Summers at Nanny’s House
By Briar Pomana (she/her)
When Mum and I arrive in Gisborne, the town's pothole-ridden roads are the first to greet us. We've come from Auckland and can immediately sense how time has slowed as we pass two heavily muddied tractors half on the road, half in the water drains. The paddocks and pastures we pass are littered with oranges and sweet summer fruits, their scents reminding us of home. Signs with chalk prices in childlike fonts sit quaintly by homemade letterboxes. We tell each other that at the next sign, we'll stop, and we do so outside of a tidy cottage fenced off by roses and guarded by a pet goat.
My Nanny’s house is across the bridge and on the same street as the weekly Sunday market. Gisborne is a fruit bowl of produce so the bustle of the market has packed out the street with parked cars. Manoeuvering past kids on pushbikes and Māori women in homemade harakeke hats, we finally pull into my Nanny's long gravel driveway. Arriving, we wait a few minutes to stretch our legs. Nanny's car park operates dually as a clothesline so there are makeshift rows of wire strung from side to side. Nanny invented this herself for when the weather is sour and not forgiving of a freshly washed sheet. Opening our car doors, my head gets lost in a pair of dangly jeans. Next to it, there is a plastic bag with what looks like more clothes. In the distance we hear Nanny yoohooing out the sliding door, bustling to greet us. She tells us not to mind the clothes in the line, they belong to a cousin that was due to pick them up in the next hour or so.
Finally, my Nanny emerges like a tūī bird in the sun. As always, she is wearing her home clothes: a cotton T-shirt she's had for donkey's years and ankle-grazing lime green pants she picked up from the hospice last week. Both are in pristine condition. Her hair is brushed back so as to not cover her eyes; the wavy strands are whispy and white like a floated feather. My Nanny loves a good pair of scuffs, so she’s wearing her ROXY pair she bought from Rebel Sport last summer. Her style, even in this instance, is impeccable. My Nanny is an ensemble of glorious moments of time intersecting. I somehow remain surprised at how many faces of our family I see in hers. As Mum gathers our bags I move towards our matriarch. The grass she moves across is greener than a traffic light and I imagine my cousins will be sprawled upon it shortly. As if on a trampoline, we bounce on the spongy summer earth towards each other. The afternoon rays of this East Coast sun strike what bare skin it can find and finally, we are home.
I have always known summers like this, where the air is salty and the pavement wet with used beach towels. Summers where the hours are found lounging around on lazy boy chairs watching reruns of Coronation Street or The Chase on TV. This slow season at Nanny’s is my favourite of the year. It's long drives and falling asleep in the backseat after a day of swimming. It's jam-packed sandwiches of the week's leftovers and 1 litre bottles of juice. It's being put in a trance by the way the curtains are sucked in and out as you lay for a nap on your Nanny's bed. Summers in Gisborne sit somewhere in between a good cup of tea and the first BBQ of the year. Hanging togs on a neighbour’s washing line, from the side view mirrors of a car, or in the bathroom are all common practices. Living slow is how we best drink in what little time we can all be together. Going back to Gisborne for summer at my Nanny's house always leaves us feening for a game of cards and a parcel of fish n chips from London Street. These days round themselves off with the final of afternoon swims in an ocean that feels like bathwater and an unbroken mandarin peel. As it comes to an end, Mum and I wallow in the shallows together, chatting of the significance of our summer lifestyle in Gisborne. To live in this slowness is to live for the everyday moments that often get left behind. Mum and I cast our eyes out to where the ocean meets the sky and I wonder to myself why we ever decided to leave this place in the first place.