The Park

Gradually life grew fuller and I became too busy to wallow in self-pity. I was very involved with primary school functions and cricket catering. We made new friends and started to have a social life in which I felt a part.

I have a memory of one Halloween party. Michael made a distinguished-looking Count Dracula, apart from some disgusting fangs I made him wear. Edward went as a ghost, shrouded in an old curtain lining. Catherine, Abi and myself were witches three, and Nikki was our cat. I put black eye pencil on my lips, red round my eyes and dark brown shadow on my cheeks to give that gaunt look. Thinking I looked really witchy I presented myself before the children, who said I looked like Michael Jackson.

I kept a diary for a time. It was a friend in which to confide my private thoughts, to speculate why life never attained the perfection of dreams; to expand my little philosophies and to seek out the positives in each day. As I read through it, I saw clearly it was time to allocate a little more responsibility to the children and find myself a job.

Our house was situated in a quiet cul-de-sac ending in a park. We had a little dog, an SPCA ‘pavement special’ that followed me like a shadow. The primary school was a short walk across the park, so the dog and I accompanied the children every morning. I loved to note the first signs of seasonal change, particularly in spring; the willows with layer after delicate layer of new green,  the cherry blossom confetti blowing into our hair.

The first rains always brought violent storms, with dark clouds rumbling in, ominous and charcoal, lightning forking and zigzagging, splitting the black sky in two, shocking the earth in a moment of illumination. I would count…a thousand and one, a thousand and two and my voice would be drowned by the roar and crash of thunder as it reverberated across the valley. Rain hammered on our tin roof as if a hundred horses were galloping across it. Sometimes we just went and stood outside the front door and inhaled the dust-sweet smell of the rain.

But after a storm, everything was fresh and we had to walk all around the perimeter of the park because the two tiny streams had turned into raging torrents overnight. The grass either side of the water was flattened as if elephants had charged that way, indicating the volume of water gushing through the park. If I’d owned wellies or gumboots I would have jumped into the squelchiest puddliest places. So I could understand why Edward did just that, in his school shoes. And one had a hole in it. I had to harden myself not to think about his little wet feet all morning.

On another morning Edward was in a bad mood because Nikki had won his best marble. He didn’t want to walk with us girls so he ran on ahead and two more marbles fell out of his pocket into the stream. I refused to let him delve his relatively clean white-shirted arm into the thick brown silt to retrieve the marbles so he grumbled all the way to school, barely pacified by the promise that we would go back after school with a fishing net. But the afternoon was one of those perfect motherhood moments. We found the marbles, we discovered beautiful stones that changed colour as they dried in the sunshine, and we sat on the grassy banks telling stories and picnicking on apples and raisins.

On Sunday afternoons as we relaxed around our barbeques, we could hear the beautiful singing of various African groups who held their church services in the park. The people looked resplendent in their white and green robes, and those African harmonies have remained in my heart.

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