When we moved to Sydney nearly five years ago without a single friend, we spent several Sundays visiting a church that was within walking distance from our house. We landed there within the first two weeks of arriving: I remember because my mother was still here with us. My mother befriended a family the first Sunday and introduced me to them the next. My mother has always done well at finding good friends for me!
Having lived abroad themselves, the Ms could relate to our situation. When N, the mother, realized that Small Sun would be celebrating his third birthday she invited us over for a play. When we arrived I found that she had made a special dinosaur cake, had party favors, and a gift for him. We celebrated him together, her children and mine. I cry nearly every time I think about it. What a massive kindness to a family that is newly arrived with no friends, no family, no one to celebrate life with!
That was nearly five years and multiple children ago. Now between the Ms and us we have eight children and our parties have become much more lively!
Our friendship has grown over time and our children share some really beautiful and special friendships across gender and age. Sprout's very, very best friend is J, the second oldest M. They have been at preschool together, and are in their second year at school in the same class. All of our children look out for each other, and the older care for the younger. It is so special.
Close on the heels of our Melbourne trip we decided to take a weekend trip to Dubbo and the Taronga Western Plains Zoo. Believe it or not, the Ms with their four kids were the ones up for a spontaneous five hour trip West with us! We went Saturday morning and returned Sunday night, spending a fabulous 24 hours in Dubbo.
Driving to Dubbo reminded me of driving through America's heartland. Great open fields and massive clouded skies. It was so, so beautiful.
We passed grazing kangaroos outside the entrance to the zoo, which is unique in that it only houses animals that naturally thrive in an expansive, hot and dry landscape. The zoo is large and you see it over the course of two days on bikes, golf carts, or by car. The enclosures are large and mimic the animal's natural environments.
The first day was nearly 40C and we sweated our way through half the enclosures. That night, after feasting together on a wonderful Thai supper, we flung ourselves into the hotel pool and swam and ate chocolate until the sun went down. I hope our children will always remember swimming into twilight, with their very best friends.
That night a loud thunderstorm bucketed down, and the next morning dawned clear and cooler, which was perfect for our second day in the zoo.
One the way home we stopped at a big playground where there were botanical gardens adjacent, and N and I walked in the gardens while the kids ran off some energy. How many times have N and I cared for each other, sharing life's joys and crying over life's struggles? How many pots of tea have we lovingly brewed for each other? How many children's birthdays have we celebrated, and how many afternoon barbeques have we shared in the park?
Landscapes like this one above, sunlight filtering down through green leaves, dappled shadows dancing on the ground, feed my spirit and help me feel grounded. Our precious friendship with the Ms has done the same. They have been our family here, always there to listen, to pray, to lend a kind hand, and to celebrate life together.
For our children the weekend to Dubbo was one massive play date they didn't want to end. Next we're planning a trip to the mountains to stay in a cabin together, do apple picking, and cave exploring. N is going to teach me how to preserve and make jam, and we'll go on cherishing the wonderful friendship we have.