe!” she answered, her whole face lighting up with excitement at the prospect. She couldn’t wait to see the giraffe!

“Remember, we’re going on a boat,” Mommy pointed out. “We’re probably more likely to see animals that live in the water.”

“A whale! And fish!”

“Is there any animal you don’t want to see?” Daddy asked.

Annie thought for quite awhile about this one. “Crabs,” she said eventually, definitively. “I do not want to see a crab because crabs pinch.”

“There are bubbles around the boat!” Annie cried excitedly when the boat pulled up at the dock to pick them up. She pointed at the boat’s wake.

They climbed on. The boat was not too big, but big enough for a dozen or so people to sit on the seats along the sides. The sun had just come up and it was still cool, but the sun felt warm. Annie climbed onto the cushioned bench along one side of the boat and knelt, looking over the side at the water.

“Bubbles!” she repeated. “Bubbuuuhls!”

The boat pulled away from the shore and started moving slowly through the water.

“Bubbuuhls!” said Annie.

The engine got a little noisier.

“Bubbuuuuuhls!” Annie shrieked over the side of the boat, happily. “Bubbuuuuuuuhls!”

“Yes, there are bubbles,” Mommy agreed. “Look at the beautiful mountains! Look at that cliff coming down into the water! Look how beautiful the water looks!”

“Bubbles!” said Annie. “Bubbuuuhls! Bubbuuuhls!”

“Has she ever been on a boat before?” asked a nice man sitting next to Mommy.

“No,” said Mommy.

“Bubbuuuuhls!” shrieked Annie.

It was fascinating to Annie a little later when the metal bottom of the boat moved up into the air, and there was glass underneath. The man said not to walk on the glass, so Annie kept her distance, but peered down at the green water. Fish were swimming all around. They had tiny spots on their backs. The man said they were snappers.

Cora took off her shoes and socks and sat on a narrow strip that ran between two panels of glass, staring down at the fish.

Eventually she climbed out. “SHOE,” she stated, pointing at her shoes.

“Yes, those are your shoes,” said her mommy.

Annie was sitting not far off, staring at the fish.

“SOCK,” said Cora, pointing at her socks.

“Yes,” Mommy agreed. “Look at the fish, Cora!”

Annie continued to stare down into the green water at the speckled fish, and then at a school of pretty blue fish that swam under the boat.

“SHOE,” Cora pointed out, staring at the shoes of the people across the boat from them. She looked down at her own bare feet, and then back at the other people’s shoes. “SHOE,” she said again, in case her mommy hadn’t understood.

“Yes, they’re wearing shoes,” Mommy agreed. “Look at the water, Cora!”

But the day before, Cora had pointed out water. She felt no need to point it out now. “SHOE,” she stated a third time.

Annie quietly climbed back onto the bench and sat with her eyes half-closed. She wasn’t sure exactly how she was feeling, but felt she needed some snuggling. She leaned onto her daddy, and then she lay down with her head in his lap. Mommy said something about her being tired, and she agreed that she was tired. Mommy and Cora continued sitting on the floor of the boat, at the edge of the glass, looking at the fish. They discussed shoes and socks a bit longer, and established the identity of Cora’s footwear definitively. Annie shut her eyes. Some time passed.

“I’m going to barf,” said Annie quietly to her daddy.

Her daddy looked down hastily. But the warning had come too late, and Annie’s chosen tense was incorrect. The ship captain came over quickly with a plastic bag, lots of paper towels, and baby wipes.

After Annie was cleaned up, she actually felt quite a bit better – not so sleepy anymore, not so much like she needed to lie down. She even went down to the bottom of the boat and looked at the fish again, although not for very long before she felt it would be best to sit on the bench again. Mommy and Daddy encouraged her to look out at the distant trees far away. A nice man on the boat gave her a lolly to get the bad taste out of her mouth, and that helped too. 

After he had cleaned himself up, Daddy went snorkeling, and felt a bit better and cleaner afterwards.

Annie took a nap that afternoon, after Mommy had pointed out again that she was very tired. Annie had had some not-so-brief moments of intense sadness the previous evening, and that morning, and after the boat ride. Her mommy had interpreted this as needing a nap. Annie strongly disagreed with the interpretation but eventually she was game to try, after her mommy promised that whichever lady – Annie, Cora, or Mommy – fell asleep first would get a prize, and whoever slept the longest would get a prize too.

In the end, Mommy won the prize for Falling Asleep Most Quickly, and Annie won the prize for Sleeping the Longest. Cora decided not to compete.

It turned out that they were staying in a beautiful orchard, and most of the trees were in fruit. There were apple, pear, mandarin, passionfruit, “lemonade”, and avocado trees. The family got a tour of the orchards and as much fruit as they could eat. The girls devoured two apples and a mandarin just while they were walking around the orchard.

The family also visited the sheep and cows on the farm. Annie ran up to the fence excitedly. Daddy started to pull the gait open. The dozen sheep, who were all eager for food, stampeded from all over the field towards the fence. Annie took one look and sprinted back in the other direction.

Cora, who was being carried, was more circumspect. She considered the sheep for awhile, and then considered the cows, which were a bit more shy but still came right up to the fence to ask for food. Did she like these things? She knew what they were. She knew what a cow was, and what a sheep was. But did she like them? She thought about it. She watched the sheep, knocking each other out of the way, trying to knock down the fence to get to her. Her daddy brought over some food and offered it to the sheep, and she watched as they butted each other out of the way trying to get to it. She watched the cows, which were slower but still insistent, all gathered right up against the gate, watching her. The large bodies of the animals- the heads that stretched up higher than she was tall – the loud noises they made – Cora considered all this. And then she came to a conclusion: she did not like either the sheep or the cows. They were scary. She whimpered a little, continuing to stare at the sheep. No, not just scary. They were terrifying. She switched to all-out crying. Her current situation was not acceptable. She needed to leave immediately.

That evening, Cora was at a playground. Mommy and Daddy were happy, and Annie was happy, and more importantly to Cora, Cora was happy. Mommy had had her nap, and both Mommy and Daddy had had some beer at the brewery that was next to the playground, and everyone had had some pizza. They had had a lovely relaxing walk through kiwifruit orchards to get to the brewery and everyone felt good.

Cora had the philosophy that she could do anything her sister did at a playground, and if Annie did it, it was important for Cora to do it too. She swung on the swings, and on the tire swing, and played up high in the tower, and crawled along the high-up wooden tunnel that Mommy and Daddy could barely reach.

Her father snuck off and bought her and her sister an ice cream cone to share, a beautiful neon blue and purple ice cream cone, and that made her perfect afternoon even more perfect.

Cora noticed that her mommy was talking to another lady, and she noticed that the lady had a baby, and that baby was about Cora’s age – maybe a month younger. But she had nothing in common with that baby. Cora had important things to do – like follow her sister around, play on swings, and eat ice cream. The baby did not have an older sister, and didn’t feel any need to run around the playground, shrieking and grabbing and climbing and falling off things. She seemed a sweet, gentle baby and Cora had no use for her. Cora gave the baby one brief, cold, appraising look and then went back to shrieking and chasing her sister around. She did not deign to give the baby any attention at all thereafter.

But it turned out that the two moms knew each other. They did not recognize each other right away. But it turned out they had been emailing back and forth with each other, a year and a half ago, when Cora’s mommy was planning the trip to New Zealand. Before she had gone on maternity leave, this other mom had helped Cora’s mommy find a job, and learn about the immigration process. The two moms stayed to catch up, and talked for a long time.

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