There was a time about 35 years ago where I just knew I was adopted.
I could tell by the way my family didn't read and I had a room full of books. I knew that because all their birthdays were on the same day of the month and mine was different ... that it was a sign.
It seemed fairly evident that there had been a mix-up somewhere at the country hospital and I really belonged to that other family down the road. You know the one. With the separate library and lots of horses, and the mum who spoke two languages and let her daughter read books all day without having to mow the lawns or clean out the pig pens first. (I really didn't get it that she also had a gardener.)
Then came the years where I just knew that my real-life family had been abducted by aliens and replaced by these psycho fascists who shared my bathroom and whose sole purpose for being was finding ever more exotic ways to ruin my life. Stuff like Dad showing up to the school ball in something euphonically called the Humpty Van.
And then, not satisfied with having made an unseemly entry because of failing to resecure the seat after taking it out to accommodate the 30 sheep he didn't want Mum to know he'd rustled, entering the school hall and dancing with Sister Theresa Maria. In front of my friends. There was the threat to feed my horse to the dogs should my grades not return from the lower reaches of the alphabet to the top - and then there was the all-encompassing parental mission statement that was used to refute any argument: "It's a question of mind over matter. I don't mind, you don't matter." Annoying, because I did mind them querying my decision to spend the weekend camping with a group of boys five years older than me on the weekend before School Certificate. Such little faith.
As for representing the family every time I set foot outside the door - a call to consider my actions - who did they think I was, a PR company?
Luckily, now that they're nearly 70, they've grown up and are much nicer.
There have been times I might have swapped the lot of them for a sack of oysters and half-a-dozen cold beers. Luckily I didn't because you suddenly find you need them. You call up. Your big project with all your flash new friends is about to tank. The CEO host has bailed on you that morning and nobody can find the venue and you're a thousand miles away. So you call the whanau.
And they call the cousins. Who call their friends. They cajole, threaten and bribe whoever they know to show up despite the torrential rain, their busy lives and families to support something they know nothing about and probably care even less about, just to "awhi" you along. They do it because - well, you're family. And as you're sitting at the end of a successful evening, you know that although your Dad will never apologise for anything because "John Wayne never did" and although we've got our fair share of train wrecks, nut jobs, addictions and skeletons, this is the hand-picked and genetically unavoidable hodge-podge group of people I love and all is forgiven. If they forgive me first. Sometimes, whatever the result, it's enough just to show up with a good heart and the right intentions.