I think I'm still trying to find that place where I feel really at home. Not to say that I'm not comfortable in my own home, or my childhood home. It's just that when I ask myself ‘Where is my Turangawaewae?’ I’m not convinced it’s anywhere yet.
My early childhood years were spent in Otangarei, Whangarei from two to fourteen years old. 75 Keyte Street was the place of fun and wonderful childhood memories. Long hot summers of lazy, happy days. Bullrush with the neighbourhood kids, mostly boys, knocking at the door calling me to play. We made cars out of grass clippings, ‘poor man’s oranges’ — as my mother called them, really grapefruit — as steering wheels, gobbling masses of fruit from the enormous number of fruit trees. All state houses had them in those days. Our pet lamb Lollie, lovingly bottle fed, would come inside and sit on the couch, much to Mum’s horror. I didn't eat meat for ages after he was taken away.
Once my mother found me in the garden, wiping snails over my face. I had watched her applying face cream, apparently thinking snail trail might do the same job.
My sister didn't seem to like me much, one time she put dirt in my sandwiches and told me it was Vegemite, after I'd taken a bite or two. I was outgoing and friendly. She was a bookworm, shy and reserved.
My bedroom was the sunroom off the lounge, all state houses had them — the houses in our street were exactly the same, only the interior decorating set them apart. Mum was a great housekeeper, busy and liked her routines, always saving for the newest gadget.
Dad worked hard and we were happy, until he got sick, then it all changed.
Not long before he died he told me he would go back to 75 Keyte Street on his walks, pausing to remember the good times.
I still do.