I was 18 years old when I flew by myself from New Zealand, to South Bend, Indiana. It was 1972. I cried all the way from Invercargill to Christchurch which is a long trip in a turbo prop plane. I didn’t even have a passport. When I left Auckland a few hours later, I had picked up my passport and been surprised by telegrams from teachers at school who’d thought to cheer up a lonely girl about to take on the world. In those days there was no direct anything. I flew to Honolulu, where I discovered my airline was on strike. That hurdle negotiated I was met in the early hours of the morning in San Francisco by the AFS rep who was appalled to find me talking to a hippy. He had more hair than I’d ever seen on a man before but he was really nice, offering me a smoke and a bed in a commune in Rainbow Mountain. The next day I flew to Chicago and from there to South Bend, Indianna, just over the Michigan state line which was where my new life was going to begin. I still remember walking down the stairs from the plane and hearing ‘There she is!”. The relief that they looked normal, that they were smiling, that I was probably going to have a really good time, must have been written all over me but it was the ‘you didn’t need to bring rocks, we’ve got those here,’ comment from my brother than made me realize I was perfectly matched. But none more so than with my sister who to this day, knows me like no other. That happens when you’re young and on the cusp of so much. I don’t even need to close my eyes to hear the screen door clang, smell Dad’s pipe tobacco, feel the space of that house contract and expand as we filled it with our lives. I began the process of knowing who I was in that house. I learned to smoke more than tailor-mades,  I played hooky, I spent the night in the Sand Dunes at Tower Hill and one magical day, my sister and I spent an afternoon in a farmers field flying a kite and drinking ugly wine.  On the way home we sang loud and proud to Helen Reddy. I fell in and out of love and it broke my heart to leave. When I got back to NZ I knew I’d never again be one person in one place. We have spun the threads of family across oceans and we’ve held tight through all that life has chucked at us. My (American) Mom died this month. I think she got a bad rap from us when we were young. We dodged as much housework as we could, we snuck out, we took her for granted but thankfully we also grew up and appreciated the ability of a determined woman and began to understand the relationship that was Mom and Dad. Never smooth for long but always full of love. I learned to be me in that family. And today when I read Mom’s obitary and saw that she had two daughters and one of them was me, I cried those big, sad tears you reserve for those you love.IMG_1447




5 thoughts on “Family

  1. I remember you going on your big adventure. I have photos to prove it.
    An amazing experience for you and both your families x


  2. Hi Robyn nice to read but so sorry to realise your Mother has died. With love and sympathy to you especially and your family.


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