‘I’m in love with love,’ says Pauline Gatto.
And it’s not hard to believe it.
Pauline has the big smile, the big hug, a presence that makes you glad you got out of bed early and took your table in the cafe just to get that first greeting of the day. Sure, it’s part of the job for anyone in hospitality. But for Pauline it’s also not part of the job at all. She’s one of those rare people for whom other people are everything. And it’s infectious.
‘I’m really lucky, my childhood was perfect,’ Pauline says. ‘A lot of love and cuddles from my mother, a bit too much maybe. Now I’m addicted to hugs and stuff like that.’
That perfect childhood was in Sete, in the south of France, near Montpellier. Pauline’s memories are of being raised ‘the right way’, to not be afraid of anybody, to love and to care about each other.
‘When I was a kid I wanted to know everybody. My mum said, You can’t do that, there are too many. I know I can’t know everyone, but I think the world is too big to just stay in one city, one country, one continent.’
Pauline joined the Crave staff earlier this year during what was meant to be a brief visit to NZ after several years working in Canada. Typically though, she fell in love with the place and the people and found it hard to leave.
Mother Mary had a little to do with it as well. When Pauline, who was raised a Catholic and visited church every Sunday, first came to Crave and saw the Madonna up on the wall, she was amazed.
‘I couldn’t believe it because I was like, maybe it’s a sign. Because I see signs everywhere. It really helps me. I don’t know if it’s a way to be reassured, but I think we all need to believe in something, someone. When I saw that I was like, okay. Because I wasn’t supposed to stay here.’
Back home in France, a big pull on Pauline is her family. Her parents, who have been together 40 years. A big sister, a big brother, and a little sister. Then extended family, including five nephews and nieces. And dreams to one day open her own delicatessen.
‘I miss them a lot. I love travelling but I think the hardest part of travelling is being away from family and friends.’
Before NZ, which Pauline knew about from books and documentaries and TV shows, not to mention Lord of the Rings, she had more than two years in Switzerland and three years in Canada, a country she particularly loves.
‘I think I want to die in Canada. In the second part of my life I want to go back to Canada.’
With so much love to give, and so much interest in others and her care for people, I asked Pauline how she could live in such places and not fall in love. Her tearful response was as transparent as Pauline herself—about friends all over the world, about people with whom she had fallen deeply in love, about broken hearts and lasting connections … because ‘love is life and life is love’.
‘No, I’m not disappointed by love,’ Pauline says. ‘I didn’t lose faith or anything, I just think I wasn’t ready for the big, big love. So yeah, instead of loving one person deeply, I love everybody as much as I can.
‘When you are able to love and forget about the body and the envelope, I think you know what love is deeply. You can just not think about what you are saying, just what you are feeling.
‘That’s the most beautiful part of love for me.’