Placed in Short Story Competition
A HOME IS MADE
I Know it is always best and wisest for a couple contemplating marriage, to make preparation, and have a home and most of the furniture and linen, etc., all ready, and a nice tidy little sum of money put by for all the little extras, while one or even both parties should have a good job; but that isn't the way it was when we got married.
I had never actually met the man who was to be my husband, for he was born and reared down in the South Island, while I was born and reared up in the North Island. Yet, ever since I was about eleven years old, I had known all about him and his family since his mother was my mother's second cousin and my mother had often said as I grew into my ‘teens, “Now dear, how nice it would be when you grow up, for you to marry Hakopa, it would please your aunt and me.” How full of indignation I was, but mother didn't take much notice, except to remind me that he was of my own kin. As I grew older, the subject was gently re-opened, just to get me used to it perhaps, and mother took a holiday once, and visited my aunt, Hakopa's mother. Not long after her return, she and my father decided it was time I had a holiday, and without any more ado I was despatched, as it were, to my aunt's place, away down South.
How mixed my feelings were, as I journeyed for days. How I missed my mother and father to tell me what to do, and how to do it, and how I longed for my own home and surroundings, and my own familiar friends they were all hundreds of miles away while I was, oh so alone in the great wide world.
Deep down inside me there burned a resentment; to think that my parents could so calmly send me off to an unknown place, to unknown people; of course they were my kin, but I had never seen them, and the longing for those whom I had left behind, almost overcame me; yet never a thought of disobeying occurred to me. I went on my long journey, a pitiful, lonely little person, blind to all
As the train wound its tortuous way up into the Southern Alps, I looked down hundreds of feet to the waters below wildly rushing down over great boulders, the scene touched an answering chord in my heart. Up and up we crawled until we reached Arthur's Pass on a comparative flat, and what a sight met my eyes! Hundreds of people were standing around, and as our train drew in, hundreds more it seemed alighted and throngèd towards the place of refreshment, while I sat looking on. At last I was jarred out of thoughts of self, by the scene before me. As we had rushed across the plains below, I had relived my childhood days, and my schooldays, and as the train had gradually slowed down as it approached the mountains, I had lived again those happy days when with my brother and father and many friends, we had rode off, in the pride of the morning, to attend those little sports meetings, perhaps at some nearby town, or perhaps away out in some sleepy hollow, where nestled a tiny village. I had played again that exhilarating game of hide-and-go-seek on horseback, galloping wildly round five or six huge pointed stacks of fresh oats, over gates and round the plantations. Oh! How far away that all seemed now, as I sat and gazed at this surprisingly huge crowd away up here in the mountains, with the sharp, biting, yet somewhat exhilarating mountain air, and clear sunshine. I was in a new world, all alone!
Ours was a long train, well crowded, and on the other side of the platform was another, equally long and crowded. It had not long emerged from the Otira tunnel, which we were about to enter, one of the great tunnels of our New Zealand railways. My mind went back to the time of the opening, and I remembered my mother telling us all about this wonderful tunnel, a feat by the engineers of that time—and here was I, about to enter into this great opening under the Southern Alps—approximately six miles of darkness, to emerge on the other side—and what?
A thrill of excitement ran through the crowd as the electric engine was brought along and connected to our train. Soon we were all set and slowly we approached the tunnel. The trair gathered speed and most of the travellers chatted loudly as we sped along. How nice it was to come out into the friendly sunshine again. I for one was sick of tunnels and darkness. I took notice now of my surroundings, and I began to think of my destination; and about how long I'd stay at my aunt's and—yes—what would Hakopa look like?
Would he be tall, dark and handsome? What if he should be short, and stocky and uninteresting? I knew that he was the main reason for my visit and I made up my mind to be quite indifferent towards him, and I built up a barrier in my mind against him, not stopping to reason that he might be just as unwilling as I for a stranger to come into his life.
I spent another lonely night at an hotel, spending the evening alone in my room. Early next morning I wandered along the beach and wondered whether mother and father were thinking of me and following the stages of my lonely journey. But I felt quite excited as I realised that by night-fall, I would be there! How would they receive me? How would I find them? If Hakopa was only half as nice as mother had made him out to be, he would have at least come this far to meet me, I thought; however, as the morning advanced, I boarded the big bus and started on the final stage of my journey.
I gazed out on what must once have been heavy native bush, but what was now a tangled mass of fallen trees and stumps — wilful destruction I thought—left to rot away, while fern and rubbish sprang up. We crossed the Hokitika River, and for miles there were great heaps of dirt which had been dredged from the river as the search for gold still went on; out over barren marshy looking country, stripped of its native beauty, yet here and there were still some beauty spots, such as Lake Kaniere and others.
By midday, we had reached Hari Hari, a tiny village at the foot of the mountains, where we had lunch. Here our driver was changed, and he took over the other bus which had arrived simultaneously with ours, driving it back to town, while the driver of that bus took over our bus and drove us over the most exciting part of our bus ride. I was to learn that a special team of drivers, took the buses over this part of the trip, the town drivers turning back from Hari Hari.
How I loved that part of my journey, as I recalled all that mother had told me of her girlhood days in these parts, the names of the numerous rivers we passed over, with here and there an old line, over which busy little loggies must have puffed in the busy days of the sawmills. Up into heavily wooded hills we wended, down steep glades where here and there nestled an occasional lake onto which we could look from high up on the mountainside. There was Lake Ianthe, Wahapo and largest and most beautiful of them, Lake Mapourika nestling in dense bush amidst towering hills. Then we reached Waiho and the famous Franz Joseph glacier, where we paused awhile to view the sight. We visited the little church just a little way in the bush, with its window looking out across the tops of the trees to that mighty mass of ice which seemed to
reach almost down to sea level. I lingered longest in that little old church, and I wondered if they ever worshipped there now the Creator of all that grand beauty, or did they just hurry in as we did that day to take photographs and hurry on again, in search of better views? On and still on we journeyed till at last we reached Weheka where the bus journey ended, and travellers booked in at the large hostel from where they would visit the many sights, including a bus trip out to Fox Glacier, while I was to journey, now by car, still further on, by night, to reach my destination.
The trip was quite a fast one over mostly flat country through heavy bush, where hundreds of opossums jumped helter skelter across the road, and out over swampy patches stripped of the heavy bush. At last we were there, and someone was there to open an old rickety gate, while we drove in over a bumpy paddock to the homestead, where someone else came out, among dogs and cats and geese, to meet us with a lantern.
Suddenly I was inside, and my aunt, a big, tall woman with dancing dark brown eyes had taken me and hugged me to her ample bosom, then held me at arm's length, the better to look at me, and then hugged me again, till I felt quite giddy. Then she was introducing me to the family gathered there, one by one I met them, until at last, in the farthest corner of the room, I saw Hakopa for the first time. He rose slowly and stood quietly looking at me, while I held my breath and stared wide eyed at him, neither of us offering to step forward and shake hands, as had everyone else. I fought to control my feelings as I thought—so this is Hakopa, the reason for my having been sent away from all that I loved so dearly, to travel alone for hundreds of miles—and as we gazed at one another he so quietly, but I so emotionally, my aunt again embraced me, and everyone began talking at once, and that moment, that seemed an age to me, passed as if unnoticed by the others. They had to decide whether I resembled my mother or not, and ask after my journey, and rush around me, to make me comfortable, and to see to my every want.
And so began my supposed holiday with my distant relatives. I was taken to all the places where mother used to go as a girl, and I learned to love my aunt very much, she was so young in spirit, though she had reared a large family. As the weeks ran into months. I began to mention my desire to return home to the North Island, but one day I received a letter from my mother which was to the point, saying that I was to be a good girl and do what they expected of me and to make up my mind to marry Hakopa as they were all set on that, and that surely, after having taken that long journey, I would not think of making it all in vain by thinking of coming back home. Inwardly I rebelled, and cast about for a way of escape, then I would look at my aunt and uncle and numerous cousins and other relatives, and somehow I knew I was trapped, and I realised quite suddenly that I had already committed myself by coming here in the first place, and how could I hurt my own kin by turning my back on them? So, when later on my aunt put the question to me, and sent Hakopa to me to propose, I said “Yes,” even though perhaps a little halfhearted, nevertheless, it was yes! We were married with the usual fuss and feasting, and everyone was too busy enjoying themselves to notice that we were not the most romantic of couples, and so I settled to my married life with only what I had taken in my suitcase and the presents we received for our wedding.
Where Hakopa found a job we would go, and camp in a tent or perhaps a little batch, and I learnt to cook in a camp oven over an open fire. Sometimes we stayed with some relative of us both, at other times we stayed at his, Hakopa's home. But when our first child was born, and then, in just over a year's time a second came along, I began to long for a home of my own, and so it was we planned to build, with nothing between us, and no prospect of help from our families, as they were not rich. First we migrated to more civilised parts and began to save a little. Soon we were making application to the Maori Housing for a home. We chose a very modest plan, which proved a mistake, but we could not risk not being able to keep up payments. It was a tiny place with a 10 × 14 living room and two 10 × 10 bedrooms and a combined washhouse-bathroom.
By the time we moved in we had three children, no furniture other than our double bed, a baby's cot and pram, a kitchen table and a few rather rickety chairs. And so began our life in our own home, and what with keeping up the payments on the house and providing for ourselves, there was very little left. It was a long time before any new furniture could be bought, though now and then our families would send us something which they had no more use for, but with a bright curtair here and a dash of new paint there, we made do with what we had, in the meantime, keeping a look out for a bargain from the “mart”.
Each year we laboured to pay off our home and each year almost, we added to our family, until it was very evident we had made a great mistaks in choosing a small plan, and so we had to apply for a further loan to add to our home, two more feedrooms and a parlour with open fire. What a luxury was that open fire!. But still no furniture! We had to buy beds and bedding for the bedrooms, and one or two chairs, but no floor covering, instead we polished up the wooden floors and they did look lovely, being new. We set the lawn around the house with little bordered edges, and kept it all nice and tidy, and our saying was— costs nothing to be clean and tidy. As our children grew, they were taught to gather up bits of paper and sticks that might lay around and keep doggy off the marigold borders. Marigolds were not my ideal, but they were cheap and pro-
fuse and very hardy where there are tiny feet that wander from the path.
Our days were so full, that before we even realised it we were “old-timers” our youth had passed us by and our children were growing up around us, no longer little tots, but tall strapping youngsters, and we hadn't even had time for a honeymoon! Well it's been real honest-to-goodness work, and though we didn't what you'd call “plan ahead”, nor make adequate preparation for our marriage, nor worry overmuch about all this “marry for love” stuff, yet we learned to accept one another at face value, and we have endeavoured to bring our children up to be good citizens, to “do unto others as you would they should do unto you”, and to love and obey their Master, and we know that it is on these principles that “a home is made.”