What is your earliest memory? Describe it in detail, and tell us why you think that experience was the one to stick with you.
My oldest friend’s grandmother died yesterday. It was her grandmother who introduced us when we were scarcely out of diapers. It was at her grandmother’s house where we grew up together every summer vacation, where we taped music off the radio and crushed on stupid boys and went through teenage angst and rebellion. No matter what happened during the school year we could always look forward to those arid Karoo summer days and nights when we would swap tales and write our dreams in the dust. Although we are far apart I look forward to the day we’ll see each other again and share our great adventures. The news today sparked a series of memories, and I’ll try to stay as coherent as possible. This is for them.
We fought over a rope kicking it up the dirt road to my house. Two pairs of skinned knees, a sight for sore eyes we were. The one already tall and fair and dark, the other plump and pink and blonde like a cupcake. Opposites in every sense except for the grandmother. And then you can’t really say how people are when they’re only six or seven. I was older, but she was wiser. Growing up in the city did that to children.
The concoctions we made would never have pleased the olfactory sense of a French perfumer, but we nevertheless mixed water and flowers and weeds in jars and placed them all around the house to “freshen the air.”
I remember milk and cheese, and pudding at Christmas, so different from my house when the only milk we could afford was powdered. When you’re small you think everyone is richer than you. She wasn’t really. And as age took her on, her kindness got the better of her as people took advantage of what little money she had.
There were summer nights spent on the couch pretending to be psychologists and giving each other advice. There were sleepovers in the living room under the Christmas tree, and as we got older we stole wine from the fridge.
Most vivid picture here. A clear summers day. I’m sitting on the stoep half reading a book and counting the minutes for them to arrive. I’d already ridden my bike down the road three times to see if they had come. My eyes are glued to the horizon. Then, a brunette bobbing next to a red head, trying to get away from the parental grip, to reach forward to see me. We see each other and we’re not yet embarrassed to be this happy to meet a friend. It’s going to be a great summer.
And it was.