That moment of seeing green made me realise how much of home for me is the green of Auckland and New Zealand as a whole. Not 100% pure, not all wild or natural, but alive.
I had a very different version of that moment in 2013. I stepped off a 777 in Auckland, and was walking towards Customs. I looked out the window and thought ‘it must be the wet season…’. It took a while to remember how things work.
Even home can feel strange sometimes.
Even home can feel strange sometimes.
We've been back in Wellington 8 months. I lived in Beijing longer than I lived in any particular place in NZ. Now I'm back in my hometown, my wife and I in our various versions of culture shock, our daughter happy and settled. There are many ways it is good to be back "home", and yet, if we didn't have a wee one to raise...
Home for the past 23 years has been Grey Street in Claudelands, Hamilton. Which has mean’t the occasional snide comment about the city (7 Days et al). But this home has been good to us and those who came before us, since it was built in 1921.
Hamilton East School (130 years old), down a set of steps and up a short rise, shaped our two children well,
We recently re-lined the hallway, uncovering 7 layers of wallpaper–the oldest was a hand-blocked design made in England, We are a short step away from the Thai Shop, the Dumpling House, Scoff’s Takeways for Grownups and Playways Toy Shop. Ten minutes walk to the Lido Cinema across the Claudelands Bridge, with the river slipping by far below.
The front garden has been through its spring cycle; firstly, the azaleas; then the purple wisteria, and the flowering cherry–until it looks like it is snowing with falling petals. In the back garden (two levels of rich river silt), the raspberries are developing, artichokes, asparagus and broad beans are ready to harvest, the tomato plants are growing tall, and the quince and apple trees are heavy with young fruit,
We wonder who the new neighbours will be, we’ve had pot growers with mastiffs, who were sweetie pies once they knew we carried tux biscuits (the dogs, but come to think of it it may have worked on the owners too) A toothless, paranoid, amphetamine taking truck driver, a professional jazz drummer and the worst, a misanthropic curmudgeon from an old settler family. We think we will most likely get a young family as the schools are quite flash around here, possibly poms (Britirangi) but we dread the rental investment; “secluded with ample garaging”, shouts clanlab to me.
Ah, neighbours. We’re in a cul de sac with half a dozen Housing NZ properties in it. That has meant some interesting times – for a while HNZ sent us some really difficult tenants, including Chris, who was schizophrenic and should not have been living alone. He was exploited by his “friends” who would come around and party up (lighting fires!) on the driveway.
But the heroin homebaker next to him was actually a reasonably good neighbour and he looked out for the old folks. I wrote a letter for him when he got busted (that was a surreal morning – I opened the front door to see the street crowded with a hazmat truck and multiple cop cars, all with their lights going) and helped his sister go through the place after he sadly came out of hospital two days earlier than we expected, baked up and ODd on his kitchen floor.
There has been a bit of drug excitement over the years. The people who ran Feel, the E-friendly speakeasy got raided (cops in front door, helicopter with searchlight hovering over the back). The duplex on the corner was a tinny house for a while (idiot young customers doing donuts at the bottom of the cul de sac). There was the couple who lost the plot on P (became rather wearying to to talk to, especially after they fell out). Steve, who moved into the former tinny house flat, wasn’t so funny – he was fresh out of jail, mentally ill and on the P and he kept bringing stray youths home.
Nowadays, we have two elderly Chinese couples, Old Dave, and Shannon, who’s in a motorised wheelchair, in the Housing NZ properties and they’re all cool. Next door to us is a young couple who’ve had two babies since they arrived and are lovely people – he has a commercial electrical business, which allowed them to spend a shitload of money fixing up the place. Young Dave lives next to Old Dave and restores classic Toyotas.
It’s not a bad street to live in, all in all.
Home is always my mum's place on the northern edges of Wellington, but a second sort of home is the government end of the city. Between us, my mum, my dad and I have worked maybe half a century within 300m of the Beehive. Seen governments and buildings come and go, new bus terminals and courthouses, protest marches and victory parades. I hadn't realised how much it had changed until I saw a film clip at Te Papa from the 90s showing Willis St with a clear view through Chews Lane to the Boatshed.
Empathy. For almost nine years, until March 2014, our home was a funny wee bungalow in Christchurch's Flockton Basin. The second time our house flooded we walked away. We were lucky to be in the position to buy a new house that has, slowly, become home but we are left with the remains of our old, much loved home, which is growing mould and subsiding along its north wall while we try to show our insurance company the pointlessness of relining walls which keep cracking as the foundations move.
This idea of 'Home' gives me pause now and again, especially since my mother's death last year. The sudden loss of one's last parent tends to do that.
What we Pakeha New Zealanders don't have is a turangawaewae - the property my grandparents bought in 1956 is still in our family's hands but my brother is unmarried and has no children, my sister has no children and my 2 children are unlikely to want to 'become' farmers ... so one day, sooner rather later, my home will be sold and pass out of the family. When that happens I will lose "my place" in the world, the place I have called home since the time I could say the word.
My great-great grandfather's homestead is down the road a bit; my great-grandfather's homestead, a bit further down the road, is long gone but the place his youngest daughter built on the site is still there and although now out of the family is bounded by a farm still in my extended family.
My grandfather started his married life on a farm across the river and ended his life while on the property I still call 'home', even though I haven't lived there since 1975! My grandfather purchased it from a Mr Weir who had purchased it from the original owner who (stay with me here) was the brother of the man who owned the farm directly across the road (and which their father had developed). The same family still lives across the road, although there too, there is a lack of a next generation wanting to farm.
This property on a windy plane is my turangawaewae and I have lain in its summer grasses often enough to know what it feels, sounds and smells like. With luck I won't have to see it sold as I'm the oldest (keep good health though!). If I do see that day come I know I will weep for all those who have gone before, for the land itself and for the end of memory ... for the loss of the place where I stand tall.
...and my wife was born and raised in a village her family has lived in since the early Ming Dynasty. The family legend is that the ancestor put his two sons in a bucket each, hung the two buckets from either end of a carrying pole, said goodbye (like many thousands at the time) to Home outside the government office organising the mass migrations he was part of, which office sat under the Great Scholar Tree in Hongtong County, Linfen City, Shanxi, that many Chinese now "trace their ancestry to" (i.e. their family legends involve an ancestor who was also part of these migrations and set off from Home from under that very same tree), then trudged through the mountains to settle in the village my wife's family now call Home. My wife's generation isn't quite abandoning that village, but they do tend to now be scattered across the Greater Beijing area. Some of the next generation, in classic Chinese style, are being raised by their grandparents in that village, while the older kids tend to be with their parents. And now here's my wife in my "hometown", putting down roots of a kind in Wellington's northern suburbs, but Home is still that village in which her roots go back to the early Ming Dynasty.
And my mother in law kept telling my daughter that she's a New Zealander, so that long before she'd ever seen New Zealand, my daughter thought of New Zealand as Home, so much as somebody who's never seen a place can call that place home, so much as a 3-year old can understand the concept of home. She was a month shy of her 4th birthday when she finally saw this mysterious New Zealand place that was her home, but she's still very much convinced that New Zealand is Home.
I moved back to Wellington two months ago, after eleven years, near enough, first in Christchurch and then in the US. I couldn't get out of home fast enough when it came time to go to university - not for any bad reasons, just because I was eager to stretch my wings and try (semi)-independent adult life. Then I went overseas for a holiday with my family and came back desperate to get out of NZ for my postgrad studies - there was a whole wide world out there I could be visiting! So we packed up and left for the US.
Like some other people in this thread, living overseas intensified my sense of New Zealand as home. The Christchurch quakes happened in the six months after we'd left the city, which felt like a weird severing of our ties to our life in NZ - Christchurch was where we'd met and gotten married, as well as my wife's city of birth, and in an important way it wasn't there anymore, it had crumbled behind us. After a couple of years we were talking about maybe staying in the US longer-term. But the longer we stayed the more and more we missed NZ - didn't help that we only had the time and money to make one visit home in five years.
We came back to Wellington not knowing whether we'd be staying there, at least at first, and I realised while we were waiting to find out that I really wanted to stay. I'd been worried after all that time that I'd get sick of the place after a few weeks, maybe sick of living in NZ again, that it'd seem too small and too isolated and too much like trying to fit myself back into a space I'd outgrown. But, especially after Christchurch, it seemed like such an impossible gift to be living somewhere I knew the streets, where things were as I remembered them, somewhere I could talk to friends and family without having to calculate time zones and who was on Daylight Saving and who wasn't - or see them in person, even!
It helps in some ways - though it makes me sad in others - that my parents have so comprehensively redecorated their house since I lived there that almost every room looks entirely different. It's not the place I grew up in anymore, and if they sell it in the next few years - as they're talking about doing - I think I'll be OK with that. Wellington is going to be home again, but it's going to be a home I'm making.
My father used to be in Foreign Affairs, so the longest I have ever lived in one place at a time was three years. But in between postings, we always came home to our house in Ngaio, high on a hill top.
Over the years that house has changed - terrifying orange & green and brown chelsea bun carpet ripped out, along with the orange curtains and the mustard shag pile in my bedroom. My older sisters flatted in the house while I lived with my parents in Japan and it was always so strange to visit it in the holidays and find it stripped of most of the things I found familiar. My mother built a pottery studio in the backyard, and after I moved to Auckland for university, they cut down the great big macracarpa I used to climb in order to put in a cable car. Even though the three daughters have all moved out, my parents continue to expand the house as they gather more and more stuff. Having observed the process of disposing of an entire house of books (no lie, my grandparents built another Lockwood onto their house to act as my Opa's study) after Opa died, I'm already worried about how I will deal with all the stuff when my parents die. Hopefully that won't be for a long long time.
Ngaio has always been there for me, and I love the house with its views over the harbour and its quirks like the couch my father refused to get rid of so my mother carried it outside and dumped concrete and mosaic tiles all over it. I hope it will always be in our family, but given that none of us are likely to have kids, once my parents are gone, we really should sell it so that other kids can grow up in the bush reserve down the back bank.
Meanwhile due to the generousity and financial restraint my parents had when they were younger, I'm building a new home for myself (and my cats) in my wee half cottage in Thorndon. Without kids, I hope it's a place that my friends feel like they can call home as well whenever they need. The spare bed is always made and I have clean towels.
We moved around a bit when I was young. Chch, QT, New Plymouth, Te Awamutu, Arapuni - where I first went to school - to name a few. But we also had our home base in Windy Ridge, in Aucks. Loved that neighbourhood. Ol cul-de-sac everyone knows everyone sorta place. Diverse, accepting, loved it.
Home was also the place though, where Dad would come home from weeks on the road and try and fit his brand of...not tough...but.....yunno....love, into a few days before heading off again. Meant you waited for his return with a mix of joy and fear. Mum was the rock, the one who held it all together.
Home was also the place where we waited for the ambo or undertaker to come and take him away. I moved back home after that. Months later, my oldest mate killed himself...home was not so much a place of joy, but of me and my Mum trying to make sense of a pretty horrible world.
Interestingly, my fam and I now live with the ol lady again. She has her house down the bottom end of the property, we're at the top. And I finally feel she is in a home where she is happy again. Independent, but still with the safety net of fam close. A place where her grandkids can run around, talk shit...she seems happy.
So with home being not always great...I find home in other places...on stage...I miss that....I don't play as many large shows anymore...and I miss that home..
Home is where my family are, my partner and son. Irrespective of where they are, that is my home.
And this place is a home. I comment not at all, but Russell left my words here, an honour I never forget..I come to learn from Access pages, I come to gain knowledge and a perspective when I need it. I see the raruraru...and I stay out of it....I read it, think about it....but this place has always been a sanctuary for me. Some may scoff. Old me probably would...but I love this place, the people that come here to comment, share their opinions, their experiences, and I thank all y'all for that, whether I agree or not; whanau.
My ancestors started arriving here in 1823 and by mid century both lines were well established. Yet both my parents were taught to call Britain 'Home', and I remember as a child being puzzled when elderly relations used that term for a place they had never visited.
And this place is a home.
Thanks Chip. Genuinely touched.
Thanks for sharing that, Chip. You know, I've lived almost all of my life in Auckland, but had never heard there was a suburb called Windy Ridge before. But I've been there quite a few times, just didn't know the name. It's awesome to hear you're there with your mum nearby, and the old memories mingle sadness and fondness liberally together, reflecting life's ups and downs.
Lovely stories - great idea Russell :)
Yes, I found that puzzling too. And I was an immigrant from England, a place I've never felt was home (I came here when I was 4).
What we Pakeha New Zealanders don’t have is a turangawaewae
This is an interesting thing, as I kind of feel like we do.
Literally tūranga (standing place), waewae (feet), it is often translated as ‘a place to stand’. Tūrangawaewae are places where we feel especially empowered and connected. They are our foundation, our place in the world, our home.
My home journey started in Opotiki, where my grandparents also lived 100 meters up the road, and my foster uncle and family, where we had our annual Christmas hangi, were across town.
We then moved briefly (6 months) to Manurewa on the way to Whakatane when I was 7, until leaving high school for Auckland again 10 years later. The Eastern Bay of Plenty connection has remained, with family, friends, and extended whanau still there, or resting in various places, including on the East Cape.
When I think of where I belong,, or where I feel “especially empowered and connected”, it would still have to be Ohope Beach, and the areas around it, in spite having now been in Auckland longer than anywhere else. It’s just something that feels right. So many formative memories; the sea; Moutohorā / Whale Island and Whakaari / White Island; swimming, surfing, nearly drowning (both in the Waimana river and at the beach); walking with friends and family for hours on the beach. We still go back there at least once a year.
Our actual home in Auckland, we moved into just this June after 10 years in the previous house. What became apparent after the move is although the new spaces are better, and some added features are nice, what makes the home is the things you bring with you. Like the books, music, coffee machine, and of course the people.
Home is definitely where my people are, which is why PA also feels like home.
Amazing discussion. I don't always read all the comments on here but I always read every post.
I find almost everything written in the post and the comments resonates with me. Home is alternately something I at times struggle with but sometimes feel completely comfortable about
I'm a 3rd generation NZer of Croatian and German descent. For all of my 31 years my parents have lived in the same house in Gisborne they built before I, the oldest of 2 was born. While their stability and their untold dedication to their sons has been a guiding force in my life I could not wait to flee the nest and head to Palmerston North for university after high school.
In Palmerston North after a year in the halls in 5 years of uni and work I moved 6 times before packing up and moving to Indonesia. In Indonesia I initially moved between Medan, Jakarta and various towns in West Papua before being permanently based for 5 years in Sentani, West Papua. West Papua very much felt like home inasmuch as that was what I called home when I was travelling which my roster afforded me plenty of time to do.
I now find "home" to be Lyon, France where after finishing my time in Indonesia it just worked out to align by accident with my partner starting her masters degree. We have a tiny apartment in a great area and after 7 stressful years in Indonesia and mostly West Papua I'm starting to get a new sense of myself.
At the minute I'm sitting here in Gisborne, in that house my parents built that has provided me so much stability. I am always in awe of the life they created where they have sacrificed so much for my brother and I. They'll never leave Gisborne and probably not this house but they love their annual trips to Queenstown and are even thinking of coming to visit Europe (my brother after 2 years in Japan now lives in London).
So I have a few "homes" I guess with Tūranga/Gisborne being my Tūrangawaewae. But while I'll always feel comfortable at Mum and Dad's, Gisborne, as amazing as it is, is not really home and hasn't been for 13 years. Our little apartment in Lyon even though it is temporary is home I guess. But only because that's where my partner is and the shock of recent events while we are on opposite sides of the world is driving that - wait for it, home, even more.
Similar experience with feeling how lush Auckland and most of the country is compared to Oz. If I visit during spring/summer, it seems exactly how it was when I first visited Malaysia in terms of climate (although of course not nearly as warm). But it's very familiar. Places like Hawaii feel very "homelike" to me, for the same reason. And the cultural mix.
This is an interesting thing, as I kind of feel like we do
I tend to agree with Jackson. The Otago landscape is part of my heritage and part of my character. I may not be able to express it as well as the poetry of Brian Turner. But it is there, and I've been recognised for it when travelling north- for the quiet. Not withdrawn, not defensive, just quiet and comfortable with not having anything to say, and been recognised as from the South for it.
Home - 6th generation pakeha, parents from Timaru, , I was born in Wellington when they moved there for (father's) work. To Auckland after 18 months, London from 6 yrs old to 9, six months in Sydney, then back to Auckland. School in Auckland, then off to Taranaki to farm as 16 yr old, then Brisbane for the sun and surf (milking cows 7 days a week for $83/week was too tough), back to Auckland, then Christchurch for further education at Lincoln college, as it was called in those days
All by 23, and I have been in Auckland ever since.
We live in a house my wife's parents built on land they bought around the time I was born. We have been there about 24 years now, watched the kids enter the world, grow and leave home (kind of). Watched the trees my mother in law planted grow so large that we are now in the thinning process. And have learnt that if they get too big it is very expensive!
Plenty of people, including posters here, have moved much more than me, but I do feel my years of moving early, especially changing primary schools including to different countries in formative years, has made me yearn for "home" and not to move again. My Auckland childhood home has gone, replaced by a new house by my sister and her family, it's cool but it is not my home in any way.
What does home mean to me? It's where the memories are, kids heights on the kitchen door post, parties, friends, garden, music and the rest. My kids have never moved house apart from going flatting, my wife has lived in our house all but a few of her years. We have travelled a fair bit and never seen anything we would give up our home for.
I am happy to pass my time on this piece of land, and would like my children to have it always as home. In time it will be sold I guess, and they will make their own homes. But right now neither I nor they are ready for that.
I currently live about 30km as the crow flies from where I was born - in Kenepuru hospital - yet over the almost 50 years since then I have not managed to find a place that truly feels like home. I am and feel like a Kiwi, but as a first-generation Pakeha the deeper connections have always felt tenuous.
In the physical sense home was a place I mostly feared when growing up. Alcoholism and mental illness made it a shaky place. Certainly not a sanctuary and totally not a place to take my mates after school.
We moved every few years, from Welly to Auckland (three moves while there) to Invercargill in my 5th form year. I went from the odd toke on the beach at Milford to cruising the empty streets with a keg in the back of the V8. It was cold and coldly conservative and I left for the imagined cosmopolitanism of Queenstown as soon as was feasible.
The mountains promised a home and they almost delivered. Their unavoidable steadfast beauty, the stories they knew, the curves and peaks of their embrace. But I was a bit damaged and doubted my place among the lucky and beautiful so started a roaming that lasted fifteen years and took me to many mountainous places many miles from the place I started.
There were slices of time in certain places when I felt like I was home, and could maybe build something out of that. Eventually I realised that it was the good people of that time that I wanted to share roots with, not any particular location. But it was their home, not mine, and I still felt lost.
And then one day, like others here, I finally felt the call to come home. I had nowhere to go so I came back to the mountains. But they hadn't changed enough and I had so it was back to Welly, to study, and maybe to finally find a home.
That was over a decade ago and now I have my own bad habits. Home is where I am weak and lazy and that's ok. It's where I gather strength to engage with the world. It's where I am loved and I guess that's my place to stand. It's where I look out at Aotearoa and wonder where on earth I fit in.
Home for me is any place that provides a tolerant cosmopolitan environment. Wellington, where I grew up and later moved back to over a decade ago, fits the bill nicely for a city of its size.
Home is New Zealand. I was a teen when we moved to Auckland and lived in the Eastern Suburbs, no not Howick or Pakuranga, but Glen Innes & Point England. We moved around a bit. Lived in a few different places after leaving home too, so when the opportunity came to put down roots, I grabbed it. Been in West Auckland ever since.
Home is New Zealand. When the time came to choose New Zealand citizenship, it was an easy decision even though it meant surrendering the Malaysian one (Malaysia does not allow dual citizenship).
Home is New Zealand, more specifically Auckland more than elsewhere in New Zealand. Its cosmopolitan composition is a big factor as is its size. I feel like I belong here. There are enough Asian faces that I don't stick out (True story: I was in a supermarket in a small town quite a bit further south one night. As I walked down an aisle, I realised that everyone was staring at me, and it wasn't because my fly was undone or I had toilet paper stuck to my shoe. I was the only non-European Pakeha face there). In Auckland I don't much get asked where I'm from, "Glen Innes", or get complimented on my English, although that might be because I now speak with an accent and mumble & swallow my words like a proper Kiwi...
[I'm a mostly lurker here but appreciate PAS as a haven for civil, insightful, intelligent commentary & discussion.]
Places like Hawaii feel very “homelike” to me, for the same reason. And the cultural mix.
When I was in the States I found the big West Coast cities more like NZ than anywhere else - San Francisco + north have similar weather, similar vegetation (lots of Monterey pines and even pohutukawa, imported for their colour), more similar cultural environment, similar urban environments, easier access to some home treats (proper ginger beer, that sort of thing.) And they were on the right ocean. It wasn't home, but it was...something closer, especially when I hadn't actually been home for years.