At the start of September, my youngest brother was married - the reason why we timed our visit for when we did, as opposed to Christmas. It was a gorgeously perfect spring day, in a stunning location, Taronga Zoo. Everything went as smooth as could be.
Well, almost. We'd tried the flower girl dresses on a week earlier, to ensure that they fit properly. Miss Pie had proclaimed her love for her 'princess dress' and we all sighed with relief. Excellent. She'll be fine on the day.
Except she wasn't. My job was to get the flower girls ready at the bride's parents' home, so that the wedding photographer could get started there too. Allowing for an early (but necessary) toddler nap, then a long drive to the zoo, I had a window of about an hour to do my thing.
Let's just say that three-quarters of that time was spent trying to coerce a certain toddler to wear the carefully chosen ensemble for her. She wasn't having any of it. Nope. Flat out refusal, "Don't want to be a princess!" There were tears. There were tantrums. I tried the gentle approach. I tried being patient.
In the end, I had to get a little forceful with dressing her. It made for a stroppy toddler during the initial photo shoot, only wanting to be held by yours truly. Fun times.
Thankfully, the forty-minute drive to the zoo was enough time for her to perk up. When it came to 'showtime', she charmed and insisted on twirling in front of everyone while the music was being played. Look at the bride about to come down the aisle? Are you kidding? Look at me, everyone! That child of mine is no shrinking violet.
The Faery, meanwhile, dealt with things very differently. Ever the people-pleaser, she was only too keen to dress up for the occasion. She'd been counting down the days until she could dress like a princess, and it was all she talked about. There were no dramas getting her ready, because she'd been dreaming about this day. The only thing marring it for her was her nerves. Poor poppet was anxious about walking down the aisle and being watched by everyone, but she did well. No need to twirl and hog the limelight, though. Nope, duties done, she sat quietly with my parents through the ceremony as I chased after Miss Pie, softly shushing her constant exclamations and questions.
Not only was this a big day for my brother, but it was also momentous because we were seeing close family - some of whom I cherish but hadn't seen in many years. A number of aunts, uncles and cousins had flown in from interstate. Some of them had not seen the Faery since she was a baby, and most of them had never met Miss Pie. It was special.
Being a Sunday, most out-of-town guests had to leave the next day. We were due to fly back to L.A. on Tuesday. All we had was that one evening to catch up as best we could.
My dad's sister, in particular, is someone I've always adored and looked up to. As I was growing up, I was used to not seeing her often because she lives in Brisbane, but over the years, it's never felt like much time has passed between seeing one another.
The evening flew by too quickly, and before I knew it, it was 10.30 pm. Ten-fricking-thirty, and not a single tantrum that night from Miss Pie... but naturally, meltdown o'clock was imminent, so we started to say our goodbyes (again, can I stress how amazed and shocked I am that Miss Pie lasted so long, so well, into the late evening?).
I'm normally a pretty cool-headed-keep-my-shit-together kind of girl in emotional situations. Mainly, because I internalise it instead. Healthy, I know.
However, as soon as my lovely aunt began telling me what a credit the girls are to J and I, it was a struggle to keep composed. So tired. A little tipsy. A little hormonal (great timing, cycle-wise). Everything conspired to make me lose it then and there, but I didn't. Not yet, anyway.
Goodbyes are always difficult, but it doesn't help when you've only said your hellos on the same day - and you don't know how many years will pass until the next hellos. Oh, and you're leaving the country in about thirty-six hours.
As I hobbled to our rental car (bloody high heels! and carrying an almost-asleep toddler!), blanketed by the safety of darkness, I was a sobbing mess.
Lesson learned? Don't do huge family-type reunions at the end of a holiday.
I'm still a little raw.