Chapter 32 – Moana’s Story

The days were passing so quickly, each one busy attending many meetings at The Little Book Publishing Company with Tom and Delilah, discussing the process of the book or interviewing employees. Tom had the original concept in his mind but found it a challenge putting it into words to share with the others. He wanted to know what was holding him back, admitting frustration with himself and sharing his feelings at this particular gathering. Finally the tears brewed to the surface and he was willing to show his vulnerability to his dear friends and colleagues. Molly felt an old pattern coming to the surface for her…of wanting to fix it, make it better or for another to feel better and her having to do something to make this so – that this was her responsibility. She caught herself before any words had left her mouth, sat back and focussed on her breathing. ‘This is not yours to fix’, she reminded herself. She knew by just listening that Tom would be able to work it out for himself. And he did, of course! He shared with the others how he and Kelly had just found out that she is pregnant. This was unexpected, as they had not planned to have children, satisfied with their furry family and careers. What he had been reminded of was a dream which he had had several weeks prior. In the dream he was swimming in tropical waters. Effortlessly he was able to stay underwater for long periods of time, his body moving smoothly through the crystal clear waters like he had a tail. Something caught his attention at the bottom of the water amongst the luminous green sea weeds gently waving in the currents of the ocean. In an alluring way he felt it was calling him. It was a large clam shell which as he got closer to it, opened up to reveal a large shining black pearl. In the mirrored surface of the pearl he could see clearly his own reflection. This image changed from his face to Kelly’s, smiling back at him. Then the image seemed to get younger and younger, from a grown woman to a teenager to a small child to an infant and to a new born baby. The baby smiled at him and winked. Next thing he remembered he was lying in the bed at home, his body damp with sweat, Kelly next to him, sleeping undisturbed by his vivid dream. He remembered now, in that moment he knew she had conceived the night before. He had brushed that thought aside, putting it down to an active imagination. However, since then, he had felt his creative energy blocked, like he was holding onto something. Or rather, holding back. Kelly, on the other hand, had noticed an increasing energy within her, almost to the point of hyperactivity, she was thriving on only three hours sleep a night together with a nap during the day with her furry friends. She knew in her heart what was happening and last week had gone to the doctors to have it confirmed. Today as Tom was sharing this, she was 6 weeks pregnant. Like most parents, they wanted to keep it quiet until after the 12 week period, but both of them knew that everything was going to be just fine, that there was nothing to be concerned about.  

“Kelly knows that we are having a daughter, and with the memory now of that dream, oh I’ve got to share this with her! How did I not remember it earlier?” Tom said excitedly, his energy lighter, as if he had been recharged. “Thanks guys, I had no idea what an effect this was having on me! I must call Kelly…” his voice trailed off as he walked towards the door dreamily. “Better still, I think I’ll go home for lunch…”

“See you tomorrow Tom!” Delilah said. Molly noticed a hint of sadness flicker across her face. Molly nudged Will, hinting for him to leave as well, so that she could be alone with Delilah. Will excused himself, and called after Tom wanting to catch him before he left for the day.

“Can I make us a cup of tea, or better still some lunch?” Molly offered Delilah.

“Oh god woman, you never miss a trick do you?” She grumbled at Molly, and slumped dramatically onto the table, hiding her face in her folded arms. Molly took care of making tea and then sat at the table next to Delilah. She took her hand and with one heartfelt look, Delilah burst into tears. Molly wrapped her arm around her and let her cry, not trying to make her feel better, just holding her, knowing the sweet release that comes from this simple act. When her sobbing subsided, Delilah paused. “Wow! Where did that come from?” She paused, unsure of what to say next. Molly said nothing, and poured the tea.

“Oh Molly, why does it happen so easily for straight couples? We haven’t told anyone but we’ve been trying to have a baby for what seems like so long. IVF treatment is not a very pleasant experience. We have considered alternatives, but were keen to have our own child, well at least one of us contributing. We considered employing a seed donor, you know hiring a guy to have sex with, purely for conception purposes. But we were put off by the complications that may arise from that later on. Adoption was to be the last resort.” Delilah explained.

Molly asked Delilah about her spiritual and religious beliefs, did she believe that we have souls. Delilah replied, “Hmm…haven’t really put much thought into it to be honest Molly. Don’t disbelieve, but have not explored that side of life. I know you do, what are your thoughts on this subject?” They discussed the matter for quite some time, the afternoon passing timelessly. Molly suggested that she and Louise practice a simple style of meditation each night before going to sleep, with the single intention of connecting with their child in spirit, as it is most likely he/she has not yet been born. At the end of their conversation, Delilah had a new outlook on having a child. She liked the concept of soul families and that if she and Louise were to focus on connecting with their soul child, that they would be shown clearly the best way for them all to come together. She was very excited about this, and relieved at knowing that there was another way for them to achieve their dream of being parents.

Whilst she was at the office, Molly organised with Moana the best time for her interview on the coming weekend. Moana suggested dinner on Saturday, as she knew then that her Koro would be home. She had been preparing him for Molly’s visit. Koro was her grandfather. He was getting on in age now and this concerned Moana. Physically he was fit and healthy, but his mind seemed to be elsewhere most  days. She was worried that he may have dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, and was unsure of how to approach him about this. He refused to go to the doctors, seeking help from the tohunga (Maori priest or learned person) at their Marae (Maori community meeting house)  if he was feeling unwell. Molly offered to come a little earlier in the afternoon to give them time to chat before Koro came home for dinner. Molly could see Moana’s body relax at this idea, her face lighting up. “I’ll make lunch for us too, ai!” She said excitedly. “But there is one thing you must understand Molly, before you come. Koro is not keen on pakeha’s (European/British People). It’s old stuff, stuff he was brought up with. He grew up in Pungarehu, Taranaki.  His whanau (family) had lived for many generations in Parihaka, where their land had been taken from them. Anyway, enough of that stuff. I just want you to understand that he is not so welcoming to Pakeha’s, he is still holding onto the pain of past experiences. With the recent apologies from the Crown, he has taken a more receptive stance towards English people. Now he feels himself very important, because he believes he has been involved with this settlement, having had long meetings with his tupuna (Ancestors in Spirit). This is what he does at the Marae every day, meets with his ancestors and discusses all matters with them, like how it was done in the old days. Except that…..” Moana pauses. “Well Molly, I guess you will understand this. The Ancestors are all in Spirit. Koro talks with them each day like they are right there with him in the physical. The younger adults in our whanau (family) think that he has lost his mind, you know, that he is just a crazy old man. But I know what he sees, because……I have seen them too. When I have sat in the Marae with him sometimes, I have seen them too!” She looks to Molly, her face alive, her eyes sparkling. It was so good for her to be able to talk to someone about this and know that they understood what she was saying. No one else her age did.

“Lunch on Saturday it is! Can I bring anything?” Molly asked.

“Just yourselves,” Moana replied. “You are both my guests!” She exclaimed excitedly.

That night Molly had a dream. She was lost in amongst a thick, humid mist of a rainforest, the rich smell of the damp earth pungent in her nostrils. Her heart was racing, confused she did not know in which direction to move. She could hear voices in the distance, but feeling disorientated in the mist she was unable to tell which direction they were coming from. She closed her eyes and focussed on her breathing, but fear grabbed her by the throat and she began to panic, the warm humid air thick and heavy, suffocating around her like a hot, wet blanket over her face. And then from behind, they grabbed her, a heavy cloth being wrapped over her head, her hands held tightly she was unable to move and only just breathe. She could hear them talking quietly in Maori, but she was unable to reply. It was difficult for her to breathe let alone talk. Next thing she remembered was being lifted up off the ground and carried, the voices were now silent. She was woken by Will shaking her, “Molly, Molly……Molly what are you doing down there? You were kicking me in the head!” Molly was head first down the end of the bed beneath the duvet, feet thrashing about on the pillows. She wriggled her way out gasping for air, her face wet with sweat. “Oh Will!” she shrieked wrapping her arms around him, so grateful to be back in their bed. Will slippped his arms around her, pulling her into his body, not demanding any explanation, just wanting her to feel at ease. Kissing her forehead, he held her with a tenderness, and respect. He knew in time she would tell him all about it. For now, he wanted her to go back to sleep. Work had been taking a lot of energy for both of them, and sleep was important.

On Saturday morning Molly and Will woke to the sound of heavy rain. Moana lived at Otaki and they had planned to catch the train, leaving the Saturday traffic through Wellington to others more keen on driving. There was a heaviness to the day.  Molly tried to brush it off, putting it down to the dull grey light and heavy cloud that enveloped the city, but in the back of her mind lingered the remnants of the dream from the previous night. It was unusually calm and the rain fell in torrents. Catching a taxi to the train station, they made their way to the platform where the train heading north would take them to Otaki. Sitting by the window they looked out at the passing landscape, but Molly was not able to shift the gloomy feeling that clung around her. She closed her eyes and said a silent prayer, “Grace please help me. What is this about? What do I need to be aware of?” Opening her eyes again, she was met by two large brown eyes of a small Maori child peering over from the seat in front of her. He was smiling at her and pointed to something over her left shoulder. Then he started to giggle and nod his head, and played peek-a-boo with whatever he could see over Molly’s shoulder. Will sat to the right of her, in the aisle seat, she turned to see who was sitting behind her and was reminded that they were sitting in the last seat of that carriage. There was only the wall behind her. Maybe it was his own reflection….Molly shrugged it off. Then he said quietly, “lady” and again pointed past Molly’s left shoulder. “Lady,” he said again, a little louder. “LADY!” he yelled, getting his mother’s attention. “Shh, sshhh! That’s enough, Ihaia!” The young woman turned to apologise and seeing the bone carving of the manaia hanging around Molly’s neck, she smiled and said, “I am sorry, but he sometimes sees people that we can’t. You understand, don’t you!” It was a statement more than a question, to which Molly smiled and nodded back at the young Maori woman. “They travel with you don’t they?” she asked Molly. “You have an important job to do today,” and then she stood up, slung her bag over her shoulder and picking up the small boy, preparing to get off at the next stop. “Kia kaha (be strong),” she said solemnly, and walked to the door, the small child waving cheerfully to whomever was sitting behind Molly.

Nothing much surprised Molly these days, but that encounter unnerved her. Not a good feeling to have before meeting with Moana. She would be waiting for them at the station. Molly knew that she did not own a car, and wished for the rain to ease enough for them to walk to Moana’s house.

Standing at the station with excited anticipation, Moana’s beauty took Molly’s breath away just for a moment. Her bright yellow and white floral summer’s dress tied in at the waste accentuated her willowy figure, face radiant, darkest of brown eyes sparkled, and her long black wavy hair swept back over her shoulders by the gentle breeze. Yes the rain stopped long enough for them to walk to Moana’s house. Moana lived in a tiny cottage not far from the shops in the centre of town. The street felt dreary, heavy, one house had broken windows, another had several cars partially stripped in the front yard. Children played in the puddles, oblivious to the glum feeling. Was it just Molly and the mood she found herself in? When they reached Moana’s house, it was like a splash of colour amongst the greyness of the neighbouring houses and the heavy sky.  The sun shone brightly in this little street, a bright contrast to the darkness of the clouds looming in the hills behind. A rainbow appeared, illuminated brightly by the blue-black clouds. Moana had a cute little garden full of colourful blossoms. There was a small veggie garden and a path that lead down the side of the house where the driveway used to be and around behind the building where there were also some fruit trees, and a small hen house with a fenced yard. She showed them proudly around the garden and introduced them to her three hens. Taking Molly and Will inside, Moana put the kettle on to make some tea, lunch was already prepared on the table. Molly was keen to shift this glum energy she was aware of and began the conversation. 

“Did you grow up in Otaki Moana?”

“Well, kind of. We used to live in Taranaki, Opunake actually. Do you know where it is?” Molly nodded in agreement, letting her continue with her story. “Koro and I came here because of State Housing, there was a house available for us here that was more affordable and comfortable. I was still in school and he was my legal guardian. He had been taking care of me since I was a baby. 

He is my mother’s dad. Mum died giving birth to me. You would think that would be impossible with the hospitals available here now, but she did not make it to hospital in time and haemorrhaged. By the time Koro found her, I was screaming, lying in a pool of blood, my mum had stopped breathing. She was a single mum, my father was a backpacker from California, who had been travelling the world surfing. Kind of a summer holiday fling I guess, he left town not even knowing that Mum was pregnant. At the time Koro was furious, so he had just a couple of reasons to not like Pakeha (European people) I guess. Koro has been there for me all of my life, when no one else could be. He was firm but also incredibly loving and gentle when I needed it. He was determined that I would be well educated and be able to look after myself when he….you know….when he is no longer here. He wanted me to understand our history and be proud of who I am. But he was not supportive of me finding out who my father is, or was, if he is still alive. But it is my secret desire….to find him,” her face lit up with the thought of this. “I am saving money to make a trip to America and find him. I want to get a DNA test done and see what I can do before I even leave New Zealand, as I do not know where to start looking for him. I have his name…. Nathaniel James and that he was from California. It’s a start I guess.”

After lunch the sky had cleared and the three of them went for a walk down to the beach. Molly asked Moana the required questions for the interview. She loved her job, and felt they were an awesome team to work with. However, she had plans to travel and did not know how long she would be working at The Little Book Publishing Company. Talking about this to Molly and Will helped her to realise that she needed to let them know of her intentions. But what was about to happen that night would change everything for Moana, well almost everything.

Koro spent most of his days at the Marae. Nobody dared disturb him. He knew he had important work to do, meeting with The Ancestors to discuss the problems he saw within their community. He cared very much for everyone, although he had a tendency to take on everyone else’s problems and try to fix things for them. Koro had always been the problem solver, even when he was a young man. His wife had died ten years ago and if it wasn’t for Moana, he would have left the physical world not long after. He missed Marama with an ache in his heart each day. Some days that ache was so strong in his body it made him think it was time to join her in Spirit. Many days leading up to the recent apology by the Crown, he had felt and expressed his resentment towards all English people, despite them not being directly involved with the taking of his iwi’s land over 100 years ago.

Moana kept looking at the clock on the wall. Koro should have been home by now. Usually he was very punctual. She thought he maybe late today, hesitant to meet Molly and Will, the first Pakeha to come to their home since they had been here at Otaki. Molly sensed her restlessness.

“Moana, do you need to check on Koro? We can wait here,” Molly suggested. Moana appeared deep in thought for a moment and then said, “I think you best come with me. It will be ok.” She turned off the stove and they walked up the hill to the Marae. There was a heaviness in her step, Molly sensed great apprehension. The dark sky sat heavy on the horizon, hugging the hills in the distance and there was a moment where the setting sun broke through the cloud casting a silver light across the sea, like someone had opened a door into heaven. Molly and Will waited at the gate whilst Moana walked ahead into the wharenui (large meeting house) Quite some time had passed before Molly and Will decided that maybe they should check on her. Silently Molly asked permission to enter the grounds and then she heard on odd sound, a whimper at first which grew into a sobbing and then a wailing. She knew in her heart what had happened. Now she understood the heavy gloomy feeling of the day leading up to this moment. Koro had passed into Spirit. And there was that sensation again, like in her dream, of the suffocating, airless humidity of the thick, dense rainforest. She paused for a moment, recalling the dream and knew now that was where Koro was, in the World Between Worlds, and of what it must have been like when his ancestors lived peacefully in Parihaka near the surrounding rainforests at the base of Mt Taranaki. Now she understood that what she experienced the other night was Koro’s tupuna coming to be with him during his transition into Spirit, and for the preparation of his coming Tangi (traditional Maori funeral) which would take place over several days.

For Koro, he felt the long awaited peace he had been craving. He knew that day, as he walked through the threshold of the Marae, that he would not be walking back out again. For many hours he sat in quiet contemplation, silently discussing the final steps he needed to take with his tupuna. He asked them to take care of Moana, to help her find her father.  He felt at ease about Nathaniel now. None of that business seemed of any importance. He just wanted Moana to be happy, and knew that she would be supported lovingly by their whanau and helped on her journey to find her father.

And then he felt it, like someone had grabbed his heart and was squeezing the very life out of it. It knocked him to the floor, but as he looked up he smiled despite the pain, for there leaning over him holding out her hand was Marama, his beloved wife. The vibrancy of her being shimmered, illuminating the space that surrounded them. He took her hand and stood up, together they looked down at his doubled up body, which slowly relaxed with his last breath and as his spirit separated from it. He was free! Looking around the Marae, he knew it was Time, time to go Home, and that everything was perfect.

Moana’s cries carried out through the mist that now embraced the wharenui and before long she was surrounded by people she knew. Seeing that she was being taken care of, Molly and Will thought it best to leave them to do what needed to be done. It was not their place. They walked back to Moana’s house and Molly left a note under the front door, explaining their departure. Molly knew in her heart that Koro was safe. And she knew that Moana would be cared for. Koro was a well-respected elder. However, Moana would now be faced with some decisions which would require her attention almost immediately.

Two weeks had passed before Moana came into work again. Tom and his team respectfully gave her whatever time she required for the preparation and participation of Koro’s Tangi. None of them knew Moana well enough to attend, but Tom continued her pay as usual regardless of how many days she would need away from work. When Moana quietly appeared at the office, she looked solemn and withdrawn, not her usual bubbly self.  She asked to see Tom and Delilah privately, to explain to them that she was handing in her resignation. She had realised how important it was for her to now take action and follow through with her dream of finding her father. She had received some information about his possible whereabouts in Hawaii. Because she had been living with Koro in a state housing community and the lease being in Koro’s name, with his passing, she had been evicted. 

They had given her four weeks to move out. So Moana had decided to take a leap of faith, to sell everything she owned and together with her savings, to go in search of her father, starting in Hawaii.

Tom asked her to stay in touch, to let him know of what unfolds for her. He intended to follow through with his gift to her, of a copy of the book and her shares portfolio. She had been a great person to work with and wanted to support her as best as he could. This was an opportunity bigger than she could possibly imagine just now. One step at a time, it was to reveal itself to her. 

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