I was raised in a tiny community on the most eastern point of Aotearoa, New Zealand. My hometown has two dairies, a fish and chip trailer and a pub. It’s a community where people still ride their horses through the main street, you wave out to your neighbors and shoes are optional.
It isn’t a wealthy town but I’ve never found a place richer.
I was raised in a family that believes wholeheartedly in the deep bond that connects us, and with that thought I was brought up along side my 30 first cousins. They are without doubt my brothers and sisters, in every sense of the word. We love each other fiercely and we fight with the very same vigor.
We shared everything. Baths, clothes, beds, toys. We went to the same school and were taught by the same teachers.
And as adults not much has changed.
My grandmother believed that we would be stronger together. And she was right.
Living communally meant a lot of freedom but it also meant that I always had eyes on every move I made. Whether I knew it or not, they all communicated about every accomplishment, tantrum, phase and mistake. I was never without guidance, company or support and I never will be.
I come from a family of storytellers. Each and everyone of us able to spin a yarn and captivate an audience. I come from a family of hard workers. We were bred early to know that nothing worth having comes free. The world owes you nothing. I come from a family that agrees without reservation that knowing our history, the plight of our people and the intricacies of our language is what will sustain our future.
This is how we feed our own children. So that they too will know.
The biggest thing I learnt is that, home will always call you. She will not change, she will not reject. She will always welcome you with open arms.
From an outside perspective Ruatoria is a drive through blink, a pit stop on the way to better things. What those people don’t see are the Nannies that kiss you in the street. They don’t see our children playing in the park, building forts and rolling down hills. They don’t see the fire burning at the marae, or the boys fishing at the beach. They don’t see the fencers, the hunters, the bread makers. They don’t feel the majesty that is our mountain, or the memories in our river. They don’t see the tribal boundaries that both divide and connect us. They miss the detail that we love. They can’t see our story.
When I was younger I wanted nothing more than to run away from home and be on my own. I threw myself into my career, into my relationship, into my life away because I thought that’s how I would define myself.
But now I look at my home. I look at the foundational lessons I learnt in a little town that still kills its own meat, lives communally, and are all invested in one another and I know that everything I’ve ever needed to know has come out of that place.
It’s so easy to focus on all the chaos in our lives, on all the bits that could be better. I find that remembering my blessings fills me with power and direction.
What brings you happiness? What are you grateful for? If you take the time I’m sure you’ll see it and be empowered by it.
I am grateful for a home that sings my name.