A Mixed Marriage, Part Two
A Mixed Marriage, Patricia Grace
Linda narrator: Looking back I've asked myself if I truly did love Graeme when we married, or was I just using him to make my dream come true? My early days had been spent in an enclosure made by people and their love, and by the land and its love – because I've always known that the land can love its people. But it is not easy to be content with everything that is familiar and safe. The only answer I've found within myself is that I did love him, and that there could never have been anyone else for me, though the differences between us, between our races, Maori and Pakeha, nearly destroyed our marriage. We came back from our honeymoon to a letter offering Graeme a job in a new school.
Linda: It's so far away, we don't know anyone.
Graeme: We'll soon know people. You'll still have me, don't forget. And there's a house. It'll be ready for us to go into.
Linda: I'm not forgetting. And you're right. It's not so far.
Graeme: That's good then.
Linda: Yes, and the house.
Graeme: Ready for us to move in.
Linda narrator: A house, ready for us. Surrounded by flowers, with grass to cut and windows to clean. My dream soon persuaded me that all would be well. And my parents were pleased when we told them.
Dad: Going away is all right. As long as you know where home is. Then, when the time comes, the right time, you'll know.
Linda: And what will I do then?
Dad: I don't know, but you'll know. You'll do what's right.
Linda narrator: Graeme must have been more puzzled than I was by this, but he didn't ask any questions. Later he said:
Graeme: I love you enough, and don't forget that.
Linda narrator: The city was a place of wonder and excitement. It was easy to be pleased and excited, as we found ourselves hand in hand among the crowds, travelling the length of the main shopping centre. We bought curtain material, filled in the form to get a telephone line, then went back to the house that was nothing like the dream after all. No flowers, only a dry little lawn. It didn't matter. It was our house. They were good days. Days for talking and planning, full of summer sun. But sometimes at night I had strange dreams, nightmares. (“Magic sounds”)
Linda narrator: A tall woman, one of my people but a woman I did not know, called from the corner of a room. Called me to come with her, but I knew I must not move. I knew not to go with her. When I wrote to Mum and Dad to tell them we'd got settled in, I mentioned I had dreams – but nothing more about them. Mum wrote back, about ordinary things.
Mum: Well. It's quite lonely here now with you two gone. I'm telling Dad to come and see you at Easter time, and I think we will. Never mind ringing up when you get your phone. It costs too much. And Dad says, don't think too much about your dreams.
Linda narrator: On the day the phone was connected, I rang home. I talked excitedly about all the good things, and about their coming at Easter. I did not tell them the one thing that had begun to puzzle and frighten me. When I put the receiver down, I felt the tears rushing, but I brushed them off and made a cup of tea for Graeme and me.
Graeme: Thanks. And chocolate cake, too?
Graeme: What's the matter? Missing them all?
Linda: A bit. I'm just being silly.
Graeme: No, you're not. But Easter'll soon be here.
Linda narrator: There was Graeme, so quiet, so good to me always. But there were some things I could not speak to him about – not then. Things that would show the differences between us – differences that seemed nothing on the surface, but once you looked at them, might run so deep there could be no reaching across. I was afraid. So I didn't tell him about the things that were most important to me, that made me what I was. Things that had happened, like the time Toki and me found the stone in the creek. Easter came. It was so good to see the old car, packed to the windows, stopping outside our place, Mum and Dad getting out:
Mum: (Exchanging hugs) Oh, Linny!
Mum: Linny! There's nothing wrong?
Linda: No, Mum. We're fine.
Mum: But you're so thin! Well, look at you, your eyes are dropping out!
Linda: Don't fuss, Mum.
Linda narrator: Later, my father took me aside to talk. I could only tell by living in a place, he said, whether it was all right or not.
Dad: At home we know where everything is; in a place like this there's no way of knowing. Only time and how you're affected will tell.
Linda: I have Graeme.
Dad: But perhaps I was wrong thinking he would be enough protection; perhaps I was wrong thinking you could be different in a different place.
Linda. No, Dad, no, you weren't wrong.
Dad: But you don't seem well.
Linda: I've been working hard about the house, forgetting to eat.
Dad: Well, you look after yourself a bit better, Baby, and stay on for a while. If it's no good for you here, then find another place. Come home for a time if you have to.
Linda: It'll be all right. I must just try to put all these old things out of my mind.
Dad: You won't fight against it too long?
Linda: I won't.
Linda narrator: I made plans. I'd get work in an office somewhere in town, then we could buy all sorts of things for the house and perhaps then – but it didn't happen. After Easter I was feeling too unwell to think of looking in the paper or going out to work. The day Mum and Dad left, I went straight to bed and was still sleeping when Graeme left for school the next day. I must have slept for hours…
Graeme: Linda! Where are you?
Linda: In here – the bedroom –
Graeme: You're not well.
Linda: You're home.
Graeme: It's nearly five. You're not…
Linda: Our baby. I feel awful…
Graeme: Our baby? You're pregnant! Oh, Linda, that's wonderful! You're pleased, are you? Or will be, when you feel better?
Linda narrator: I may have nodded. Perhaps I didn't.
Graeme: Please don't be ill, my darling. Please don't be ill.
Linda: Yes, I am pleased. Will be.
Linda narrator: Graeme came home early from school the next day, and we went to the doctor. He said the sickness would pass, took my weight, prescribed iron, and told me what I should eat. He said to come back in a month, and to make an appointment at the clinic. I decided not to make the appointments – the doctor had said himself that it would pass. And it was not the baby or the sick feeling that worried me. The dreams grew more and more real. I took any excuse to get out – shopping, posting a letter. (“Magic sounds”) Returning, going inside, I felt strongly and certainly the iced touch, the chill prickling across my shoulders and head and down my back. I stopped a growing scream with my hand. I went out again and walked the streets until it was time for Graeme to come home.
Graeme: What's wrong? Where have you been?
Linda: Just walking.
Graeme: You look so tired, my love. You're not well.
Linda: Walking. Here and there.
Graeme: Instead of resting. I'll take you to the doctor…
Linda: There's nothing. It's nothing to do with that.
Graeme: What do you mean?
Linda: A baby can't live here. I can't have the baby here.
Graeme: It's not a palace – but it's warm, it's dry. We're lucky.
Linda: I can't have the baby here. I'll have to go home.
Graeme: This is home, Linda. You made it home. Anyway, there are hospitals here, all that sort of thing…
Linda: (Fails to respond – intake of breath)
Graeme: Why don't you trust me? Why won't you tell me?
Linda narrator: The next morning as soon as he had left, I sat down to write to my mother. I wrote hurriedly, not looking about, my teeth biting into my hand to stop me screaming, then went out, locking the door. I dropped the letter into the letter-box and felt my trembling legs moving me down the hill to the bus stop. At last one afternoon the reply came:
Mum: ..You miss us and that makes it worse, but that's not all there is. Because your father wondered when he was there at Easter. These are old matters, and we would have to go back a long way to know exactly. But where you are is a bad place for you. It must be a burying ground for this to happen. It should be left to those who were there first and it is no place for you. So I'm coming to stay with you until you are well, and until we can move you from there because these are old matters. I don't want your Dad to come because these things affect him after a while, but not me so much. And he is not well already. You and Graeme will have to get another place to live very soon. You have to tell him all the things you put in your letter to us, and all the other things you have never spoken about. You've been doing your best to go towards him, but you have not allowed him to come towards you and it's not his fault…
Linda narrator: I hid the letter away, and told Graeme the night before…
Linda: Mum'll be here tomorrow.
Linda: I had a letter.
Graeme: You didn't tell me.
Linda: I've got it somewhere…
Graeme: Good thing she's coming. She'll stop you wandering around all day. Maybe she can talk some sense into you – you don't listen to me…
Linda narrator: But even when Mum came, her being there couldn't keep the dreams away. (“Magic sounds”) They were there whenever I slept, night or day. The voices called me through the darkness until I came out onto a cliff top. A white owl flew from over the sea, its eyes burning white. And I could leap out of the light into the brightly shining sea to meet the darkness again, the darkness forever and unending. But the bird flew close and settled on a white rock, and bird and rock became the woman, the woman whose place it was, her eyes white fire. Then her face was growing, swelling…
Mum: Linda, Linda – it's all right! I'm here. You must hold out against them, no matter who wants you. No matter who calls you in your dreams, you mustn't go..
Linda: Don't let me sleep.
Mum: Oh, you're tired, you're very tired. I must get you away. You'll have to talk to Graeme.
Linda: But not yet.
Mum: Yes, now. Tonight.
Linda: Couldn't we just go?
Mum: It wouldn't be right.
Linda narrator: And not long after that he was home, and my mother was talking to him as if he was someone she knew, someone close to her. She was setting the table and putting food on the plates. I tried to eat and I thought that after I had eaten I would go to bed to sleep. It would be better and easier just to sleep.
Mum: Come on, Linda. You've got something to say to Graeme…
Linda: I can't. I have forgotten.
Mum: You haven't forgotten.
Linda: Nanny Ripeka was right.
Mum: Don't think of her now. Think of yourself and your baby, and your husband..
Linda: I don't know him, he doesn't know me. Love is the things you know.
Graeme: I do know you. You're my wife. And it's our child. We can make it right again, if only I can know.
Mum: The main thing is to get away. From here. Get her away.
Graeme: Remember how we used to drive about in the car together?
Linda: Long ago?
Graeme: Talking. We'll do that now..
Mum: Away from here there's nothing to be afraid of.
Graeme: In the car until everything's said. We can drive all night if we need to, and you can talk to me. Tell me all there is.
Linda narrator: For minutes or hours we didn't speak, yet as he reached out and moved me close to him, I knew that there, I could say the things I had to.
Graeme: I'll always love you.
Linda: And I love you. And there never could be anyone else for me – never will be.
Graeme: Are you leaving me?
Linda: No – not leaving, unless you think there's no other way.
Graeme: But it not the end – we're not through? You're not leaving me?
Linda: I need to move from here. The house, only the house.
Graeme: Only the house. Then it's all right and it's settled. We won't go back. Now you can tell me. What is it that's so difficult to say?
Linda: It's not the saying. It's the finding out. I'm afraid we don't know each other after all – afraid we never can.
Graeme: But we've never had big differences.
Linda: There are things. Things I've never said, because I've felt there couldn't..
Graeme: Be understanding?
Linda: Understanding and knowing.
Graeme: But there are things we do know without understanding.
Linda narrator: I thought about it. He was right. You can know without fully understanding. Like you know darkness and the wind, know that you love a person, know the strength of the unborn. Like knowing about the commitment between the sky and earth, between earth and people. So then I told him, a mixture of past things and what was happening to me then, and why. Talking on and on as we drove – until there was nothing more. We found a couple of rooms in a run-down area, nosy and full of smells that came in from the cafe downstairs.
Graeme: Not what I wanted. Not what I'd hoped for. All I could get in a hurry, but we'll find something better..
Linda: It's all right. It's a quiet place. It'll do for now.
Linda narrator: The bad dreams were gone. It had not been so hard, after all. When I trusted Graeme, and his love, that was enough. One day when I came back from shopping and went in and shut the door behind me, I was surprised at the sound of my own voice, singing. Everything seemed good – but the worst time was to come, the hardest test of Graeme's willingness to love me as I was, to accept that part of me that was the stone, buried deep in the living land, and the things I had to do and ask of him because I could not change, even I wanted to. Mum had gone home to look after Dad, who still wasn't well, but they both planned to come for two weeks when the baby was born, to be with their grandchild. It was a boy. I was so happy. I heard myself give him my father's name, but I didn't know then my father was dead. My father died at about the same time as the damp and crying baby was put into my arms.
Graeme: Our son.
Linda: Our son. I love you very much, Graeme.
Graeme: Then nothing else matters to me. Nothing ever.
Linda: You must ring everyone – tell them..
Linda narrator: Graeme came back at visiting time..
Linda: Did you get through? To Mum and Dad?
Graeme: They can't come. Just yet.
Linda narrator: And he looked away and was quiet.
Graeme: She said to give the baby your father's name.
Linda: I've done that already.
Linda narrator: But he didn't look at me, so I thought about what he'd just said.
Linda: He's ill.
Linda narrator: And he wouldn't look at me.
Linda: He's dead.
Graeme: I would have told you in the morning.
Linda: We'll have to be there by morning. Where are my clothes?
Graeme: Leave the hospital? What about the baby?
Linda: With the baby, of course. We have to go. It's only right.
Linda narrator: The Pakeha do not allow long for grief. After a few days back at my old home, Graeme had to go.
Graeme: Won't you come back with me?
Linda: I can't, not yet. You go and I'll come in another month.
Mum: Go with him now. Your Auntie Mereana will stay with me for a while. Lena too.
Linda: There's something else..
Graeme: I need you to come with me now. If you don't come now, I know you never will.
Linda: I need a little more time. Another month. I have to do right – now that it's the right time. But you will find it very hard. Because of what's different between us.
Graeme: But you will come?
Linda: I will come.
Linda narrator: We had all mourned my father in the days before he was buried, while he lay in the house, dressed in fine cloaks and surrounded by family possessions, and at his head the photographs of those who had gone before. (“Magic sounds”) The boy who had his name, slept, woke to be fed then slept again. But the boy and he had never known each other. (“Magic sounds”) Oh, Dad, you breathed out as he breathed in, so that now your breathing is his breathing. He stands where you have stood, and so he must walk where you have walked, and must know the things you would have wanted him to know. I wouldn't take him from you, or from her.
Mum: If this is what you want, Linda..?
Linda: It's what I want, and it's what must be. We'll come often, Graeme and me.
Mum: Then I'm happy, and so is your father, knowing his place won't be left empty. But this will be hard for Graeme. Will he be strong enough?
Linda narrator: I weaned the boy gently, knowing my mother would care for him from now on, and lead him in his first steps over the ground where those who had gone before had given him the right to walk, knowing he would be given the gifts she had to give, and hold them for the ones to come.
Mum: Will Graeme be strong enough for this?
Linda narrator: I went to him confidently. He had not once failed to love. Pakeha – white – but his soul was dark, glowing black pure as the night sky. And I loved him. There could be no other for me.