I was blessed with two beautiful children - a boy for me to teach a Ngati Kahungunu haka too, to teach him how to use a taiaha and help him master his fierce pukana. My daughter was fortunate enough to get a father who treated her like royalty and she inherited her mother’s gospel golden tones.
As soon as you walked into my home pictures swooped at you like a seagull would once it spotted your paua fritter, each one evoking a flood of memories. I have a collection of my favourite photos but my absolute favoured picture is of Michael and Tara at Matariki.
Matariki was mine, and the kids’ favourite time of year - the start of the Maori New Year. Tara had a protective hold over Michael and Michael was looking up admiring his sister.
You could tell Michael preferred the feminine side of everything. Going to the supermarket, he’d pick up hair clips with a glow in his eyes, like a poor man had just found a four leaf clover. He would stomp his feet, he is an ant marching across the concrete. His father pushed him aside, like he was left-over Roast Beef from last night’s Sunday dinner.
To Michael, this was normal for him - stopping in the girls perfume isle and basking in the flowery smell… you’d think he was in a meadow of flowers and you could see the butterflies in the field two-step with one another. Finding Michael in Tara’s wardrobe was a regular occurrence, his father would pull at him and I would often worry about his limbs, waiting for a pop as his shoulder dislocated. Of course Michael howled his mighty objection.
“I WANT TO WEAR THE PINK DRESS, I LIKE THE PINK DRESS!”
This was why it was no shock when I saw the photo of Tara and Michael at Matariki. Michael admires his sister, he might be fooling his father but he isn’t fooling me. Nobody fools Michelle. Michael is looking at Tara like that because he adores her silk pleated skirt and her imported sheep angora cardigan.
Once again a memory swoops at me as my eyes peruse Michael crouched low, ready to engage in a scrum reminded me of a Maori warrior, staunch and proud.
As a parent, attending all sporting achievements is an obligation. I can still hear the cursing from the other team in my ear, the jealously evident in their tone of voice. “Go son! Run firm my boy” I chanted from the stands. Words couldn’t describe how proud I was to have a son chosen to play against other talented boys from six other districts in the Ross Shield Tournament.
I see Michael, a look of intensity on his face as he crouches into the scrum. I know this is a battle within himself. You could tell he was uncomfortable with the realization that maybe that funny feeling he experiences when he’s around boys wasn’t just a one of thing…
His face was hushed and an inquisitive look was in his eyes. His brown eyes fixated on the tightness of the shorts around the strong firm thighs of his opposition, a bead of perspiration made its way down his forehead, due to the struggle within himself. Does he follow the path and be true to himself, or does he bury his true self underneath the unrealistic expectation and honour our culture?
Seeing him grow up and go through this struggle of confusion and hurt gave me the power to influence Michael on realising his true self. Truth and honesty were highly valued in our culture, but knowing if he followed…