by Mary Beth

In school, Annie and her classmates perform a Mihi during Mat Time. It is uncertain how often she does this – perhaps daily? – but she does it often enough that, when she tries to teach it to her parents, she gets frustrated by their inability to say the words correctly. By now, those words come so easily to Annie. She’s forgotten how hard it was, when she first came to New Zealand and heard the words for the first time.

“Ko Annie toku ingoa,” she says, very quickly, holding her Mihi stick. Then she hands the Mihi stick to her mommy.

Her mommy stares at the Mihi stick. It is a piece of driftwood, and has some pretty buttons hot-glued on one end. Luckily, it also has the words “Ko Annie toku ingoa” handwritten on it by Annie’s teachers.

“Ko Mommy toku ingoa,” says her mommy, or something like that.

“No, say ‘ko Mommy toku ingoa’,” says Annie, trying to be patient.

Mommy tries again.

Annie rolls her eyes up to the ceiling, unable to believe the depths of her mommy’s ineptitude. She is not technically a teenager yet, but she is working on it. “No.” She makes an exasperated noise. “Toku ingoa.”

Mommy tries again, really trying to place the emphasis on the exact same syllables as her daughter.

“No!” Annie shouts angrily, stomping her foot. “Toku INGUA!”

Mommy tries once more, fails, and then refuses to try any more.

Her daddy takes the stick and tries to say it. He fails abysmally and further irritates his daughter.

It is not long after this that Cora picks up the Mihi stick. It is unclear whether Cora does a Mihi in school as well. She is not particularly forthcoming on the subject. Unlike her parents, she is totally comfortable holding the Mihi stick.

She looks around, waiting until she has everyone’s attention.

“Coco!” she cries.

And so she becomes Coco.

“Cora!” her parents might call, trying to get her attention when she is busy with an important task, such as trying to change the settings on her daddy’s amplifier, or trying to reach an old piece of popcorn that fell under the couch (because she is starving). “Cora! Cora Rose!” they call. But she is too busy to answer. However, if they stop calling out “Cora!” and switch to “Coco!” she will immediately look up, pausing whatever she is doing. Then she will smile, acknowledging that someone is saying her name. And then she will go back to eating the lint-covered popcorn, or will knock over the amplifier.

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