With some misgivings, but being determined not to deviate from the position as I saw it, I did not send a birthday card (nor the usual small present) to my step-daughter in New Zealand.
I should perhaps more properly call her my my 'ex step-daughter', as her mother and myself were divorced way back in 1996. And now it may well be 'my lost step-daughter'. Yet another casualty of transition.
Not doing the regular annual birthday thing seemed awful, and the decision really hurt me inside. I felt it might hurt her too. But then her own decision not to send me a card had made me feel that the end had finally come, after so many years; and the best thing now was to draw a line under our very tenuous relationship. At least she would not be embarrassed any more.
I very nearly sent her a long letter to explain all this to her. I typed it out, signed it, enveloped it, then thought better of posting it. A letter was so physical, something both of us would have touched with our fingers, not like spoken words, not like an email. You could hold it in your hand, and if you didn't rip it up, you might keep it forever, to be read again at any time, with renewed emotional effect. That indeed was the power of letters. That was why people often kept love-letters for years and years, as tangible evidence of what was, or what might have been.
But a letter could also be a monument, a tombstone. No resurrection, no call back from the grave, would be possible if I actually sent a letter right across the world with frank words in it that I could never retract. Not horrible words, mind you. They were nice words; but regretful and honest, and they might well put the seal on a definitive farewell. I wasn't sure that I really wanted to shut the door so firmly. So I settled on silently doing the same thing as A--- had, and then await any comeback. None so far.
More than a relationship hangs on this. Could I ever revisit New Zealand if I knew that there was somebody there who no longer wanted to see me, her family also? I thought no, I wouldn't want to go back there knowing that.
But then things can change. The two months in New Zealand in 2007, seeing the place with M--- in a campervan, constituted a pretty comprehensive tour. But because we were constantly pressing on nearly every day, there were many places that needed a closer look on a return trip.
I often look wistfully at the 4.000-odd edited photos that I've got of our 2007 trip - I did it earlier this morning. But this time I found myself rebelling against all inhibitions. Why should the place be out of bounds? I told myself that nothing should ever stand in my way if I wanted to see it again. Not the fond relationship gone, not the rigours of travel there and back, not the cost. Well, that's new. I must be in the mood for breaking chains!
They say that 'he travels fastest who travels alone'. Make that 'she' also. And indeed, I might actually see more and experience more by travelling around on my own, to my own loose and easily-modified schedule. I like maximum flexibility where holidays are concerned. I can be happier seeing just two or three places really well, in any order, than attempting to fit in a dozen places in a rushed and timetabled way. Besides, I want opportunities to chat to local people, and who knows, share something of their lives.
My NZ photos are on my PC, arranged in easily-accessed folders, and it's a doddle to see whatever takes my fancy. And what lovely pictures they are.
I can just imagine myself cruising around in a hired 4x4, and staying in guest houses and cabins as the mood takes me. A car can take me to many places that are off-limits to a campervan. Campervans are awkward in towns, clumsy on busy roads, hard to park, and an obvious target for thieves - and therefore not my preferred choice. Admittedly, M--- and I pitched overnight in many very scenic spots that only campervans would use. But I want comfort and convenience, and personal security too, and would only consider a campervan if the costs of car hire, accommodation and eating out were too much to be sensible.
So I now intend to return to NZ under my own steam. I had already been thinking of a five-year Holiday Savings Plan. This definite destination, not the only one either, will keep me to that plan even more assiduously.
And by 2018, I should be more finished as Lucy Melford, in ways that I wish M--- and A--- could see and appreciate. M--- saw me in my first raw state and recoiled. A--- saw me last year in a half-completed state and clearly wasn't impressed. I really wanted her not to see me until I felt ready. I wanted her first glimpse of me to be my arrival at Auckland airport years from now, looking chic, perfectly poised, and attractive. She saw me too soon. That's a shame, but that's how life is.