I am a Kiwi, & my heritage can be condensed to a wee ramshackle church on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.
Though I have never lived there my parents are both Coasters, & my father comes from a small coal-mining town amidst high hills & valleys. He & his siblings have never had an easy life & my father is a man of few words, but his respect & deep nostalgia for his hometown is a tangible thing.
When I was young he would tell me of this place with a quiet & honest reverence, & when I was a teenager we as a family started going back to visit this small town once or twice a year.
I have never seen him so happy as I have seen him there, glowing amidst its sleepy streets & low-slung clouds. People in the town would raise a hand in salute as they drove or ambled past, and in the cosy pubs & Workingmens Club my dad knew every face and name & story.
We, his children & his siblings’ children, cannot help but be a part of this place ourselves. We have been embraced by this wee village & gladly welcomed by its citizens, who beam upon meeting our parents’ children & rejoice in having family-lines continued in this secret place.
Now, my father and his sister have bought the historic village church. My cousins & I have spent hours scraping away old paint & lathering on colours shiny & new. We have used real elbow grease in making this place gleam, for this is our heritage & it is for us to be proud of.
My father’s greatest wish is for us to continue on in this place after he has gone, & for our family to always be apart of this sleepy town that he so cherishes. The quiet pride & true devotion that he feels for this building that he owns, & these streets that he feels are also his, shine bright in all of us in return. Often I will see him standing quiet & overwhelmed, a silent smile illuminating his weathered face, as he watches his grandchildren running about the long grasses & paddling in the sparkling streams.
This is my & my family’s heritage, & I am proud.