Thursday, February 22, 2018

Roots and All

October 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Main Blog

Does it ever seem to you that for most of your life you spend it looking for yourself? Even when you know you’re right there! Odd isn’t it! Tomorrow I’ll be travelling to Helensville. I’m attending the hura kohatu (unveiling) of my maternal great grandmother, a woman I hardly know and perhaps that’s why I’m going, so I can.

Her name was Moewaka Jane Rapana (nee Mitai), she was born and lived most of her life around Helensville on New Zealand’s North Island. She was my grandmother Irihapeti’s (Elizabeth Tarawa Heke) mother.

I didn’t really know either of these women, my great grandmother or my grandmother but there’s a deepening sense in me of ties that bind. What is that? That age old thing of one’s search for one’s identity?

From time to time I think I should have known my grandmother more (mainly because as a child I spent an inordinate number of school holidays with her), but I didn’t. As an adult and looking back on it, she seemed quite an ‘unknowable’ soul really, her life governed by warrior-sized maori superstitions and an aloofness I’ve never seen the likes of since.

She never seemed to me to be your comfortable, sink into the folds of her granny-like warmth type of person. She was more indifferent which seems so incongruous with your gushing maori nanny who spoils the mokopuna (maori word for grandchild) rotten then gives back the overtired, sugar-fuelled child to their eye-rolling, already sleep-deprived parents.

No, my conclusions to date are that Elizabeth seemed ‘unknowable’ and yet … I’d like to know and thereby understand her, it’s what we do I think. Those in the here and now. Knowing makes me feel better that I’ve tried. Having tried and not known further, well, that’s another thing for another day.

My friend Sarah is very good at putting jigsaw puzzles together (5,000 piece puzzles), she told me the best way to get the whole picture is to make the outside border first (this sometimes seemed impossible to me but it’s where she always started) and she always finished them. So tomorrow I’m using that principle and applying it to making my family jigsaw puzzle.

My daughter Mede (Amiria Ruth Elizabeth) is coming with me. Name calling is important to me, it gives us our bearings in life. She was named for Amiria Manutahi Stirling, wife of Te Whaanau-a-Apanui and Ngati Porou elder Eruera Stirling. Amiria was a woman of unmitigated grace and personal strength, I loved that about her, that and her great warmth.

“Ruth is of Hebrew origin, and its meaning is “friend, companion”. In the biblical context Ruth was a young Moabite widow who said to her Hebrew mother-in-law Naomi, “Where you go, there I shall go also; your people will be my people, your God, my God”. I would like to think that whatever my daughter were to do in/with her life she would adopt and or adapt the full sentiment of the biblical Ruth’s endeavour, that is, to do it with all her heart.

Elizabeth Ελισαβετ (Elisabet), the Greek form of the Hebrew name אֱלִישֶׁבַע (‘Elisheva’) meaning “my God is an oath” or perhaps “my God is abundance”. The Hebrew form appears in the Old Testament where Elisheba is the wife of Aaron, while the Greek form appears in the New Testament where Elizabeth is the mother of John the Baptist.

Derivations aside, Elizabeth of old was character-defined, she’d got the nod from the big guy upstairs. Huge rap! Mine is a roots and all approach to the weekend’s events but I do want to see the individual tree from the forest and like my tree climbing ways in previous exploits, I’m also a practical tree hugger from way back!

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