My best friend and I have saved for years to take this trip to New Zealand, and spending time in Christchurch is one of the destination packages.
“Melinda, I’m finished with the bathroom,” I call brightly to my traveling companion. Melinda and I have known each other for 40 years, but there’s something we’ve had to adjust to: Melinda likes to stay up all night and sleep until brunch-time, while I go to bed at nine and get up with the chickens. I’m always spinning my wheels in the mornings waiting for her to get a coffee in her, and she gets as annoyed with me for being such a “zippity-doo-dah” morning person.
I glance around our room. On my side, nothing is out of place. On Melinda’s side…quel desastre! I shake my head silently as I view the contents of her suitcases strewn from one end of her bed to the other. I hunt for the pile of clothes that’s breathing and poke Melinda gently. She moans and wrestles her head out of the heap to look at me with a one-eyed-squint.
“Not you again…let me sleep, can’t you?” she greets with a whine.
“Hmph…a happy morning to you, too, Sleeping Beauty. If we want to catch the tram and take a boatride on the Avon, we have to get our skinny hineys moving, you know.”
“Maybe your hiney is skinny, but mine’s seen a few lattes,” she mumbles. She lies still. I know she’s hoping I’ll go away, but I poke her again…harder.
“Come on…it’ll be fun,” I cajole. She ignores me and I lose my patience. I root around in her disgustingly wrinkled clothes and pull a pair of shorts and a tee shirt out of the mess. “Here! Get dressed!” I command. She hears my stern voice, and, just like my kids, knows I mean business.
“All right…boy! Some vacation this is…if I’d known you were going to rise and shine every stinking morning, I’d have brought Sue-the-Sloth instead.” Melinda lurches to the bathroom as I laugh. Our poor mutual friend, Sue, moves like that animal and has the shape to prove it.
Finally we board the tram. It’s a quaint old thing that rumbles along its rails like a contented turtle, and the gentle swaying of the cars lulls us into a grinning tourist’s trance. Beautiful Christchurch shimmers in the sun and shows off her houses and buildings prettily.
We find the Antigua Boathouse and survey the choice of water transport. The clerk eyes our Dr. Scholl’s comfort-sole shoes and points to the safe and cumbersome paddle boat. “This is a perfect way for you ladies to view the river…and it’s easy to paddle,” he adds with a condescending smile.
“Little snot,” Melinda mutters. “Awk-tually, we rah-thuh faw-ncy that red canoe.” Her fake Kiwi accent makes me snort. He shrugs and gets us fitted out.
As we lumber into the canoe, I whisper to Melinda, “I’ve never rowed a canoe in my life! What do we do?”
“We don’t row, Silly; we paddle. Easy-peasy…just follow my lead.” Melinda smiles haughtily as the lad shoves us out into the middle current of the Avon River, and the sudden lurching of the craft makes me feel a bit queasy. I gulp.
I watch as Melinda dips her oar into the calm water, and I try to mimic her smooth motion. I’m thinking I’m doing a good job when I realize that we’re going in circles.
“Lisa! Don’t dip the same side as me…go opposite!” Melinda snaps.
“How was I to know?” I whine.
We manage to get in a line, but spend the next fifteen minutes bopping back and forth in a zigzag from shore to shore. Each bump against the dirt jars my teeth…and I shoot an annoyed look at Melinda. She grimaces back, but amazingly, after a minute, we get the hang of it and begin to glide. I smile as I soak up the sun and the views, and reflect on Melinda and me.
We’ve weathered storms…rough and bumpy rides of life. This canoe trip feels like a metaphor for our friendship…when the rides smoothes out, we’re glad to have each other.
I grin at her and she returns the grin. “It’s perfect,” she crows happily.
“Just like I always imagined,” I agree.
As we float and chat, our trip takes on a shimmery, blissful hue. I close my eyes to press the memory in my brain…our quirky friendship…what a blessing!
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