When they married 40 years ago, Gwen and Wiremu lived with Wiremu's family, close to their marae. The couple stayed there for just over 18 months, working hard and saving their money for a deposit on their own home.
Once they had enough money, they chose a new house in a newly developed suburb. Theirs was one of the first houses to be built in the area, but others quickly followed, and the neighbourhood grew. Many of the people moving in back then were just like Gwen and Wiremu - young couples looking to establish their own homes and start families.
Gwen and Wiremu quickly got to know their neighbours, and they made a lot of friends with others in the suburb. By the end of their first five years in the neighbourhood, they were the proud parents of two daughters, born 18 months apart. Wiremu had also managed to turn the bare clay of their section into lawn and garden. He worked eagerly on his vegetable garden, putting in long hours on summer evenings and weekends and tending it so that the family would never want for fresh vegetables. He also planted fruit trees and gave them special attention through the early years. It took a while for the trees to set, and to start with, they gave a minimal return, but once they had taken, they flourished, and Wiremu was able to keep the family well supplied with oranges, apples, mandarins and other fruit.
Their girls grew up with the other children in the neighbourhood. As the children progressed together through primary and secondary school, it naturally followed that they would spend time in each other's houses, and Gwen and Wiremu found themselves socialising more and more with the other neighbourhood parents. It was a good community where people knew each other and parents could feel assured that their children were safe and in good company.
That time is now a distant memory as all the children, including Gwen and Wiremu's own daughters, have grown up and shifted out of the neighbourhood to start their own lives, working, studying and setting up homes and families. Over the years, Gwen and Wiremu's neighbours and friends have moved away from the neighbourhood. When Gwen looks out her kitchen window now, she only has a passing knowledge of her immediate neighbours. The people who now live in the street are strangers to her, and few of them stay longer than a few years at a time. The neighbourhood seems to be largely made up of renters now.
Gwen and Wiremu still love their house and their garden, but they feel that it's time to move on. They had enlarged the house to accommodate a growing family, and now it's too big for just the two of them. Also, Wiremu will soon be retiring, but his health is not the best, and the couple anticipate that the garden will quickly become less manageable for him.
Yes, times have changed; it's not the same community anymore, and it's time to look at making a fresh start somewhere different that will be a better fit.