Day 9: Hamilton Gardens

by Mary Beth

Mommy was sitting on the floor in the playroom. Cora appeared from behind the couch. When she saw her mommy, she frowned and patted the side of her head. “Bonk,” she said. Then she puckered her lips as if she were giving a kiss. She toddled over to her mommy. “Did you just bonk your head?” Mommy asked, and kissed the side of her head. Cora immediately stopped frowning, and walked off back behind the couch. Giggles and shrieks of laughter emanated from behind the couch, and the curtains rustled wildly. Children popped out here and there, and there were loud thumps and squawks.

A few seconds later Cora appeared again, holding out her fingers. She mimed kissing again. “Did you hurt your fingers?” Mommy asked. Cora reached her fingertips towards her mommy’s mouth, and her mommy kissed them. Then Cora held out the fingertips of her other hand, and her mommy kissed them, too. She disappeared back behind the couch.

A few seconds later, she whimpered and came over to Mommy again. “Bonk,” she said. She pointed to her toes. “Buh,” she said. “Buhb.”

“Booboo?” Mommy asked. “You got another booboo?” She leaned down and kissed Cora’s toes. Then Cora pointed to the toes on her opposite foot, and Mommy kissed those as well. “You are getting lots of booboos, Cora!” said Mommy. Cora pointed to her wrist. Mommy kissed it. Then Cora vanished again. There was more shrieking and thumping behind the couch.

Annie was lying on the floor, her head on a carefully placed pillow. She was pretending to sleep. Cora toddled over. “SIT DOW,” Cora commanded. “SIT DOW. SIT DOW.” She then sat directly on Annie’s head.

Cora wanted to be boosted onto the couch. She tried to climb up on her own but just wasn’t tall enough. She made a loud frustrated noise to get everyone’s attention, then another louder noise, since no one responded properly to the first one. “Annie,” said Mommy. “Can you boost your sister up onto the couch?” Annie, who was standing right nearby, obligingly boosted her sister up onto the couch. Cora crawled around happily for a little while. Then she swung her legs off the couch and climbed down.

Mommy was writing with a pencil. Annie eyed the pencil. “Can I have that?” she asked.

“No, I’m writing with it,” said Mommy.

“Please? Please can I have it?”

Mommy paused, unable to talk and write simultaneously. “No.”

“Please? Why not?”

“Go find something else to write with. I’m using this.”

“But I want to use THAT thing.”


Annie looked very, very sad, like she was about to cry. Mommy was able to ignore her sad puppy eyes for a few seconds before saying, “I’ll give it to you when I’m done.”

“When will you be done?” Annie reached out a hand so she would be ready to take the pencil the instant her mommy was finished.

“In five minutes.”

Mommy wrote for about 15 seconds.

“Are you done now?”


Annie paused. “Are you done now?”

“No! Go play with something else.”

“I want to write my name!”

Mommy tried to ignore Annie. But she had lost her train of thought again.

“Are you done now?” Annie asked.

Mommy relinquished the pencil to Annie.

Annie sat happily down and drew a picture of a person. The person was next to a pool, and there was a stone wall next to the pool; above them, there was a pukeko (a New Zealand swamp-hen) drinking water, and a caterpillar. She explained it all to her mommy. Then she determined she wanted to write her name. She flipped her paper over and drew a big A, and then two little N’s, a very long I, and a comb-like structure.

Cora noticed that Mommy was paying a lot of attention to Annie. She also realized she needed to get back onto the couch. She made a loud noise, and then another loud noise, to get their attention. Mommy, sitting on the ground, made no move to jump to her feet and rush over to help Cora. Cora looked from one to the other and made another loud noise. Annie was looking at her paper, admiring her name.

“Maybe if you ask your sister, she’ll help you,” Mommy suggested to Cora. Cora looked at Annie. She saw that Annie was concentrating on the piece of paper, and writing with the pencil. These things were preventing Annie from helping her, because they were distracting Annie. There was really only one thing to be done, if she wanted her sister’s attention. She toddled over, and snatched the paper and the pencil from her sister, and crumpled the paper into a ball.

Annie let out a shriek and fell to the ground as if struck with a mortal wound. “NOOOO Cora!” she said, weeping.

Mommy snatched the paper and pencil back from Cora and smoothed it out for Annie. “No, Cora!” she said angrily. “That was very bad!”

Cora looked at her mommy, totally unrepentant. Then she toddled off to get a car.

They had decided to go to Hamilton Gardens that day, which were free, and rumored to be the best attraction in Hamilton. They were not disappointed. It was the best garden they had ever visited.

There were many, many little gardens, from all over the world; there was an Indian garden, and an Italian garden, and a Chinese garden, and a Japanese garden. There was a lush tropical garden and a mythical Tudor garden. There was a long, winding, less-cultivated garden that told the story of the Magic Flute through plants and statues. One garden, mysteriously, had a blimp that seemed to float gently in the air.

But their favorite garden was one of the newest gardens: the Surrealist Garden.

Unfortunately while they were in this garden, Annie shrank down to the size of a tiny fairy.

Mommy has bad aim, and was unable to properly grasp the shovel handle in this photo.

It wasn’t long before Cora shrank down, too.

Mommy wept when she found her children had turned into garden fairies.

Until she turned into a garden fairy herself!

Afterwards, they had a nice relaxing lunch, during which Cora ate up her own lunch, a large part of Annie’s lunch, and much of Mommy and Daddy’s lunches. They sat by the water after lunch, where a little boy who had an entire loaf of white bread was feeding it, piece by piece, to a hoard of ravenous, aggressive ducks. He gave a slice of bread to Annie, and taught her to break it into tiny pieces to give to the ducks. She did this, but the ducks were of the opinion that she wasn’t feeding them fast enough, so they started climbing out of the water and coming after her, trying to snatch the bread from her hands. That was when the family decided to walk to the playground.

The little boy followed Annie and gave her some more bread, which she kept in case she found any ducks along the way to the playground. He also warned her not to go in the maze. There would be a maze at the playground, but under no circumstances was she to go in. It was difficult to understand him well enough to know why the maze was so dangerous but they all noted the warning.

Annie did find two ducks along the way, and gave them each a little piece of bread. Then she decided that the ducks had had plenty of bread and ate the rest of it herself.

They found the playground. There were two mazes – a large one on the ground, and a very small maze of two-foot-high bushes that connected different parts of the playground. Ignoring the recent warning, Mommy and Annie immediately did the flat maze on the ground.

It was hard, and the sun was hot overhead. Annie wanted to give up. She kept getting stuck in dead ends. But she knew that the rule – you couldn’t walk on the red, only the green. So she was stuck. She watched disapprovingly as her sister ran over the maze willy-nilly, running over the green, then the red, then the green, then the red again, with no respect for rules. Annie trudged on. She hit a dead end, looked longingly across the red strip at the green strip on the other side, but resisted temptation. She turned around, and soon hit another dead end. But eventually, finally, she saw the way to the center. She was victorious!

Then it was difficult to leave the maze. Her mommy said she could walk on the red now because she finished the maze but she still didn’t feel comfortable with that. Mommy had to carry her part of the way.

This had been the family’s last full day on the North Island. It was unlikely they would be able to return to it before they had to return home to the United States. The following day would be full of long drives, and long walks through airports. There would be escape attempts by Cora, most successfully in the line for airport security, where she would be able to bolt right under the retractable barriers that would prevent her mommy from following her easily; she would be able to wiggle aggressively as Mommy was trying to carry her through the metal detectors and bolt across the airport, leaving her Mommy in the dust to argue with airport security officers about whether or not she was permitted to chase Cora through security.

But for now, with no airport security officers to argue with, no planes to catch or things they needed to do, blissfully ignorant of the pandemic that was still a week away, the family relaxed at the shady playground in Hamilton Gardens, swinging on the swings, sliding down the slide, and making friends with other children playing there.

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