Dear Jacinda,

I hope you don’t mind me calling you Jacinda even though we have not been introduced. I am Cecilia. One of your people who is stranded overseas. Firstly thank you for all your good work as our New Zealand Prime Minister. You have made us proud. So proud. And now I need to talk to you.

Please excuse me publishing my email to you on my little blog page. This email is from all of us you see. We are a quiet bunch and this letter is written quietly too. To you and any others you choose to read it.

I am writing to ask you to please find a way for us New Zealand mothers and grandmothers, stranded out here in the world, to come home. We have been packed and waiting quietly for a long, long time. We have not joined your lottery because we were trained to allow those less fortunate to go to the head of the line. We have not applied for exemptions because we are working women and we don’t want to add to the workload of an overloaded department. We are well aware of the threat of this virus and have applauded your work so far. We trust you and so we have been waiting for you to put out the call that we are welcome back.

You see, we were caught outside the gates foraging for our families when you closed them. We toughened up and hunkered down out here in the world and worked more and saved more- looking ahead to a time when we would be welcome back home. But it is too long now. We cannot keep this up much longer. I know we are New Zealand women and strong because of it. But please let us come home. The time has come. I will bring my work with me. I am financially independent. I have a good job that works well remotely. I will not cost you a cent. But us mothers and grandmothers – we need to come home now.

We have missed funerals and birthdays and weddings (sorry to hear you had to postpone your wedding but it was the right decision – hard ones often are). I was not there for my father when he needed care, then when Dad was dying I was on the phone with him – the phone – me in Illinois USA and he in Tauranga NZ – listening to his labored breathing and nonsense morphine induced mutterings – my hand over my mouth so he would not hear me cry out loud.

But more than daughters we are mothers. Mothers who are business women and professional women who have worked all our lives to provide for our families. Mothers. Grand-Mothers.

Someone here said to me once why are you so determined to be vaccinated and I said – they can chop my fingers off if it means I get back to my children. A little jab is nothing. It is sensible. I need to get on that plane.

We are so proud of your decisions – they are hard to make – I know. But we are becoming desperate to be allowed on the plane to bring us home. And you and your cabinet are the ones who can arrange this for us. You are the ones who decide if I can get on that plane. You can bring the mothers who are grandmothers home.

I am a sixth generation New Zealander and the keeper of the stories for my generation. My job is to teach the young ones the old stories.

Please help me to teach my grandchildren how to bake Rowena bread and make sausage rolls. To understand Sally Lunns. To tell them about the time I saw Dame Whina in a march and how Princess Margaret came to our school when I was in intermediate. How my father’s father, who fought in the trenches in World War One, was a builder contracted to help rebuild Napier after the 1931 earthquake. How he hated the old front gate, at the big beautiful beach house he bought in Westshore, so he drove his truck right through it, to the screaming delight of my father still in his short pants sitting next to him in the truck. How six years later my father’s father was called up for World War Two. How my mother’s father always jingled the coins in his woolen farmers trouser pocket, subconsciously checking they were still there, because he lost everything in the depression then clawed it all back by the 50’s but always held at the ready to lose it all again. That he was the one who taught us never to visit ‘with one arm as long as the other’. Even if it was an armload of firewood he always brought something.

How we would go to sleep in my grandmothers house in Kumara on the West Coast listening to the ring and whine of the gold dredge in the river – every window open to the night air.

How my great-great aunts house ( they were elderly triplets) on the East Coast, washed into the sea during a storm.

How my great grandmother who always wore black, would visit her children and grandchildren and clean their front steps every day.

How my great, great, great, grandfather came from a tiny town in Italy that only had 40 people in it.

You see, all of these are bedtime stories. And all us grandmothers have these stories to share. These are not for well lit whatsapp video calls or texts. I need to sit cross legged on the ends of my grandchildrens beds at bedtime and tell them about their old people. Tell them their family stories. We grannies need to come home. Please. I need your help. We need your help. All us New Zealand mothers and grandmothers need your help to come back to New Zealand. Soon.

And we have done everything right. We don’t go out. We don’t gather in large groups. We don’t shop or enjoy a glass of wine with friends. We don’t go to concerts or plays. We have not collected anything we cannot fit in our two suitcases. We are vaccinated and boosted. We wear our masks always and walk backwards as people talk to us, keeping our distance. While we are waiting for the all clear we are working and saving. We have pared ourselves right to the bone so we can move home the moment you call us. So we can move fast when we hear the gates have opened. We are the make-do, stop your whining, buck up, glass half full generation. Mothers and Grannies are fast and strong. We are resilient.

But we have been out here beyond the pale long enough. We feel banished and shut out and called unclean. We are being worn down by this waiting, this endless anticipation- soon, soon – it must be soon our daughters whisper to us on the phone – always the phone.

Because we are the fantails hurling ourselves again and again against the glass and our heads hurt and our wings are getting tattered and our children are becoming afraid that the window won’t open in time.

Please find a way to bring the mothers home. The grandmothers. The ones who were out in the world working when the shutters came down. I am afraid that you have forgotten us. That we have become collateral damage.

My children and I have my self isolation all planned. I believe 14 days is a good period to be sure I don’t bring anything nasty into the homes of my families. No mother would risk that. No grandma would. I have the isolation money saved and put aside. A plan in place ready to go.

Please help bring the grannies home. Please help us mothers come home. I know this is no small ask. But, please.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Thank you so much.

Cecilia Buyswheeler-Gunther.

Dear Readers, if you got this far – please share on your SM platforms. I would love to reach as many of the mums and grandmothers as I can. I am sure I am not alone! Our PM will want to know how many of us there are.

75 Comments on “Dear Jacinda,

  1. Well said! I have a couple of friends from New Zealand who were in London. They went back to be with their families last year, when there was a lull in the storm. They had to wait for a long time to get permission and follow isolation rules (as you mentioned) on arrival. I hope you get a good response.

    • I don’t know. But I do think that it is time I talked to the people who make the decisions instead of complaining about their decisions. I get the bubble. I do. They are in an impossible position.

      • Sorry, I wasn’t suggesting you move, just saying my friends had to jump through a lot of hoops. The bubble can’t last, but at least it has allowed time for vaccinations.

        • Yes – it has been good. And also allowed me to work a good long time in an industry I love. California next with remote work. That is my next challenge – training myself to work alone.

  2. Listen to her, Jacinda. She’s right. You need her and her kind. Her skills, her memories, her stories, her determination. Her blood is crying out for her home. Let her come. I am adding my voice from across the Coral Sea. I could not go home to see my dying 97 year old father, or go to his funeral. That is not your fault, it was another country, and a year ago, but I feel Cecilia’s pain, and I add my voice in solidarity. Be humane, be kind, be a fellow mother as one day you hope to be a fellow grandmother. Let her come home.

  3. You do have a way with words , I admire your talent . I went back to Germany in October last year. I understand what you feel. I hope you get to go soon.

  4. I can’t imagine not being able to be with your family…. for all the moments you (and they) have missed. Do you want to go home permanently? I hope your voice is heard.

    • I want to set up a home in New Zealand now – it was never my intention to be gone this long. I belong there. However I have children and grandchildren in four different countries. So we need to find a safe way to travel again. Maybe boats?

  5. I hope this gets to Jacinda. Those are powerful arguments and they would be hard to ignore. I’ll add my prayers to those of others that Mothers and Grandmothers may be restored to their waiting families.

  6. I was crying reading this Celia. I know what you’re feeling. God knows the number of times I applied for exemptions to go to Australia to help my daughter in law who was going through severe post partum depression and dealing with a very colicky baby. I was denied every time. Alas, now Australia has opened its borders but I can’t go because my husband is very ill. The irony of it all. So I’ll have to wait.
    I pray that very soon you will be reunited with your family. This has been the cruelest of all decisions. Take care and stay safe.

    • Oh Diana! That is so hard for you. And you know you are needed which makes it so hard. I was looking at the Australian restrictions the other day but my daughter is not a permanent resident so I cannot go to her either. Can you send me the link that says they have opened their borders. Maybe I have missed something?! I hope your husband gets well fast.

      • My son and wife are in Queensland. My daughter in laws mother was finally able to go there a month ago from Canada. The whole family had to self isolate for two weeks at their home.
        What province is your daughter in?
        I’ll look for info for you.

    • I don’t think it will be very soon – sadly – but at least I made a plea for us grannies. They are just trying to do the best they can – just like us all.

  7. My thoughts are with you and all who are stranded away from loved ones. It doesn’t make sense to not allow citizens to quarantine on arrival for a couple of weeks. Let’s hope there is a light ahead.

  8. So well written, I do so hope you get to return soon. I’ve missed being able to see my kids and grandkids for two years now and it looks like maybe three now. I pray things will get better soon and everyone is able to see those they love in real life and not online.

  9. Your words are so hard to read, I really feel for you. I hope that you will be allowed to go back soon and see your children and grandchildren.

  10. Celi I copied and pasted to AWA, reblogged to Bridgesburning, posted to twitter, instagram and Facebook. Good luck in your quest. Chris

  11. Well said!!!!! I am fortunate to have all my five children living here in NM and my 3 granddaughters, one who is 18 months who I play with full time while her parents work!! Your words resonate with me completely!! Crossing fingers you will get to NZ and other places where your children are very soon!!

  12. Hi Ceci while we get to see her and her cohorts daily on TV we have no way of actually getting to her. I have considered sending your post to the DomPostthe Press and the Herald. I wonder if any of the editors of those papers would print part of your blog post. I reblogged Chris’ post and said welcome home we are waiting with open arms for you to get here. I guess at this stage we can only hope that she will allow the border to open again to let New Zealanders come home. By the way you should know that her popularity as Preferred Prime Minister is dropping.

    • I imagine so. But she is navigating an unpopular road. I don’t expect an answer but if there is debate then I believe in raising one’s voice. At least to try. Silence is often misinterpreted as assent. But how we find an avenue for them to hear the voices of the mothers I am not sure. Maybe the papers. That is a good thought. So looking forward to a glass on a beach one day with you after all these years!

  13. We are all praying for you and all the others cecilia…it is time for you and all the others to be able to go home.

    • Yes. I think the time has come. Surely they will see that soon. They have done a wonderful job. Kept NZ out of harms way until they have had their jabs. Now is the time.

  14. I will share… your beautifully elucidated, heartfelt missive but I fear, I fear. In the wee small hours of the morning I realised I fear… so many things I have no control over. There is also the news media story of the pregnant NZ journalist being assisted by the Taliban as her request to return home didn’t meet NZ requirements but apparently the minister is looking into it now. You are a resident, you shouldn’t have to but do what you have to do, lottery, exemption… anything.

  15. This is so beautifully written. My heart hurts for you. We were able to see my grandmother for the first time in over two years last weekend. I am wish you that are grace very soon.

  16. Your longing for home is palpable, Cecilia. Your letter is so beautifully written, I don’t think Jacinda could possibly say no.

  17. Beautifully written but feeling-worlds and factual needs do not always mesh. If one exception is made . . . a thousand more in equally valid situations also have the moral, ethical and legal right to be counted.. Looking across the Trench the woman has a huge emotional understanding and heart . . . methinks she will act the moment she feels the circumstances will allow . . . so many people all around the world are waiting, many in more dire circumstances and far less hope . . . I do wish you well . . .

  18. Oh my word, Cecilia!!! This is heartbreaking. How can this still be an issue? I just came back from a month in Germany. It will be my last trip home and I was able to share so much of it with my daughter. We did all the right things and even had to have a rapid covid test before coming back. We caught nothing and passed nothing on to anyone else. Those measures were adequate and I’m hoping Jacinda figures out that mental health is important to for all concerned. I think exceptions should be made to be with they dying or birthing. There are ways to do this safely. I’ll keep watching to see if this new mother actually listens. What if she was forced to stay away from her family for years? Common sense needs to prevail.

  19. I am sure you have already see the story of Charlotte Bellis, the pregnant NZ journalist stranded in Afghanistan after being denied an emergency spot in MIQ. If you haven’t, here is the link: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/covid-19-omicron-charlotte-bellis-an-open-letter-on-miq/U4WQGYTJHUP36AGVOBN3F6PJSE/?ref=readmore I am watching her case with interest. I’m afraid I am not as charitable about the NZ government and the MIQ system as you are, although I will keep my thoughts to myself. I will just say that although they may have had to close the borders for a few months, it has gone on too long, and I don’t believe they have a right to keep their own citizens locked out of the country, now that the majority are double vaccinated.

    Just as an aside for you, the plan is that NZ citizens in Australia will be the first ones allowed to come back in without going through the MIQ system. Cabinet meets in a couple of weeks to decide whether to re-start their phased opening plan. If you wanted to go visit family in Australia, it would help you get to NZ quicker, as you would be able to hop over to NZ once the borders open.

    • P.S. I don’t have social media, so I have forwarded the link of your letter to Stuff.co.nz. I hope you don’t mind. I think your letter needs to reach as wide an audience as possible in NZ, too many there still want the border to stay shut.

  20. Morning Celi, the word continues to spread. Donna my friend from Winnipeg who lives in Mexico in winter and blogs at Kirnerdonna.wordpress.com has facebooked your plea and several of her friends have also. This morning I see news papers have articles on the situation..Hope something good comes!

  21. Hi Ceci. Todays good news. She is opening the border for travellers from Australia on Feb 27 and the rest of the world on March 3. BTW no response from any of tge Editors.

    • Small correction – only Kiwis from the rest of the world will be able to enter NZ from 3rd March, but that would include Ceci 😀 No dates for the rest of the world yet, just somewhere between April & October.

        • Sorry I didn’t mean to sound horrible, I knew you probably already knew that, I was thinking more for anyone else who was reading the comments 😊 I am also very excited about the border opening, being a Kiwi in Aus, and hoping very much that it goes ahead as planned this time, so I can see my family again for the first time in nearly a year.

          • Oops, I think I may have muddled up my email and name sections on my reply, can you change them Ceci, or if not please just delete my comment and I’ll add it in again.

  22. So glad to see in the headlines today that the NZ border is opening in stages. Until I read your post, I had no idea it was closed to people from NZ in other parts of the world! How tough it must have been to not only be physically separated from your family but also have no way of getting to them. Happy that you’ll be able to be there soon 😊

  23. My heart aches for you! As a grandmother I understand completely missing being around the grands and passing wisdom and history down to them. Hope you get to see them sooner than this too long later. Stay safe, miss c… we are currently having an ice storm before the snow hits.

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