Heading up the Wainuiomata hill, Wazzer grits her teeth and listens, keenly, to her ’92 Nissan’s engine. The car is dragging a bit, but it manages the great ascent all right, even weighted down with Wazzer, Wazzer’s mother, and Wazzer’s mother’s weighty presents for her grandchildren. “It’s Mum’s Day, Mum, we’re supposed to give you presents,” Wazzer had said.
“You know how Shaz is,” said Wazzer’s mum, “I don’t like to give her money when I can get things for the littlies.” Wazzer’s mum found her calling late in life, domineering the staff at a call centre in Porirua, and distances herself as far as possible from the days when she, too, was eking it out in a council house with two children.
The car dips down into Wainuiomata’s basin, where mist and wood smoke hover over the houses. Wazzer’s mum looks around approvingly. “That McDonald’s looks flash. It’s come up so much since we lived here,” she says. It’s true: Wainui’s socially engineered houses are now often bought by bright young couples or determined singletons who burn out their carburetors on the Hill commuting to Wellington. Wazzer bites her tongue on what her scientist flatmate said when asked why she hadn’t bought a more affordable place up there: “Oh, there’s smart people buying in Wainuiomata, it’s true. But none of them are geologists…”
They drive, and drive – the valley is strangely large, and the remaining council housing is, as ever, tucked away. Finally, Wazzer’s mum says, “Oh, how sweet – they’re waiting.”
On the doorstep of a modest house, two children are bouncing up and down in the early twilight.
“Hello, possums, I’m here!” Wazzer’s mum waves, grandly, as she strides through the gate.
The children, a dark, tousled boy and a girl with silky dun hair, dart right past her, running to the car. “Auntie Waz! Auntie Waz! CAN WE SEE? We want to see!”
The little boy adds, “We want to see your tattoo!”
Laughing a bit, Wazzer peels back her jacket sleeve and leans down. “Don’t touch, just had it done yesterday,” she says.
Wazzer’s mum has rejoined them, fuming at being upstaged. “Auntie Waz has the prettiest tattoos out of anyone! Much nicer than Mum’s boyfriend’s!” the girl chirps.
Wazzer and Mum exchange a glance. “Your mum’s got a boyfriend?”
“He’s got a motorcycle!”
Wazzer’s mum sighs a sigh for the ages.