Sunday, February 14, 2010

Acca Dacca Back-ta-back-a

Not really sure how to spell the title. It's Aussie-speak for when the radio DJ plays two AC DC songs in a row. Acca Dacca (sp?) is common slang for AC DC, and they've been in concert here in Melbourne so we've heard it used quite a lot. We're learning all kinds of Australian slang....bathing suits are bathers, Aussie-rules football is footie. Chili-bin is a New Zealand term for a cooler. (I think it would make a great band name, btw, The Chilibins.) I'm sure we sound like big dorks trying to work some of these terms into conversation with our blatently American accents, but there you go.

I'm used to being a dork, having spent a great deal of my life convinced that's what I was. Heidi was always the cool one. She was the leader, the one I looked up to most when we were kids. We're close in age, only 16 months apart. That made us pretty competitive, and as a survival strategy Mom encouraged us to persue different interests. Heidi was the dancer, and I was the swimmer. Heidi was the cute one, the boy magnet, and I was...well....not. I remember once when we were in high school in Guantanamo Bay, one of my friends told me about an assignment that had been given to the Junior year English class. They were to write about the person they respected most. My friend said Heidi wrote about me. I couldn't imagine what she'd found say.

We haven't spent two weeks in the same house since Christmas of 1985, when I came home to Seattle from Honolulu for Christmas break. That week was a blur of getting dressed up and driving in the snow to different dance clubs. We played pretty hard. Honestly, we've played pretty hard this week too. Heidi still likes a party, and I've been happy to go along, but it's felt like daily life, not like a flashback to our wild youth. We've gotten on much better than I anticipated. I guess age does have its benefits.

When Heidi comes home to Seattle, it's always a big dramatic event. She's a flash of neon running crossways to our misty Seattle grey. Now that I see her real life, though, she makes more sense to me. The amount of energy she throws at life, her caring, her generosity, her discipline, is astonishing. She and Kevin together are providng the platform from which their oldest son is developing his national and international swimming goals. That means one of them gets up at 4am to take him to practice, then Heidi picks him and 4 other swimmers up at 7:30 to take them to school. Then she drops her younger son off at school. Then she goes to work. She's second in command for a company that has offices in 16 cities in Australia and New Zealand, and has 44 people working in her Melbourne office alone. Her focus is strategic development and HR, and the work I've seen her do this week is brilliant. I've heard her end of several conference calls, and she's been been clear, kind, and confident; all the things you'd want in a good leader.

After working all day, she knocks off at 6ish, goes for a run, then picks the swimmers back up at 7 from their afternoon work-out. That's the Monday through Friday routine. Weekends are more relaxed, though Swimmer Boy has a three hour workout Saturday morning and usually finds some reason to swim on Sundays as well. He's golden, handsome, and awsomely, incredibly driven. His younger brother is wrapped in the stormclouds that 16 year olds find for themselves, but has a sly blue-eyed grin that speaks well for his future.

The only time Heidi and I have come close to an arguement was standing in the butcher shop. Kent asked us to buy some thin-sliced steaks to saute. Usually what we get at home is from the cheapest cut, sliced very thin to disguise how tough it is. The only thin sliced beef they had was labeled weiner schnitzel, and was $20/kg. That was twice as much as any of the other steaks, and Heidi's like, "Give me a kilo." I'm freaking, "Wait, that's too expensive", and she's like, "Get over it. That's how we do things here." So we bought 1.5 kg of this weiner schnitzel and Kent sauted it in garlic and onions and a little red wine and it was lovely. That's how she works. She and Kevin have more money than they have time. It seems extravagant, from my more tightly-budgeted perspective, but having seen a little of her reality, I understand better.

Yesterday Kevin's brothers came over with their families for an afternoon of fun and food. Kevin's older brother's wife is from Thailand, and they'd been to the market on Friday to get stuff to make dinner. They brought chicken, beef, shrimp, vegies, and sauces and spices for seven different Thai dishes. We had pud thai, yellow curry vegetables, cashew chicken, spicy beef salad, thom yum soup, way more food than we could eat. I've heard so much over the years about all of Kevin's family, so it was beautiful to finally attach faces to the names. We ate, we swam, and we watched cricket, which is a sport I'm only beginning to sort of understand.

Seeing them yesterday afternoon, it was clear that Heidi's Australian family loves her. She's part of the fabric here, and while I miss having her nearby, I understand better why she chooses this life. It might feel weird to sort through these ideas on a blog, but there are people who I want to see this, to help me process. My sister is one of the most powerful, complicated figures in my life, and its been too long since we've been this close. I love you, Heidi, and I'm in awe of what you're doing here. As usual, you are the cool one.

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