Home by Trudi Sutcliffe
I live in a small city, Porirua, New Zealand, with a population of around 50,000, a baby city really. Geographically our city is split by our two harbours, our many hills and demographically. Like many larger cities we have our poor and our wealthy, its white and its brown faces.
We are shadowed by our larger and hipper neighbouring city, Wellington, which is also the capital of New Zealand known for its strong café and bar scene and where many of our locals commute to daily.
But when I’m driving home and I see Mount Cooper/Whitireia’s half-moon shape I know I’m nearly there…home.
“We turn the corner on the motorway and there it is. Whitiriea. The heart calms. The breath deepens. HOME.”
But often when I’m at a local event or even just shopping I’m struck by the diversity in our city and how we mostly all get along, but how we often know so little about each other, and how this lack of knowledge can sometimes lend us to sit uncomfortably side-by-side. But it also makes me wonder about each of these communities and sub-communities, our diverse cultural, ethnic, economic, sporting and art cultures, and from our youth to our elderly. What are their stories? What are their aspirations?
A year ago I wrote a blog post called, ‘The Crime of the Boston marathon’. The focus was not on those maimed or killed, but on the two bombers and the lack of belonging and the disengagement many feel in mainstream society. It was a story where I wasn’t sanctioning what the bombers allegedly did, but just encouraging discussion on the bigger picture of humanity and empathy.
But today’s piece of writing was sparked by the above photo. The photo of Celeste Corcoran who lost her lower legs in last year’s Boston Marathon bombing. She and daughter Sydney, right, were back at the race with Celeste’s sister Carmen Acabbo. This photo too is about humanity, but it is also about inner strength , courage and the resilience within Celeste, her family and all of the competitors who came back to the Boston Marathon this year, particular those who ran the year before and of course those who like Celeste had been maimed. This image represents what ‘resilience’ means to many. Imagine the fear as these runners crossed the start line, let alone as they neared the finish line. But they did it! How is it that some people fall apart from the smallest incident, and others rise above great hardships or incidents becoming even stronger?
Why I write? This is a good question and I’m not even sure I can answer it.
I’ve always had this burn to write. I wrote and directed plays forcing my younger sister and neighbour to perform in front of our parents as a young child and I scribbled poems into my Dad’s old work diary.
Now as an adult I’ve written on and off in a journal for years. I write poetry to share out loud with a group of friends as a poetry performance group. Plus I’m in the middle of writing my second draft of a young adult novel.
So why do I write these words and live parts of my day in somebody else’s head? Apart from my performance poetry and now this blog, plus twitter, nobody sees the words that I’m seeing in my head and on the page. So why am I doing it?
You better not never tell nobody but God. It’d kill your mammy.
Dear God, I am fourteen years old. I have always been a good girl.
These two sentences are the first two sentences from Alice Walker’s novel, ‘The Color People’. A diary form novel set in the harsh segregated world of the Deep South around the 1930s. The protagonist, Celie, is raped by the man she calls father.
I could write this blog piece about the ongoing abuse against others, particularly on girls and children. I could write about rape culture and the way to change the thinking of both sexes, i.e. telling women to dress less provocatively and not flirt, which contributes to the blaming of victims, rather than the perpetrators. Instead I’m picking up on something more subtle but widespread and something I’ve been guilty of, the inability to say ‘no’ and doing something that makes me uncomfortable or unhappy. Society has encouraged many of us to be ‘good’ and to tend to others’ needs before our own. Many of us have done something we didn’t want to do, maybe because we wanted to feel liked or loved, a belonging, or to gain someone’s approval. Alongside this behaviour is the need to say ‘sorry’ every two seconds, even when it’s not your fault, and often the perpetrators…
Don’t take a pill, instead have a strange impulse…
I’m sitting at the kitchen table with a coffee and a book, Lydia Davis’s ‘The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis’. I’d arrived home only ten minutes earlier after doing the school run and I’m basically procrastinating before I start working on the computer. Flicking through the short story collection I pause at the paragraph-long story ‘A Strange Impulse’. A smile creeps onto my face. An ironic smirk actually. The story starts with the narrator looking down from their window and who watches with surprise as shopkeepers cover their ears, and then the narrator observes:
“And why were there people in the street running as if pursued by a terrible specter? Soon everything turned to normal: the incident had been no more than a moment of madness during which the people could not bear the frustration of their lives and had given way to a strange impulse.”
And why did I smirk? While driving my daughter and friend to school on my so-called-day-off, (day off from the real job) we became grid-locked, the kind that brings a city to a breaking halt. We weren’t even travelling into the city, just going from one suburb to the next, but still we were caught up regardless. Sitting at intersections and roundabouts I constantly restrain from shouting at impatient drivers and their constant near misses.
Seething I push ‘off’ on the phone. Pushing the button ‘off’ didn’t satisfy the frustration I felt. Slamming the phone old school back onto its ‘hook’ would have been more fulfilling.
Why was I so furious?
Someone on the other end of the line had told me she ‘didn’t know why women would do that type of a job’!
What kind of job you wonder.
The career of a top executive or CEO. One who is on call 24/7.