Suddenly, after the excitement of holiday guests and then Christmas Day, with little voices shrill, fast pattering feet, laughter and tears, tinsel and crumbs, feasting and fullness, everything has changed.
And you gasp, like one who has descended too fast in an aircraft, or driving down from a high hill.
Until you realise that there is only one thing to do, and that is to be present to the absences. And as you do that, other absences come crowding in: such as your parents who died 20 years ago. You find yourself remembering their love, and the way they made presents for their five children, in the evenings when they were tired from hard work.
You remember how they secretly painted toys that your father had sawn and assembled in his tool shed, and how your mother sewed at her old Singer treadle sewing machine, and how even though there wasn’t much money, they made magical gifts for Christmas Day: a dolls wardrobe, with tiny hangers and little dresses; bride’s outfits for the dolls, a scooter, a peddle car, and always a carefully wrapped special book.
And as you remember, and let yourself weep over the absences, letting the past roll into the present and fold itself in, just as your mother folded egg whites into the bubbly whipped yolks when she made her angel food dessert, you find that the absences have turned into presences.
Because you are letting them in.
A tui sings into the evening dusk and a keruru arrives to feed on the kawakawa fruit. You smell the air, and fill your lungs with the scent of renewal.
And you find that the emptiness, which seemed so vast and unbearable, has now become a fullness. The world is charged with beauty, even though the sun has gone and rain clouds are rolling in from the north west.