Dear Matafele Peinam, you are a seven month old sunrise of gummy smiles you are bald as an egg and bald as the buddha you are thunder thighs and lightning shrieks so excited for bananas, hugs and our morning walks past the lagoon dear matafele peinam, i want to tell you about that lagoon that lucid, sleepy lagoon lounging against the sunrise some men say that one day that lagoon will devour you they say it will gnaw at the shoreline chew at the roots of your breadfruit trees gulp down rows of your seawalls and crunch your island’s shattered bones they say you, your daughter and your granddaughter, too will wander rootless with only a passport to call home dear matafele peinam, don’t cry mommy promises you no one will come and devour you no greedy whale of a company sharking through political seas no backwater bullying of businesses with broken morals no blindfolded bureaucracies gonna push this mother ocean over the edgeno one’s drowning, baby no one’s moving no one’s losing their homeland no one’s gonna become a climate change refugee or should i say no one else to the carteret islanders of papua new guinea and to the taro islanders of fiji i take this moment to apologize to you we are drawing the line here because baby we are going to fight your mommy daddy bubu jimma your country and president too we will all fight and even though there are those hidden behind platinum titles who like to pretend that we don’t exist that the marshall islands tuvalu kiribati maldives and typhoon haiyan in the philippines and floods of pakistan, algeria, and colombia and all the hurricanes, earthquakes, and tidalwaves didn’t exist still there are those who see us hands reaching out fists raising up banners unfurling megaphones booming and we are canoes blocking coal ships we are the radiance of solar villageswe are the rich clean soil of the farmer’s past we are petitions blooming from teenage fingertips we are families biking, recycling, reusing, engineers dreaming, designing, building, artists painting, dancing, writing we are spreading the word and there are thousands out on the street marching with signs hand in hand chanting for change NOW they’re marching for you, baby they’re marching for us because we deserve to do more than just survive we deserve to thrive dear matafele peinam, you are eyes heavy with drowsy weight so just close those eyes, baby and sleep in peace because we won’t let you down you’ll see
Thursday night I lost a beautiful, caring, nutty, cheeky, always moody and most importantly nurturing Aunt.
Oscar, Savai or Aunty O to the vast majority of my mataqali was younger than me and along with my sister the three of us drove my grandparents nuts during our teenage years in Vunaviavia Estate.
The sneaking out to Planters through windows (when I could fit through one), the secret phone calls at night, one keeping a look out for Nanna while the other frantically dials or me constantly talking to you about my crush (#12). How about us fighting over who did Dada’s soup that night?
I am gutted, scratch that I am FUCKING GUTTED! You see the way I see it is we women have a tight inner circle of trusted friends. They are the ones you ask to help bury the dead bodies(if the need arises) and for me Oscar was part of that circle which is why her passing has left me dumbstruck.
What’s left me even more heartbroken is that she leaves behind 2 daughters Asena and her 2month old baby sister…my younger cousin Esther will essentially grow up without her knowing her mother and it’s a crime of the highest order.
Esiteri Anna-Lois Tadumai Tuitubou with her Mama
I digress…I want to share with you why Oscar Tuitubou is a part of my heart.
My first recollection from the modri days in Mountain View (me 7, her 5) we did not get along we fought and pulled each other’s hair …like we fought GHETTTOOOOO Caaaaa. My grandmother, her Aunt sat us both down and said “Savai this is your niece, Tich that is your Aunty you should be kinder to each other”. Needless to say no ice – cream that night and that was a blow because Dada’s big bucket of passionfruit ice – cream meant all the kids got second serves. I think we bonded over a cone ice – cream we snuck out to the back veranda. I knew then…she’s my bitch for loife!
Oscar and I getting our hair cut for the first time
Fast-forward to me age 19 and giving birth to John, mobile phones were luxury items for us but you know what this beautiful, wonderful girl did? She got Tai Sikeli (her dad) on one of his trips to the West to stop by home and drop off a bundle of dalo with a hand written 4-page letter, which began with “You Big Buju, I am now a grandmother, thanks!”I’ve been searching frantically for said letter.
Needless to say it was the birth of my son that would show me her innate nurturing quality that she smothered upon him. John was fortunate to have his Tai Oscar and Aunty Alisi around to help raise him while I was in Suva trying to make a go of my radio career. I saw first hand she was going to be an awesome mum and I was right.
One drunken night when she stumbled to my flat to crash, she slurs to me ‘Tich, his name is Tove you’ll meet him tomorrow’. No declarations of love just his name was enough to tell me it was serious. I didn’t meet him the next day but I was dragged to a USP dorm one early morning months later to meet the father of her firstborn Asena.
Asena and my niece Elsie
When Asena was born, Oscar’s entire focus shifted to this tiny human she called her own and to being an awesome mother, she doted and I mean she worshiped the ground this kid walked on. She put school on hold because she didn’t want to miss a thing of Asena’s baby years. Asena and Oscar were a duo that frequently spent time on my back verandah on Gordon St and how she always called Asena ‘Maji’ cause the running joke was Oscar always trying to tie Asena’s hair in a pony tail but failing miserably.
When Tu and I started dating, things were tough logistically when we both decided to bring John down to live with us in Suva. But Tove and Oscar who were happily married and living in Vatuwaqa jumped in when I asked them to help with John’s after school care. Tove picked John up from school most afternoons with Asena and brought him home to Oscar to promptly fed him and let him run wild on the seashore. John loved her immensely.
Oscar at my wedding part of the family paparazzi
One particular afternoon when I came to pick John up with Tu, Tove came out looking sheepish and saying “Sorry Tichy, I think I made John sick”I walked through the door to see Oscar lying in bed cuddling John and giving him a cold compress while throwing death glares at Tove.
“I told him not to feed him ice block and take him in the sun” she said while slashing Tove her death glare. Now her close family know that Aunty O has this unique glare she gives our family(her dad included, poor Tai Sikeli). Said glare is dished out if you’ve pissed her off whether it’s dishes not done, choking her for money she doesn’t have or just plain getting on her nerves. It’s literally like Oscar the grouch from Sesame Street. I was giggling silently because it was a touch of sunstroke, Tu was trying to reassure Tove it was all good but scared too of Oscar’s death glare. I told Tu don’t mess with mama bear and her cubs.LOL!
I also remember also one night while Tu and Tove were grogging at home and Tu had just brought me something, a gift I can’t remember what but Oscar was in the kitchen with me and without missing a beat said “You better hurry up and give Tu one baby, what you doing?” to which my reply was “Only you would be pressuring me into having another child” she ends the conversation with “Just hurry up and stop wasting time”. Tu and I got pregnant at the end of that year.
Oscar and I with my youngest Serah
Now my grandmother whom I love dearly drives me nuts half the time but I still love her. Oscar had a lot of love for for Nanna and in truth if I think about it my Nanna was the only one who could talk Oscar around to doing stuff she didn’t want to do. Oscar had a special place in her heart for my Nanna and Tai Reapi. They loved her and her them. So much so she tried calling Nanna the night she passed.
Oscar my love, calling Nanna to tell her you’d passed was the hardest thing I’ve had to do. She cried like her soul was weeping, I guess it was.
Tai Reapi A.K.A Tai Foxy Lady with Aunty O
I am but a sliver of the cake that is Oscar’s life. These memories are just a tiny part of Oscar’s reach in my life. She was daughter, mother, sister, cousin, aunt, friend and confidant to people from all walks of life.
I will end this by sharing my first thought after hearing the news of Oscar’s passing and that’s my grandfather who we call Dada welcoming Oscar through the gates and saying “Yeah what you doing here?”
Give my love to him along with a big bear hug and keep him company and watch over us!