It just passed midnight. Wind is howling outside and waves are breaking against the shore in the distance.
I am sick with the desire to write. Thoughts swirl in my head, like frightened blackbirds; wings flapping, crying against the vastness of inky skyline. Open but unknown, free but uncharted, calling yet unanswered.
I long for my blogging fraternity. My friends. Friends who come to visit the Lantern even though, in a last month or so, it has not been shining often. Still you pass by and write words of support and encouragement, even nominate the Lantern for awards … TO EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU – THANK YOU VERY MUCH! I cannot thank you enough, and I will honour all the awards as soon as I can.
While it is not often I write directly about myself and my life, but instead weave threads of it in my poetry and prose, on this occasion I will make an exception. For my friends who send me so many great wishes. And who wonder where may I unanchore it this time.
This whole year has been a year of great change for me. And like with all great changes, one only becomes fully aware of it when already in the midst of it.
When I first arrived to New Zealand from Zagreb, that distant June in 1994 I was recently married and six months pregnant. I carried my daughter in me from one side of the Earth to another. Only I did not know it was a daughter. Or much of anything else for that matter, including English language. I smiled and looked aside when somebody tried to speak to me.
When my daughter was born in September 1994, I told her that I love her. In English. And that her name was Deborah. From that moment on we were together. Every hour of every day. Her father and I separated sometimes in the middle of 1996. He left NZ not long after that, or so I was told. Because he neglected to tell me. Or to contact me or Deborah since. I never held that against him. He was simply not equipped to deal with such things as exile, husbandhood, and fatherhood. I never held a grudge against him or spoke ill of him. It is because of him I have Deborah, and that alone is all that ever mattered to me.
I made a conscious choice to stay in NZ. For one; I had nobody to return to. I once read somewhere that home is a place where they have to take you in whenever you show up. My grandparents were dead. There was no such place. Besides, I was certain that New Zealand would be better for us both; me and my girl. For the first time in my life I was part of a team; team of two. Us; Deborah and I. It was all I needed.
Eighteen years passed this way. Blink of an eye. I still see her standing her ground on the pre-school playground yelling at kids who teased her about the way her mum speaks, that her mum CAN speak English. Hands on hips and ready to take anyone on. My girl. Nobody ever stood up for me. And she was only four.
And so we stood for each other over the years, we navigated storms and maestrals together. Always knowing where the light house is.
When she first started going out to teen’s parties and alike, we had a code word for any kind of emergency. It was a Croatian word only we knew. If and when in any kind of trouble, just txt that word and mum is there, wherever, instantly. Just say our word.
Each day I asked to just live long enough to raise my child. My worst fear was that my child will be orphan and sent to foster home if something happened to me. Because of that I raised her with huge emphasis on education and independence. Everything else can be taken away from you; any material possession, but not what you have learned, what is in your brain, I used to tell her over and over … ‘Mum, I DO understand!’
At the beginning of this year I had to move to another city for work. While initially we were both to move, Deborah decided to stay behind to finish her last year of high school without changing schools. It was the first time we did not live together, and a taste of what was to come. Deborah with her own life; her school, her part-time job, her boyfriend; a decent young man … in a word; a life separate from mine. As it should be.
Still, I was hopeful they will both come to my city to go to University. It almost happened. And then she decided to go to Dunedin to study Health Science at the University of Otago. The oldest University in NZ.
All I ever wanted for my girl is to be an educated, independent woman and a decent human being. I am proud to say that she is all of that and then some. I have never known one’s heart can be so filled with love and pride and longing all in the same time. But I would not have it any other way. She is mine to miss and I am hers to walk away from. It is the natural order of things.
And then of course morning came when I looked around an empty house, far too big for me to live in, and all the things I accumulated because Deborah may need or want them.
And the face of a young doctor who told me that ‘it does not look good this time’. I almost laughed out loud in his office. Because however it looks from his side, it looks jolly good from mine. Because my child is 18 and therefore it no longer matters. She could never be put in a foster home now.
And then I set to find a place to put my bags down. Just mine this time. Small and cosy; a writer’s den. I saw many places claiming to be so. For a price. Witnessed greed once again lurking from fancy advertisements and corners of people eyes. Small and beady.
It is a good price, so it is. Times are hard. You will not find better. How much? Not much really, we invested a lot in it. Very nice, clean, just renovated. It will only be that much if you … Just tell me the price will you! Because all I want to know is how much to cry inside?