"I have always encouraged Rosie to travel, although I didn’t expect her to settle in NZ… admittedly I have very mixed feelings about this. I am thrilled she is happy, in work, has wonderful friends and is enjoying all the delights of NZ, but I miss her so much, and in my gut there’s a part of me that wants her back under my wing, clinging to me, safe in my arms."
I often sit and reminisce about my daughter as a baby, clinging on to me like a little koala bear, and now she’s living on the opposite side of the planet – time certainly does fly. I have always encouraged Rosie to travel, although I didn’t expect her to settle in NZ… admittedly I have very mixed feelings about this. I am thrilled she is happy, in work, has wonderful friends and is enjoying all the delights of NZ, but I miss her so much, and in my gut there’s a part of me who wants her back under my wing, clinging to me, safe in my arms. She was such a shy child hiding behind me – it’s hard to believe now that you can’t shut her up!
With all these emotions, the trip was always going to be a mixed experience, knowing from the beginning that there would be an end to it, and that would involve another sad goodbye to my beloved daughter. But we had a bloody good time, all five weeks of it! The first two weeks were spent exploring the North Island, meeting Rosie’s friends along the way, from the magical Bay of Islands, followed by a Coromandel Christmas, and ending in not-so-windy Wellington.
Ah, how hard it is to pick out memories, so many and so varied. It was incredible to stay in the most Northern campsite in New Zealand and then do the long and (to me) arduous walk to Cape Reinga. Hours away from phone signal and internet, I hadn’t camped with Rosie for years, it was fun! She ensured we go to one of her favourite geothermal hot springs, Ngawha, which we loved. Quite unspoiled, hardly anyone there, and I had a great talk with a Maori regular who told me of the history of this taonga (treasure) of the North.
My husband and I are used to staying in hostels and tents – rarely do we stay in luxury, so our treat to ourselves was to stay in a divine house in Coromandel for Christmas. Unfortunately the weather was cool and dreary, but we still had a good time, joined by Rosie’s friends, mostly non-Kiwis who had ended up in New Zealand. We cooked a traditional English Christmas dinner, and were entranced by the addition of grapefruit fresh from the tree.
It was lovely how quickly Rosie and I just got into our normal relationship, mostly good, lots of jokes, some irritation (as mothers and daughters do), overall I was just in seventh heaven to be with my Rosebud again! We spent a lot of Christmas Day skyping the family in England, but it doesn’t really do it for me, I like to feel and smell and hug, you can’t do that over Skype!
It was really cool to see where Rosie lives, works, goes for a drink, and to meet her friends in the flesh rather than just stalking them on Facebook. Of course we loved New Zealand, what’s not to love? Such friendly people, I will talk to anyone, it’s what I like to do, much to my children’s amusement. I remember chatting with a Maori farmer, well into his eighties, in Raglan; we exchanged stories of farming in the old days, and I just thought how much my Dad, a Worcestershire farmer, would have loved that. We met such interesting folk through staying at hostels and airbnbs, all with their own stories to tell.
From Wellington we got the ferry over to the South Island, Rosie had to return to work so off we went in her little white car, that she had lent us. Arriving in Christchurch, I was completely shocked by the devastation caused by the 2011 quake. I was also very impressed by what is now happening there, the regeneration of the city. We loved the cardboard cathedral and the shipping container shopping mall. We were very moved by the stories we heard there, talking with a museum attendant, a road worker, a cafe worker, all with their own painful memories of the earthquake.
I remember when I was travelling, same age as Rosie, I fell in love with Israel/Palestine and after spending a couple of years there I considered permanently staying, even though we were spending lots of time in bomb shelters. So when Rosie mentioned she was tempted by the cheap rent and beautiful surroundings of Christchurch, aka Quake City, I understood the fear my mum would have felt back then.
I learnt a lot of random facts to go home with, like Kiwis can’t fly and only lay one egg. Waka means canoe or indeed any other mode of transport. Cuba St in Wellington is really groovy! Not to say groovy in front of Rosie unless I want a sarcastic reaction. I re-read Janet Frame, and Maori stories, of Earth Mother and Sky Father. And at the end of it all, I re-learnt the practice of letting go, something parents do all their lives.
I waved goodbye to my lovely daughter with tears in my eyes, not knowing where or when I would see her again. However, when she talks of her travels over the Islands now, and of her friends, I can picture the places and and put names to the faces, and I have many blissful memories of our special trip to the magical Islands of Aotearoa.
Pammie Michell is a mother of two travelling children who loves to visit different cultures. She is a mindfulness teacher, and volunteers in her spare time at a local refugee centre.