It was the first bit of solitude I’d had all day. My seven year old son, Abe was out back climbing and exploring the bank of bushland that borders the boundary of our cozy three-bedroom box which we call home.Â My five year old daughter, Fi, was taking her afternoon nap.
I wanted to put my feet up and enjoy a few moments of bliss, curled up with a good romance story or watch recordings of Shortland Street, which I never get to watch because the kid hijack the TV.Â Instead, I wandered through the house picking up and putting away clothes, toys and other scattered, abandoned incidentals.
The phone rang.Â The caller ID flashedâ€”it was Grandma Rose.Â I hesitated, taking a deep breath, and pick up the headset.
These calls from my grandma started with enquiries about her grandchildren, followed by a tongue-lashing for me not attending or contributing to a family event.Â They usually end with a lecture on why I should keep in touch with my estranged sister, Tiresa.Â Why do I even pick up? I asked myself.Â Â Because she is family, that’s why, the last link to my mother.
“Hello, Isabella speaking.”Â My voice was tight and I sounded hurried and flustered as I picked up a straggly, water-soaked teddy bear.Â Fi no doubt had given him a bath.
“Isabella?” she asked.Â My grandma never cottoned to calling me by my nickname, “Bella,” which all of my family and friends use instead of calling me by my full name, Isabella White.
“Hi, Mama Rose.Â How are you?” I asked, cradling the phone between my shoulder and my ear as I continue picking up toys.Â If I had to listen to another lecture, I might as well redeem the time while doing so.
“Fine, just fine, dear one.Â How are Fanau o lau fanau?”
“They’re wonderful, Mama Rose.Â Fi hasn’t stopped talking about the flax outfit she startedmaking at your house last week, and Abe is determined to build a canoe.Â He’s scouting the tree trunks out back for a suitable base.”Â It was a slight exaggeration, but I learned long ago that it is easier to deal with Mama Rose if you tell her what she wants to hear.Â The lectures are shorter that way.
“Ah, that’s good to hear.Â Fa’a Samoa,” she replied.
I barely listened as she rambled on, extolling the benefits of teaching her grandchildren about their culture and history.Â She long gave up teaching me the “Samoan way.”Â Instead, Mama Rose turned the full force of her efforts onto her grandchildren.
I am the firstborn, pride and joy of my soft-spoken yet fiery tempered Scottish Pa, and the second-born of my late mother.Â She already had a one year old daughter when she met and fell in love with my Pa.Â I was born twelve months later.Â Pa raised Tiresa as his own and we were brought up as true sisters until the tender ages of ten and eight, when tragically, unexpectedly, our mother died from cervical cancer and my sister and I were separated.