Monday, November 21, 2005


I look at my 'child' photos and the memories come back in waves
after wave. Waves of sunshine and winter; waves of sweetness and
sorrow. Each little detail stirs a memory that stirs a flood of
other memories that I thought were gone. The large cement
rectangle, near the back door of our house in Aberdeen which used
to be the base of the back part of our house, and on which stood
the kitchen, bathroom and laundry, and which fell to white ants,
long before I was born, and before my family came to live there.

That cement still burns my feet, cold-hot. My hardened child
feet, test the level of my endurance in the high summers of my
long ago. That cement bore witness to many baptisms by hose, in
the bright heat of summer as we took our turns to have the
baptisimal rites said over us, each in turn, religiously cooled
by the experience. But to sit on the large high tank stand and
hold that hose, ah, that was the privilege.

Endless games of rounders, focused on the long gone rectangle.
The bases which were trees, still stand as witnesses that these
games of young life occurred. "Queenie, Queenie, whose got the
ball?", the childish voices of sisters, friends, sometimes
enemies and myself, chorus out in my mind. I know every beat and
note of that game. Skipping, games of 'fly' were all focused
around that patch of cement.

That mum was always somewhere inside that large old house, almost
always. So sure of this were we all the time that we never even
thought about it. Dad generally did all the outside work, when he
was home, but it often seemed to fall to mum to bury the contents
of our outside toilet, whose large pan always got close to
overflowing at Christmas times, in the intense heat of the inland
summer. As a child fascinated by the event, the maggots and the
whole event of the burying, I can remember her delicately picking
her way down the back yard, hauling this very heavy and unstable
container of her family's wastes. Pick and shovel at the ready.
Those years of boarding school could never have prepared her for
this task and yet she never seem to lose her temper, get dirty or
forget her unique dignity.

The yard we played in was large, interesting and safe.
Imagination could reign free and the back yard was many things.
Childhood days seemed eternal. I share all this with my sisters
and the bond of home and yard goes very deep. I still remember
the piles of tree nuts we would gather into tins and piles. We
would form teams and pelt these hard projectiles at one another
without thought of eye loss. Didn't I throw a tomato stake over
the old paling fence once which landed right between my sister
June's eyes. By accident of course.

I see the old tin pedal car that belonged to us all at different
times, but was originally Veronica's. Then even further back an
old tin pram, a scooter and a battered old Dinky which were both
repainted, every time they were handed down to the next child
they fitted. They were ours, in those days, only as long as we
used them, and as soon as we moved on to other things, 'ours'
would be revamped and hammered smooth by dad to be presented to
the next in line. I never recall being disappointed that these
toys were old. They always felt new, by virtue of their being
given to me, and re painted. It was a good feeling.

When I was about nine a small blow up paddle pool appeared in the
yard one Christmas.Dad covered it with a tarpaulin shade. It was
heaven just to lie in this cramped little space and pretend it
was much bigger and that you were really swimming. There is a
photo of this arrangement, and mum stands in the photo, younger
than I, arms folded and laughing cheekily out at the camera. I
see photos of the large yard, in my childhood, always mowed and
trimmed, sometimes even with flowers on the edge of the driveway,
and realise that dad did much more in the yard than my childish
mind realised.

We are all five of us, the children of then, adults now. Some of
us even have adult children of our own. I can still feel the
burning heat of those long summers, in our yard, I still remember
eating water-melons out in the yard, on the late summer evenings
and playing endless games of hide and seek in the dark. Through
it all, and with all that went on in the outside world, the home
and back yard was the private world of the family to be who and
what it wanted to be without interference, from outside the
paling fences.

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