“The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, is in its loyalty to each other.”
Mario Puzo, The Family
Here in New Zealand the 4th Monday in October is Labour Day. So most people have a long weekend.
Many years ago just before the holiday my husband asked me “Would you like to go to Taupo for the weekend?” I jumped at the idea. It seemed to have been a long time between Public holidays. The one before this had been Queen’s Birthday in June.
Lake Taupo is the biggest lake in New Zealand and is renowned for its boating activities, fishing etc. Taupo, the town, sits on the edge of the lake and is roughly half way between Auckland and Wellington. As a fisherman my husband knew all the best spots in which of the rivers around Taupo. We kept a launch at the lake and so we were all looking forward to the holiday weekend.
The instructions were for me to rent a car on Friday afternoon, pick up my son from school and drive to the hotel. The rationale being that we didn’t need two cars in Taupo. Oh, and would I mind coming by his office to pick up a couple of things? He would follow us after work bringing my daughter with him. I should point out that he was employed as National Marketing Manager for a hotel-owning company.
We duly did as we were bidden. When I arrived at his office I was greeted by one of his assistants who had several large advertising placards, and a couple of boxes all to be delivered to the hotel.
I really didn’t understand why we couldn’t all travel together. But I found out when I arrived at the hotel. A new restaurant was to open that night and much of the material, advertising and otherwise, was snugly sitting in my rental car.
I was surrounded by activity and at one stage was asked if I could hang some cafe curtains – this, of course, was many years ago when these were the in things. They then found all sorts of things for ‘the boss’s wife and son’ to do. Having never been involved in an opening before I was amazed at how much still had to be completed before they opened for business at 7.30pm.
My husband and daughter duly arrived and he took off to see what was happening. When he came back he had a comment and another request to make. They were short staffed and could I help? The two other company executives were also staying in the Taupo for the weekend and they needed extra waiting staff. So my daughter (I think she was probably 13) and the other two wives became waitresses for the night. I thanked my husband politely for the offer with some comment like “I’m not wearing that uniform” and so he/they decided that I could be maitre’d for the evening.
A whole new experience. Long before the advertised opening time, a queue had formed outside the entrance to the restaurant and then the doors were opened. It was like a feeding frenzy of the sharks as people pushed and jostled to be shown to a table. All was going well. The customers seemed to be happy but where was my husband – oh right, he was in the kitchen giving a hand. My daughter was playing waitress very happily and horror of horrors I spied my son who was all of 11 years old, speeding across the restaurant with a Cona coffee jug full of hot coffee, in each hand. He was thoroughly enjoying himself, doing whatever anyone asked of him.
We had a couple of complaints from customers and each time I simply ‘comped’ their meals. I didn’t have the authority but those in authority were busy playing sous chefs, busboys or wine stewards. So I made the decisions for myself.
Eventually, at around 2 am the restaurant was empty. We all helped to straighten things up and then sat with feet up with a well-deserved coffee or was that a gin in my hand? My children were dead on their feet but they had thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
And we had the next three days of the holiday weekend to enjoy the pleasures of Lake Taupo. But after that, I was always a little wary of the question “Would you like to go away for the weekend?”
I still have the Robert Carrier Cookery Course book that they gave me as a thank you. Can’t imagine what they gave the children and what they did with it.
“Circumstances or people can take away your material possessions, they can take away your money, and they can take away your health. But no one can ever take away your precious memories.”
Judith Baxter, Mother, grandmother, blogger and friend.