Every fortnight, my Mum, the dog and I drive an hour and half to a little town called Te Kaha. JC, my dog sits in the boot of the Rav where she is just a bit too short - quite amusing since she lives with a household of Asians. She looks like a kid trying to reach the cookie jar on the bench if she rests her head on the backseat. Her gigantic, wagging tongue a great indicator that she likes road trips too because it’s a nice break from the mundane of our suburban backyard.
She’d been excited since my Mum took her dog bed from the conservatory - a charade of raucous yelping and giddy impatience. In her world, the words beach, walk and Te Kaha are a good indication of some sort of adventure. A goofy grin bursts on her face - I love that face she makes. It’s the same when she eats peanut butter.
I teach my class at a marae (Maori meeting house) and we would joke that she has a favourite patch of grass where she’s guaranteed to feast on. My dog is a burly labrador and I was first hesitant to let my Mum walk her (who is walking whom?) but my dog learned quickly that the less she pulls, the longer my Mum can walk her. An Asian woman in a pink puffy jacket walking a 40kg labrador is not something you see often in rural New Zealand - not that our family has ever been all that conventional in what we do.
The way my Mum packs the car you would think we were going for a week - although most of the snacks are for my dog. In fact, the first time we drove there, she forgot to bring snacks for the humans on the trip. At least I know JC will be well loved when I head overseas.
Learning to drive has been one of the most useful skills I gained as an adult - without it I probably wouldn’t be as obsessed with New Zealand’s coastline as much as I am. I’m not sure how I would feel if I lived in a landlocked country, so I’m hoping that I will get a posting near enough to the coast in Peru. Lakes are beautiful, but the beach, it always feels like home. The sand in my toes, that salty mist when the wind picks up, the smell of wet driftwood freshly washed up on the shore - it’s probably why I’ve lived in Whakatane for so long.
The best part is the drive home - now that Spring is on its way, we get to catch the sunset. There in the trees you see the remnants of light taking shelter before the twilight surrenders to the stars. On a clear night, this stretch of road has an amazing view of the Milky Way. We never feel alone because the view of the sky connects us to a greater sense of purpose. If you think about it, some of those stars may no longer exist, yet in this moment, we get one more night together.
Growing up I never thought I would enjoy road trips with my mother, I guess that’s how being an adult changes you. In my teenage years I didn’t understand the concept of age and time as I do now. As my Mum and I grow older, I see there’s a lot more of her in me than just being a reflection of her biology. For that I’m grateful.
I wasn’t a bad kid really, but these days my relationship with my parents have evolved for the better. There are days we talk about the world and I feel like an adult, then there are some days I sit in my room and time travel back to my youth. They’ve taught me to love the rain as much as the sunshine, because it’s our resilience that builds character, not luck.