Okay, so some of you Samoans might read through three-quarters of this and think “Whaaat??!! That ain’t a hiding!!???” But please, let me have my moment here.
So! I was 12 years old and a Form 2 student at Clover Park Intermediate – Area 3 “Lumana’i” class. Every Friday afternoon I would be dismissed early at 2.30pm so I could go out front and wait for my dad to take me to my weekly piano lesson in Manurewa (Auckland School of Music). I had been learning the piano for 8 years now and as far as I can remember, I never ever (EVER!) missed a lesson.
Paying for my lessons was a huge burden for my parents – At $16.50 per lesson (Dad had just been made redundant as a welder and mum was a cleaner at the NZ Post Auckland branch). I would go home nearly every week with an overdue fee notice – Sometimes my fees were behind 5 weeks at a time but the school never stopped me from attending lessons.
So back to that fateful day – Well, one particular Friday we finished school early at 2.15pm so I thought I could walk home and catch dad before he left the house to come and get me. I got home 20 minutes later to find mum at the front door asking me why I was home and that dad had left to pick me up (@#$%). I thought to myself: “No that’s okay, I can just wait for him to come back home when he realises I’ve left school already and then we’ll go to my lesson.” I was right – Dad did come back home. And that’s all I was right about….
Once dad got into the house, he went straight for the salu. I instinctively sat down quickly, arms and legs crossed just in time for him to whack me with it. And so it began….. He kept saying: “We’re late! We won’t make it in time for your lesson! When we get there your lesson will nearly be over! Do you know how much money we have to pay for your lessons?” In Samoan of course! (Also, I’ve put in a PG version just to pretty up what he really said). After a few whacks with the salu, the kuanius started falling apart leaving dad with no grip on the handle – I thought to myself, yay! My hiding is over! Again – I was wrong. Next came the vacuum cleaner tube – the whole length of it. I got so many whacks from it I was screaming and howling at the top of my lungs, calling for my mum. I remember her coming for me and kneeling next to me yelling at dad to stop, but at this point he was in such a fury I can’t believe she was game enough to step to him. Dad finally got tired of beating the shit out of me and walked out of the house – leaving me with red limbs covered in kuagiu marks and vacuum tube imprints.
Mum took me to my room and put me to bed. I remember crying and saying “Why did he do that mum? It was really sore….my body hurts” and mum cried with me while explaining: “Lika, you know how your dad is about music. He works so hard to pay your fees, to lay-by your organ and take you to your lessons even though the palagi is trying to kick you out – because he believes that music is your gift. Every week he takes you, he begs the palagi owner to keep you on and we will catch up with the overdue bill. He doesn’t want you to waste it all away…..” Pretty deep for a 12 year-old – but deep enough for me to remember and treasure as a 34 year-old today.
So….growing up in a strict Samoan household, I only received 2 hidings worth fearing. I know that this small number puts me in the minority group of typical Samoans growing up in NZ in the 80s/90s – so I consider myself lucky. My family would say that I hardly got any hidings because I was spoilt – I never got to do massive amounts of house-cleaning, cooking etc because I had to practise my piano pieces and pese lokus every day (c’mon people, it doesn’t happen overnight lol). That was pretty much all I ever did – and I’m so glad I did. Without my talent, I wouldn’t have stayed in church for this long while all my Sunday School friends drifted away. Without dad’s formidable rules on me and music, I would’ve had nothing to go to loku for…and would’ve missed understanding God and Salvation before it was too late. So I’m grateful for all of this and I’m grateful for the massive hiding…..the salu…vacuum tube….
So that day, my body hurt but my understanding of sacrifice, love and commitment and discipline was planted. Thank you Dad. xxoxx
P.S – no human beings or animals were hurt in the making of this chapter..but we did lose a beloved salu.