“We needed just to live our lives, seek out our stories and share them with each other.” (p.39) In “Potiki” by Patricia Grace the conception of what constitutes a home shifts from being grounded in the earth itself, to a broader understanding that it is the people and stories that make a home. When I first came to Loyola, I found myself struggling with the concept of home. I have lived in the same house, in the same neighborhood, in the same town my entire life, and as I put the sheets on my bed, hung up my posters and pictures, I never imagined that this foreign place would become my room. To me, “home” was my house. I knew every inch, could navigate around every corner in complete darkness, I knew exactly where to find the glasses, the best spot on the couch, and my designated seat at the table.
When I came home from school the first time to find that my mom had painted the kitchen a new color I was outraged and devastated. It wasn’t until I returned home for winter break my freshmen year that I began to look at home differently. As school became more of a home, I wondered what the connecting factor between these two distinctly different locations could be? While I may not have been able to articulate it then, reading “Potiki” made it clear. It was the people and perhaps more importantly the stories. At school, I would talk to my friends about my family, my experiences back in New York, and in doing so I brought home to Loyola. Upon returning home and sitting around the kitchen table, I would tell my family stories about Loyola and the new friends I had made, and in doing so brought a little of Loyola home as well.
When thinking about the importance of stories in my family I think about our family dinners. Ever since I was little it was a well known fact that every single night my family would sit down and eat dinner together. Similar to how Roimata described, we all had our own stories, and it was the telling and listening of those stories that made us a family. When I read the quote “It was a new realization that the centred being in this now-time simply reaches out in any direction towards the outer circles, these outer circles being named ‘past’ and ‘future’ only for our convenience”(p.39), I found myself examining exactly what types of stories were told at our family dinners. I realized that our stories change effortlessly from the past, to the present, and to the future. When sitting around a family dinner table, there is no linear time line, only feelings, love, and stories.
In “Potiki” the importance of stories is stressed from the very beginning, but is not completely understood until after their land is threatened once again by outsiders. Up until their land is threatened, the beginning of the novel focuses largely on the land itself. There is a lot of imagery dealing with the land, such as a repetitive description of the coastline. As Hemi states many times throughout the novel “Everything we need is here”. While in the beginning of the novel, Hemi is mostly referring to the fact that they have everything on the land that they need to physically live, such as the ability to raise crops, and fish in the waters, as their land is taken away from them, the statement takes on a whole new meaning. Suddenly “Everything we need is here” becomes a realization that all they need is each other, their people, their culture, and their stories.
When seeing how the people of this culture dealt with the insurgence of outsiders, in standing their ground and staying true to their customs, I found myself wishing that Okonkwo of Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” could have come to the same conclusions. If Okonkwo had been able to realize that it is the people and the stories that make you who you are and make you home, perhaps he could have survived. In “Potiki” Uncle Stan says “Take away the heart, take away the soul, and the body crumbles.” While at the time, he was referring to their land, I think this statement holds true when speaking of the cultures heart and soul, their people and their stories. Without the people and stories, the home crumbles and cannot exist.