THE NEW WORLD
This is the first published story of a young Maori woman who married an American student and now lives in the United States. It presents a vivid and moving picture of the community where she was brought up—its daily life, as seen with the eyes of a child, and its ideals as she remembers them.
“It's your turn to catch the service car today,” Hinerangi's mother said to her. “You'd better leave as soon as you've finished your kai. I don't want these letters to miss the mail. The kids will bring your lunch to school.”
Hinerangi gulped her milk hurriedly and swallowed what was left of her porridge. Taking the remains of her bread which had been toasted to a golden brown with the aid of a fork held above the red hot embers in the kitchen stove, and gathering her mother's letters together, she made for the door.
“Goodbye, Mum”, she called, “I'll see you tonight. Don't let Pare forget my lunch, will you?” This was her parting salutation as she disappeared down the hill.
It was fun, leaving for school early like this. The local service car, which went into town every day in the summer and three times a week during the winter months, went right by the school. The kindly driver obliged the local people by posting their letters in town which was 35 miles away. For a small freight charge he also delivered and collected orders for them from the town meat markets and grocery stores.
Hinerangi tucked her Mother's letters down the front of her gym frock and tightened the belt about her waist so that the letters would not fall out. She wiped the remains of her breakfast from her face and replaced her clean, white handkerchief in the elastie leg band of her black bloomers.
Glancing over her shoulder, she noted that Old Man Sun was just beginning to pull himself over the horizon. He always made a spectacular entrance into day. First, with a vivid burst of colour all across the heavens which made Hinerangi think of the blaze of trumpets upon the arrival of a king, only Mr Sun's heraldry of pomp and splendour was muted. As his golden crown rose majestically above the horizon, a carpet of a million sparkling diamonds rolled out across the sea before him and met at Hinerangi's feet. Their dazzling beauty almost blinded her as she ran to the water's edge to meet them and scoop them up in her hands. Her bare feet danced along the cool, hard surface of the beach. Little waves swished gently in to shore to caress her toes and she laughed for pure joy as she playfully jumped to avoid them.
It was early morning and Hinerangi knew she would have plenty of time to get to school, to get the bus and to get a whole puku full of
all the beauty about her. Old Man Sun was her only rival for time this morning and she was well able to judge the lateness or earliness of the hour from the shortening shadows that the trees and hills flung before her pathway, as the sun climbed higher into the sky.
“I love you, Mr Sun,” she cried, “But I'm glad Maui tied you up that once or I never would have fun racing with you.”
Now her way would go up a grassy slope toward Pihoe, which was an old Maori fortification. During the weekends when Hinerangi and her brothers and sisters went exploring, they would often visit Pihoe Pa and would play hide and seek in its old trenches. It was here that Hinerangi sometimes dreamed she was a beautiful Maori princess being captured by a great, big, handsome Maori chief who would carry her off to his own pa. She would recognize him immediately by the taiaha wound he bore on his left shoulder, the result of close combat with a warring enemy who naturally fell victim to the Maori chief's skill and prowess. But there was no time for day dreaming this morning, as the road ahead of her was no paved highway. There was no highway to her home—only a stretch of beach and a horse track which snaked its way uphill and down dale, through fern and scrub and bracken and native bush, to the little Maori school tucked in a clearing about four miles away.
As Hinerangi climbed up the narrow pathway she lifted her gym frock high above her head. She was now blazing her way through a a forest of paspalum grass which grew almost taller than herself. Their tops, sticky with honey, seemed to deliberately lean over and wipe themselves against her bare legs. It was then she remembered she had forgotten to put on her “overalls”, an outsize dress her oldest sister had outworn and outgrown and which her Mother insisted she wear to protect her school clothes from dirt, dust and the honey-laden paspalum grass. Her other sister wore similar protections which they always removed before they rounded the last bend in the track which over-looked the school. Here they hid their “overalls” in the bracken, but put them on once more when they wended their way homewards.
Now Hinerangi was on top of Pihoe. She felt hot all through her body, but she did not stop. Cresting the brow of the hill was easy, as the track continued almost straight for a short distance. Around her was the world—all fresh and washed the night before and now hanging out to dry. She could even make out the marks of Mother Nature's clothes pegs in the blue and white flecked canopy that was stretched out to dry above her. Far below her was the sea. It looked brown and sudsy as if it still contained Mother Nature's washing water. “She's probably forgotten to empty it out after soaking the landscape in it all night,” she surmised. “Oh, well, God will pull the plug out and make the sea clear and sparkly again.”
The track now dipped into the bush where it was still dark and cool but alive with nature's orchestra. Every tatarakihi in the bush seemed to be bent on out tatarakihi-ing the others, while above their happy din could be heard the melliflous notes of the tui. “That's the way dripping nectar would sound if it could sing,” Hinerangi thought, “But because it isn't able to, God gave its notes to the Tui. Ah! Now I know why the tui always sings after she has dipped her beak into the wild flowers.”
Her feet were dancing now over the “accordeon”, a series of some ninety-nine pot holes gauged out by the passage of many years and many horses. On up over the “train” she ran. This was a narrow bank that divided the double tracks worn down by the horses. Next came the “horses” rub”, a deep ditch as high as a horse's back, worn out on either side by the procession of horses through the years scraping their bellies against the smooth sides of the ditch to the track above.
The bush smelled of fresh morning and sweet tawhara. This afternoon on her way home from school she would persuade her brothers and sisters to stop and sample with her their delicious flavour, but now she could not, for she noticed the shadows of the trees were shortening and she had not yet reached the “staircase”. This was where the track ran straight down a high hill at an almost perpendicular angle. In winter the children braced their legs and ski-ied down it as it was well greased with wet sticky mud. She was at the fence now with but a short way to go—down another hill, across the creek, up the other side of the hill, through the second lence, around the bend and there was the school. She was still early, for the playground was empty of children. There was no need to hurry now. Mr Sun was way, way behind and probably was still vainly primping and preening himself in the large mirror of the sea. Hinerangi smiled happily. She had won the race again.
School was fun for Hinerangi, She loved almost everything about it—except arithmetic. When she arrived at school as early as this there was time to select a library book and be lost in another world. Perhaps the Headmaster would not mind if she took her book down to the road and read it there as she waited for the red and white service car to come along. She liked her Headmaster. He was a Pakeha, but in the summertime when he wore only shorts, he got as brown as a—No! Not a Maori. “Pakehas don't seem to brown that way,’ she mused. “I wonder if it's because they are all pakeha inside?” In spite of his pakehaness the children all liked the kura mahita, for he was young and handsome and he could sing. He could also break up any fights that broke out among the big boys and girls on the sports field or during election year. He was a good man with a lot of kindness and a heap of understanding.
In the classroom he opened up a whole new world to the children. Although the small village was practically cut off from the outside world by
its isolation, the Headmaster brought the world itself to their feet. He made lessons in history and geography, reading and composition come alive, for Hinerangi at least, though not for her older sister who was always too busy making eyes at all the big boys in the classroom. On the way home from school Pare would boast about the number of times she had been kissed. “O-O-O! You know Pine caught me behind the sheltershed at playtime today, and d'you know, he kissed me—five times,” she said, holding up all the fingers on one hand and preparing to hold up the other to indicate that England and Penehana had helped to double the number. Turning to Hinerangi she asked, “How many times have they kissed you?”
“Huh! I'd like to see them try!”
“If they did, what would you do”?
“I'd … I'd … Scratch their eyes out.”
Secretly Hinerangi wondered what it would be like to be kissed. Pare seemed to enjoy it immensely, and so did her older brother who joined in the chase of other brothers' sisters when the teachers were all at lunch.
The following afternoon when she went to get her coat and bag from the cloak room she found out. So did Hemi who wore the evidence for several days. When the Headmaster asked the scratch marks on his face, he looked at Hinerangi and spat out, “The cat scratched me.” Hinerangi blushed to the roots of her hair and tried to disappear through the lid of her desk as the entire class focussed its attention upon her in a burst of laughter. Humiliated beyond endurance, Hinerangi felt that feline urge rise within her again. How could she ever have held a secret admiration for Hemi for so long was now quite beyond her. She hated him! She hated him! At that moment she caught the knowing twinkle from her Headmaster's eyes as he remarked to Hemi, “Well, you must have deserved it.”
Growing up close to Nature's heart was pure joy for Hinerangi. The village in which she lived was small in size but beyond measurement in beauty. With the exception of the teacher, the storekeeper and his family and a handful of other pakehas, the sparse population was entirely Maori.
Hinerangi's home was perched high on a hill overlooking the beautiful sea and surrounded by the beautiful native bush. Although her family were virtually isolated from the surrounding neighbourhood, they were never alone. Nor lonesome. How could they be with three brothers and six sisters to play and scrap with and Nature's panoramic wonderland at their feet?
During the winter months when it was impossible to stay out of doors for any length of time, the little three-roomed shack which was home to them all, bulged at the seams with noise and laughter, intermingled, at times, with tears. Davs like these called for special treats like popcorn and toffee to help restore peace and quiet. Hinerangi's mother would select a few cohs of brightly coloured popcorn from the bunches that had hung to dry all winter in the wide tin chimney. The children would eagerly shell the corn until their fingers were red, while their mother heated the butter in a pot over the blazing hot wood stove. The first “pop”, followed by another, then another brought cheers from the children. When a whole hailstorm of “pop-pops” rained against the lid lifting it right off the pot, the children cheered more wildly than ever, for it was as if their wonderful mother had performed another miracle. With a saucer full of popcorn and a promise of more to come with “toffee, too, if you're good” the children were quiet. Some played “Snakes and Ladders”, or cut out pictures to paste into scrap books, but Hinerangi took off for the bedroom. With books on the floor, popcorn and elbows next to it, her chin cupped in her hands, her hind quarters in the air and her mind miles away, she was lost to the world.
Hinerangi's father worked with the P.W.D. He was a big, powerful man with a big, powerful build and a big, powerful laugh that sometimes “rocked the ship”, which meant he shook the house to its very foundations with his great big laugh—and with his sometimes great big growl, too, if the occasion warranted it. There was nothing he couldn't do, Hinerangi was sure, just as she was sure there wasn't a living soul in the world who could tell stories as well as her father. During the weekends when he was home from work, he would gather the children around him and tell them such fascinating stories that Hinerangi would lie awake hours afterwards thinking about them.
Friends, many of them, found their way to their door. Her mother would always welcome them with a smile, then she would hurry to stoke the fire up and put the kettle on to boil for the never-ending and always welcome cup of tea. The children took the arrival of company as their cue to vacate the house, for they had been taught that “Little children should be seen and not heard.” Hinerangi, however, took it as her cue to slip quickly and quietly back inside when the grown-ups were too engrossed in conversation to notice her. Sometimes she would wiggle her way dexterously between legs and crawl beneath the table where she would be hidden from view by the long table cloth. Then she would listen while the grown-ups talked.
One day someone told a story about a boy called Jimmy whose teacher had sent him home from school because he didn't smell clean. A very angry mother turned up at school with little Jimmy in tow. “‘Y for you sen my Shimmy home from school?” she roared. “I no sen my Shimmy here for you to schmell; I sen my Shimmy here for you to cheach. My Shimmy he no punch o' wiolet!”
This story was greeted with momentary silence, while Hinerangi curled up small and hardly breathed at all lest they should discover her hiding place—almost on top of their feet. At last
someone broke the silence.
“Yeah, these bloomin’ pakehas! Always say the Maori stinks. If they don't say it, they think it, anyway.”
Her father spoke, “That may be so,” he said, “But in that there yarn both the Maori and the pakehas have a point. The Maori, he sends his kid to school to get an education, but a little soap and self-education never hurt anyone, either.”
“That's right, e hoa”, piped up Hare. “The District Nurse, she teaches our kids good health habits. It's up to the parents to encourage the kids to practise these habits at home.”
Another voice chimed in, “Yeah, the kids can teach the parents and the parents can help the kids. Then our little Shimmies won't be sent home from school.”
“Well, I'm all for educating my family”, her father spoke again. “The wife and I, we try our best with our brood. Here at home we try to teach them right from wrong and try to help them grow up to be good citizens. We see that they get their homework studied. And get their bath. And get to school clean and on time, but that's not all to educating them. There's a part of them inside that needs direction too. When I take them up in the bush to get the firewood, I like to show them the birds. We see how the birds make their nests, how they feed and care for their young, and later how they teach them to fly, so my kids get a first-hand lesson in family co-operation and fledgling independence. Then the wife there, she plants flowers and—but you tell them about that, Ani.”
In a soft, sweet flow, Hinerangi's mother continued where her father had left off. “Yes, I plant all kinds of flowers, but for the children I plant gladioli and name them after each member of the family. As the flowers grow, we watch their progress. When the stalks bend over too far we know they need extra support, so we stake them up to prevent their backs from growing crooked. I try to point out to the children how like the
flowers in the garden they are. Daddy and I are their support for a little while. Like the stakes against the gladioli, we help them to grow straight. If they've learned right at home, they'll grow right when they leave no matter how often the winds of temptation try to make them bend.”
“If they've got the backbone, they'll make it all right—just like their Mum's plants,” her father wound up.
This discourse seemed to please Arihia no end so she decided to give the Maori her own special pat on the back. “I reckon we Maoris got what it takes,” she announced with a self-satisfied air, “Even if the pakeha are always slinging off at us. They've only got to look at their history books to see what our tipuna have done.”
“And then they've only got to look at their papers to see what we've done,’ spoke Koro, the oldest of the group. Koro in his day had had the privilege of going to college, and this fact alone made him a respected leader in the village. “Anything a Maori does good or bad, becomes a reflection upon the whole Maori race,” he continued. “The time is past when we keep peeping out from behind our tipunas' piupiu and saying, ‘Look what our ancestors did. Look what a proud race we are’ without trying to contribute something worthwhile ourselves to the heritage left us by our tipuna. Basking in their reflected glory is no good. No good at all. It's like trying to win a boat race when our waka is high and dry. If we want to ride on the crest of all that our ancestors have achieved, we must see that our own canoes are fit for the sailing and that we're headed in the right direction,” Koro continued. “We all know how our tipuna crossed the uncharted ocean in open canoes. Today we've got our own oceans to cross. They're uncharted, too, but we've got just as many stars to guide us as our forefathers had in their day and our Kupes have already blazed the way for us, as did the very first Kupe so long ago. Like our fathers before us, it is now time for us to launch our canoes in full faith, as did they, knowing full well that we'll get there.” After a short pause he said, “Education is one of the stars which will help point the way across our ocean.”
“Hum-m,” sniffed Arihia. “Education! What's the good of all this education business? Our kids go away to college, learn the pakeha ways; then they come back and they don't like it here any more. It's not good enough for them. If that's what education does for them, they're better off without it.”
“I don't see it that way at all,” Koro replied. “I'm an old bloke now, but this is the way I look at it. If my kids don't yearn for something greater and higher and nobler as a result of all I've tried to pound into them, then I've failed them and failed myself. All these years now I have been trying to teach them to pick up their own two feet and walk. Run, if need be. I don't want them to lean on my shoulder and say, “What's good enough for the old man is good enough for me.” Their opportunities are greater than ever today, and if I had my life to live over again in this day and age, I'd go all out for a higher and better education. My kids know I've given them the best that I can afford. I know they appreciate it, but their biggest thanks to me will come only when they have reached the highest peak of their own ability and will come to me and say, “I owe this to you, Dad. You taught me to aim.” That's all the thanks I need. I'm too old now to cross their ocean, but I have the satisfaction of knowing that I helped shape the canoes my sons will paddle in order to reach their ultimate goals, so I'll get there, too—through them. E hoa, don't criticize your kids when they come home from college ‘different’. Just be glad that they are ready now to set sail across their own Moana-nui-a-kiwa. It will be a mighty long sail, too, so send them out with your blessings, because they will still be looking back over their shoulders for your guidance and nod of approval and your ‘Kia kaha!”’.
From her place under the table, Hinerangi drank in every word that had fallen from Koro's wise old lips. Her under-the-table companions seemed to have listened with fervour, too, for all legs were still. Now the grown-ups had relaxed. Hinerangi could tell because the many toes under the table began to stretch and wiggle as if they were enjoying their own private conversation through the sign language system.
These were Hare's feet, because of the big bunion on the left side. It had always fascinated Hinerangi, for she had seen it many times sticking out through the worn out pair of “toe peeper” shoes Hare sometimes wore. Hinerangi experienced an almost uncontrollable urge to bend down and bite that big, brown, inviting kiritono, but she restrained herself and chuckled deep down inside.
And these legs belonged to Katene, they were big, like strainer posts and very hairy. She felt a strong desire to tweek at their long, black hair, but again she just chuckled deep inside.
The next pair belonged to his wife Arihia. It was she who had ridiculed education for their children. After today perhaps she would think twice about keeping Kingi home to weed the kumara and plant the corn. Kingi had too many brains that shouldn't be left to go to seed like the kumara in the tapapa pit.
These slim ankles were her mother's. They were the prettiest legs of all, under the table or anywhere else. She wanted to reach out and stroke them, but she daren't give away her hiding place like that.
Across from her Mother's well-shaped legs were the bony ones of Koro. How skinny they looked, with hardly any meat on them at all. They'd have made a sorry meal in the olden days for some hungry warrior, she decided. She pretended to measure the girth with her hands, and then compared their size to her father's big, kauri-like
limbs. Her father's toes, that splayed out like open umbrellas, wiggled some more as if inviting her to play “Piggly Wiggly” with them.
They were all good feet, there, feet that had worked hard carrying their owners up and down many a row of kumara and corn and many times down to the pipi and kutai beds to gather kai for the little ones at home. The feet began to shuffle now, giving off farewell salutes and toe-y odours as their owners gathered them to leave.
That night as Hinerangi lay in her narrow bed, she pondered all she had heard from her vantage point beneath the kitchen table. Outside, the rain beat heavily on the tin roof of the little shack, but Hinerangi was warm and comfortable inside. She smiled happily as she listened to the staccato notes of the raindrops. They sounded like popcorn pelting against the lid of a great big pot. “God must be cooking a popcorn kai for the angels tonight,” she smiled.
She felt intimately close to God for He was the very core of the beauty which surrounded her, and was not He, after all, her Heavenly Father? And did not he always cradle their frail little house in the hollow of His arms every time an angry storm shook the house to its very foundation? With God as their Father and Protector, all would be well. Always. All Ways. Hinerangi was confident of this and the knowledge made her glad.
Just then the soft cadences of her mother's voice reached her ears through the curtained-off bedroom door. “That was a good talk we had with those people today,” her mother said.
“Yes,” her father replied in his deep, rich voice.
After a short pause, her mother's voice rose again. “I wish I had the money to put all the kids through college.”
With a deep sigh, her father replied, “Yeah, so do I.” When with a lift to his voice he continued, “I've been making inquiries ‘bout these here free scholarships the Gov'ment's offerin' to bright Maori kids. They sound pretty good, too. The Gov'ment pays the tuition and the parents have to pay for the school uniforms and that stuff.
We should be able to manage the clothing part if any of our kids show any ability to win a scholarship. I'm figurin' on buyin' another heifer. It'll be big enough t' sell by the time any of our kids are ready for that scholarship.”
“What wonderful opportunities our kids have today.” Hinerangi's mother added. “What with all these scholarships, surely this higher education will help our Maori people to adjust more easily to the pakeha world.”
“This isn't really the pakeha world.” Hinerangi's Father added. “This is the New World—for Maori and Pakeha alike. The Old World's had its day. Our kids are facing the new world now. And better education ought' help both the Maori and the Pakeha to fit into it.”
“Te Ao Hou!” her mother breathed almost with reverence. “The New World, that's what it is. The Brave World! My heart goes out to the younger generation of both Maori and Pakeha. They've got to travel side by side to make it a better world. They must journey through life as brothers, not only of one another, but brothers of the whole world.”
“Brothers of the Pakeha! Brothers in the New World! Ah! That's what I'm going to be: A Brother to everyone, even though I'm just a girl,” breathed Hinerangi. “Te Ao Hou! God bless you.”
Then she curled up like a little kitten and fell fast asleep.
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