Matariki and Midwinter
by little red pen
It was a weekend for letting go and starting again here in the deep south. We celebrated Matariki (the Māori New Year) at my son’s school on Friday night; kapa haka, a lantern walk in the dark, a puppet show, and a hāngi — all of us, parents and children, squished into the hall, putting down our blankets and turning our cold, winter-flushed faces to the light and to each other.
I watched my friend’s daughter in the kapa haka, her steady, serious face, her total presence in the moment. Then we went outside and lit our lanterns. My son galumphed along with his buddy, both of them keyed up by the night air and the flickering lights they carried. The puppet show was all eager chaos, and the hāngi was hot, steamy goodness. I ate like a pig, then took my boy home, a fractiousness somehow healed between us, more generosity and patience in our excited retelling of the night to each other.
I settled the littler boy to sleep, then the big one sat up in bed with me and Ian; he played a computer game and polished off another dinner, his appetite returned after a long and scratchy week.
The next night, Ian took the big boy out for the Midwinter Carnival and Lantern Parade, and the Rabbit and I stayed home and ate bolognaise. Rabbit had helped me cook the dish, so I told him over and over what we’d made and how we’d put it together, while he ate up every mouthful. The others came home, and I fed the Cat his bolognaise in the bath (two jobs in one). He told me about the lanterns and the drumming, the ginger beer in the pub with his aunty and uncle, the ship and the waka circling the Octagon with flickering, fragile grace.
So, we’ll start again, look to a new year, unfurl towards the light. And we’ll stockpile these moments — these memories — against the times when darkness comes again, hoping that they’ll ballast us for the journey on.