An entry in The Crocodile Prize
Buk bilong Pikinini
Award for Writing for Children
‘MY beautiful granddaughter Toronani is returning to her papa’s land of Kupe,’ Toboinu danced around the little child. ‘She will leave me crying in Kokore and go away over the great mountains of Kaupara.’
‘Grandma, but why would you be crying,’ the toddler prattled as her grandmother lifted her up.
‘I will be crying because you are leaving me and travelling away.’
‘Sorry grandma.’ Toronani wrapped her little hands around her grandma’s neck.
Toboinu carried her grandchild around her iio garden as she inspected her varieties of iio. They went round till Toronani screamed in pain.
‘Hiiii…hiii, grandma you me,’ she wailed in pain.
‘Sorry my baby…sorry my baby,’ the old woman hugged her grandchild tightly as she blew air onto her scratched cheek. ‘This naughty iio hurt my little baby. Who hurt you, Toronani?’
‘That naughty iio,’ Toronani pointed at a greenish plant that was swaying slowly.
‘Yes, this naughty iio,’ the old woman smacked it lightly. ‘Why did you hurt my little baby?’
‘Yes, naughty,’ little Toronani threw her hands in attack but did not reach the plant. ‘Grandma, let me down and I will shoot the iio with pebbles.’
‘No, I won’t let you fight,’ the old woman whispered to her grandchild. ‘The iio will hurt you again.’
‘But it already hurt me.’ Toronani look sad.
‘Yes, my sweet child, it hurt you because we disturbed it,’ the old woman advised. ‘Iio are good things and they are friends to us; they take care of us by giving us fresh air and joy.’
Toronani listened carefully hanging onto her grandma’s hands.
‘You and the iio that hurt you will make peace,’ the old woman continued, ‘and you will go away to Kupe carrying its little seedling. At Kupe you will plant it and it will grow and later in the night it will always bare bright glowing white flowers for you to feel peace and sleep.’
The old woman directed her grandchild to the iio and the trio reconciled. Toronani was happy when her grandma presented her with a seedling of the iio that hurt her as she and her parents were about to leave.
‘Goodbye grandma,’ little Toronani said to her grandma.
‘Go in peace, grandchild,’ the old woman answered the little child.
The walk was tiring and Toronani cried a lot. Over the great Kaupara mountain range her mama, Betuko and papa, Siomari, kept walking and staggering; sweating and resting under the swaying trees and singing birds high in the blue sky.
And mama Betuko often felt sorry for Toronani and felt like hugging her baby and crying with her, too. But they were not yet home.
Sometimes mama Betuko would say, ‘My baby Toronani, you are tired and crying a lot, please hand me your iio and I will safely carry it for you.’
‘No mama, this is my beloved iio and I will carry it,’ and she would cry on and her papa would laugh and feel happy and strong to carry her little baby on and on through the jungle trail.
Toronani sometimes was disturbed deep in her crying by her papa who told her funny things and she would laugh.
‘Toronani,’ her papa would say, ‘the hornbill will hear you and carry you away from me. It will steal you away across the valley of Kupe and over the sea.’
‘Where will it bring me to?’ she would ask her papa sneezing.
‘To Bakunai, a place faraway and hide you in the Bakana.’ Papa Siomari would chuckle.
‘Mmm…I will smack it with my iio and it will cry and cry and go away,’ Toronani would laugh.
Little Toronani would talk and talk attacking the hornbill and fall asleep.
Toronani would sleep on the uu’ or remain awake. Sometimes she would be surprised by leaves and tree branches brushing against her but her little grip on her little wrapped seedling of iio would not weaken. She loved it so much that at every break her family took on the journey she would ask her papa to wet it in the cold mountain streams and give it more life.
Later in the afternoon they arrived. Toronani was relieved and felt asleep.
‘Toronani, you are not kind to your iio,’ her papa whispered into her little ears and she sprang to life.
‘Papa,’ Toronani said to her father, ‘get a spade and dig me a hole in the ground and I will plant my iio.’
Toronani and her father planted the iio and watched it every day as it grew and grew. Other plants grew near it and Toronani removed them. Insects came and Toronani screamed at them and they fled, too.
Many days and nights came and went and Toronani’s iio was taller than herself and she loved it so much. Sometimes she slept near it hoping to see the flowers in the night but her papa would take her into the house.
Then one night she was crying in tears of joy.
Toronani was asleep on her mama’s lap new the glowing fire in a chilling rainy night and her papa spotted a number of flowers, so white and multi-petal, firmly attached to the iio.
He told his wife and together they did not wake their daughter but brought her outside the kavoro for a surprise.
‘Toronani,’ her mama whispered to her and she woke. ‘What are these white things?’
‘Flowers!’ she screamed in tears of joy. ‘Mama, my flowers?’
‘Yes, they are your flowers,’ Betuko said to her dancing and jumping daughter.
The little girl touched her flowers; she kissed them and talked to them. She sang songs and danced for them till she was exhausted near her happy parents who held onto each other and watched the show of their joyful child and her glowing flowers.
The glowing flowers of the night were a joyful sleep for the little Toronani ever since that night.
Glossary of Nasioi words
Iio—flowering plants and flowers collectively
Bakunai—‘Wakunai’ in Nasioi
Bakana— (Mt Bagana) the only active volcano on Bougainville
Kavoro—hut for cooking
Uu’—child’s seating position on the shoulders of an adult where their feet is wrapped around the neck