Finally, an easy post!
This is a short story that I wrote in 2015 around the time of the Maori new year or Matariki. My Library was doing a writing competition. This is the story tat won and amazed librarians.
The children laughed and played in the back yard of a tiny house, where the gathering was to be held in. The men were chatting over bottles of beer, cooking the meat on the barbeque. Inside the kitchen, the women made salads, bite sized things and coffee.
When the sun came to their area, and most of the people were there, the women called the children to come inside.
“Children! Let me fill your tummies,”
The children wanted to keep playing but they were also very hungry. They raced each other into the house. Marco, a skinny boy who always wore singlets, and was one of the bigger boys, won the race. Their aunties and uncles were already gathered.
Marco’s father, the man of the house, began the Mihi.
“Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa,” he said “Welcome and thank you everyone for coming to our humble house to have fellowship and enjoy the Maori New Year.”
There was a ripple of cheers and shouts from the crowd. Marco looked around to see if there was a celebrity who had come in the house.
“Let’s pray to Our God,” said Marco’s father
Everyone bowed down their heads, young and old, small and big.
“Lord, bless over the food that we are about to eat. Bless the ones who made it and humble the ones who didn’t such as our lovely kids. In Jesus name,”
All the people said; “Amen” in response.
Marco’s father nodded like he approved.
“Good, now let’s eat!”
All the children cheered and whooped. One child screamed for some reason.
The children all rushed outside and helped themselves to the potato salad, the kumara, the taro. But the most anticipated thing of all, was the meat; chicken, beef, pork, lamb, roast duck, all there for the taking in big as pieces.
“I want the chicken, I want the beef, I want lamb,” said the children.
The children gathered at the very back of the back yard, near the fence. It was a nice shaded grassy area. They ate heartily and talked freely to each other. Some of the Marco’s cousins, he hadn’t seen in years, others, he just never talked to.
Marco’s cousin, the one he never talked to, touched his knee. Her name was Melissa.
“I’ve never talked to you before,” she said, smiling, showing her teeth and gums. She wore an ankle bracelet on her wrist. “How are you, whanaunga?
“I’m good, thank you. And you?”
“I’m good too,” said Mellissa. “I’m having a good year,”
She took her hand away from his knee to pick up her drumstick, and Marco could breathe again.
“The year just started today,” said a much younger kid, called Cameron, who was 3 years old, and their nephew.
“Don’t be an egg,” said Marco
But Melissa just shrugged, still with that same smile.
“I guess you’re right, Cam,”
Marco shook his head. They were both an egg.
After dinner, the younger children were tired but they tried so hard to keep awake to watch Maori television, “Wake Warriors”, they soon fell asleep, curled up in their mother’s lap like a kitten. The older children were able to stay up, sipping lemon lime and bitters, L&P or just water. Some even tried coffee which they didn’t like. But eventually, they also fell asleep. It was going to be a long day after all.
Marco swore he only closed his eyes for 5 minutes, when his Aunty Jojo, gently shook him awake.
“Aki, wake up. It’s time,”
Marco rubbed his eyes and sat up and yawned. He stretched his arms despite his sleep head protesting. He got up and stretched his legs and almost fell asleep while standing. The children were fussy. They didn’t want to wake up. The worst ones were the younger kids even though they had way more sleep than the rest. The adults didn’t sleep, they ran on coffee and apples and beer and kumara.
“I don’t want to!” A little kid began shouting and getting really loud. This was their way of being “persuasive”.
“Cameron,” said a man “be quiet”
The man was Grandpa Mathews. He was the elder, the chief and a man with a lot of years ahead and mana in his bones. Mana meant that people respected him and generally did what he said. Cameron was quiet as a mouse after Grandpa Mathews told him off.
Quietly, slowly, the family went outside where it was cold, windy but beautiful.
They laid their mats on the grass and laid down on it. Marco’s mum made him wear a warm woolly jumper and then they laid together on a matt. Marco could never find the stars and it was his mum who always knew where it was every year.
“I see it now,” said his mum already.
“Where?” Marco, as usual, was getting frustrated and flustered that he couldn’t see anything. He saw stars but not matariki, a cluster of stars which translated to “Eyes of god” and signified the new year in the Maori calendar.
“There,” said Marco’s mum “It’s there on the left. Squint your eyes,”
Marco squinted his eyes and looked slightly up a bit more. There, up in the sky, finally, Marco could see Matariki.
“I see it now,” said Marco, smiling.
Then, he settled down, and slept on his mum’s lap, just like when he was a little kid. His mum kissed his head and rubbed his hair.
“Happy Maori new year, my love,”