Posted on February 18, 2022
I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: dogs and babies are excellent conversation starters.
This week I met a woman who’d lived in my neighbourhood since before one of the arterial roads was nothing more than a dirt track, since before the local primary school existed.Read More
Posted on February 3, 2022
When I was young, my parents built a community. We were strangers in a strange land, seeking a sense of belonging. They found others, from the same cultural background, with similar stories of feeling adrift in a new place, missing families and familiarities. They banded together.Read More
Posted on January 10, 2022
Well, we’re a week and a half into the new year and 2020 has dragged its sorry behind all the way through 2021 and into 2022. The pandemic turns three this year; a toddler that’s found its feet and is off and running. Like so many toddlers who’ve recently discovered the power of locomotion, this one’s also causing panic and chaos as it goes.Read More
In my memory, my father’s hands are large. His sturdy fingers, the columns that hold up the Parthenon roof, the pillars that secure the world on the turtle’s back, that hold me as I swing between him and my mother when we walk down the street together. His palms span wide enough to encompass mine, to welcome his new wife to a new country, to cradle each of his children, to hold together a family spread over continents, to welcome new migrants into our home, to embrace everyone who comes within his orbit as if they’re another member of his ever-growing family.Read More
Mulberry trees stand in two corners of my mother’s garden. In summer, the garden becomes a minefield littered with incendiary devices waiting for a mistimed step, a careless footfall. Splatters of pink-purple cover the driveway, the outlines of shoes and bare feet silhouetted on the concrete.
Though resplendent with their purple jewels every year, their branches are too spindly, too lithe and lean to climb.
When I was young, a Japanese pepper tree stood in the corner of a different garden. Reaching its limbs to the clouds, littering the ground with small red peppercorn berries, it was my perch and my sanctuary. From the fork of its two largest branches, I could survey the backyards of all the neighbouring houses; Hills Hoists twirling, cats sunbathing, impromptu backyard cricket matches, veggie gardens abundant in every season, and the bare yard of a returned soldier long-widowed and lonely.
From my perch I could see each end of the laneway that wound between. I bore witness to the comings and goings, to the new arrivals, to the newly departed.
When my children were small, there was a fig tree in our garden. Its spreading branches, pregnant with figs twice a year, bore the boys as they climbed skyward. In winter, when it had shed its coat of leaves, its jewellery of figs had been put aside, the tree’s skeleton sheltered the various laboriously constructed twig and branch cubby-houses, essential to children’s imaginative play.
In summer, the fig tree bore the Twenty-eights as they screeched and squawked and pecked at figs, leaving a litter of detritus and half-eaten fruit in their wake. It bore me pruning limbs and netting fruit. And it was the field of combat in my own personal war with the ring-necks. Each morning of summer, we would flock to the tree from our separate arenas to do battle; me, armed with a broom, them, armed with nothing more than their taunts and mocking laughter.
When I was very small, still a freshly minted migrant, an almond tree stood in the far corner of our yard. Every day I climbed its branches and sat in the central fork. When its branches drooped with the weight of fruit, I plucked them, peeled back their velveteen outer husk, cracked open their hard labyrinthine inner shells between my teeth, and wolfed down the creamy seeds. When my mother burned leaf litter and garden debris in the rusting 44 gallon drum that stood to one side of the yard, I perched in the almond tree with the cat, supervising. When my much older siblings painted the exterior weatherboard walls of the euphemistically named ‘sunroom’ that was in reality my brother’s too-cold too-hot bedroom, I perched in the tree, crunching shells and munching almonds. The almond tree was my spot. If my mother couldn’t find me around the house, it was a safe bet that I was ensconced in the tree.
My children are grown now. The days of climbing trees are both behind and ahead of us, and my house has no garden for such sturdy trees.
Still, a cottonwood tree grows in one corner of my yard. A mango tree towers above me from a concrete pot. A tamarind tree bears the insults of winter. A bilimbi tree takes refuge inside the house through the cold and rain.
Perhaps when there are tree-climbing children in my life again, there will also be a yard filled with different trees for them to choose from.
I hold him up at arm’s length, an offering to the gods, a tribute. He gurgles and squeals, wriggling in my arms.
The sun kisses, then stings us. Beneath, his shadow wriggles along with him.
I shudder, without a dark echo.
That was the price for our freedom.