You saw Wellington for the first time in my arms. You were about fifteen minutes old, and I held you up to the window so you could see outside the overheated delivery room. It was a classic whitewash morning, June 26, 8.15am. You could barely open your eyes, but I couldn’t stop looking at you.
I adopted Wellington as my hometown, but you were born here. You’ll always have the wind at your back, in your face, tickling the hair on your neck. You’ll find stillness unnatural. You’ll loathe places that are flat, and think nothing of barrelling down Devon Street at 60kph. You’ll probably have a fluffy before you eat solids, and you’ll never have someone jeer at you because you don’t know the difference between a flat white and a latte.
Your mum and me, we’re from the Waikato. The Waikato has wide streets and driveways and garages and plenty of space. A double bedroom means you can get two of everything into it, and you never have to park your car on the street. Summer is hot and autumn has falling leaves and winter means frosts that layer the grass in ice like a snowfall. On cold days when breath comes puffing out of your mouth, you can see spider webs coated in ice, like jewels hanging from hedgerows and shrubs. In Wellington, the only ice is on the tip of your nose as you walk to school in a southerly or on the mountains in the South Island that you can see on a clear day. I went back to live in the Waikato for a year, and though I loved the grapefruit that came with summer and the bath-like water at Raglan, I missed Wellington. I missed the verticalness, the layers. The way we can’t park our cars near our houses.
So I packed up the cat, and headed back. One day, you’ll come hooning down Ngauranga Gorge, and it’ll spit you out and into a curve and there’s Wellington, the little city nestled into the hills. You’ll know how I felt driving into the city that day, the sense of relief that I was home. There was the wind turbine chopping away at the sky and the ferry snailing across the harbour and little lights on the houses lit up with that warm coming home feeling.
Every morning when I walk to work, down the hill a bit, under the pylon, down the steps past the house where plants grow out of an old bathtub, across the road and into Aro Street - every morning when I walk down there, I think about what a neat place this is. If the sun is shining, all the colours on the houses look like a circus, and the puddles on Aro Street glisten. If the cat follows me down the hill skit-skittering along the footpath, I’ll get one of the neighbours I pass to distract him and run down the hill away from him, laughing. As the trolley bus rattles past me, I’ll see the same faces I see every morning, people bobbing their heads to the music in their ears, absorbed by the newspaper, and little bubbles of happiness rise up in me like a glass of champagne.
One of the best bits though is when I pass the community centre and see the kids walking to school. There is the African family and the two boys with long eyelashes. There is the Chinese family and the little girl with her hair sticking out in pig tails like someone has put wire in them. There are the little boys with hoodies and scuffed sneakers and blue eyes and I wonder if you will look like them, will be like them, racing around on a scooter or a bmx bike.
You’re still small, but when you are bigger, there are so many places in Wellington we could go to and things we can do. We could spend hours finding creepy crawlies in the rocks on the south coast, or teasing the baboons at the zoo. We could pretend we are seagulls on Oriental Parade, just standing and squawking obstinately at each other. We could be very cosmopolitan and order coffee at the Chocolate Fish, or press all the buttons on all the exhibits at Te Papa. We could drop little bits of blu tac onto the heads of politicians from the gallery at Parliament. We could have a barbecue on a still January evening. In the winter, we could splash in puddles and let paper planes go in the wind. We could watch the washing go flying over the houses and down into Aro Valley. Best of all, we could sit on the grass, listening to the tui on the power lines and watching the moon come up. We could do anything you want, because we’re in Wellington.