This is out of context unless the blog has been read in a chronological order.
I sit on the porch beside my Grandfather,
considering green lawns and flowerbeds.
”You think the bad memories hurt”, he ruminates,
sipping a little on an amber, firey liquid.
”You’ll see. When you’re my age
the bad, the scary memories – they will have lost their power.”
He sighs, struggling to contain grief etched on his face.
”It’s the good memories that kill me.
The good memories, Bianca! Memories
of people I loved and still love,
who are no longer with me!
Those are the worst torture
the worst torture that I know of!”
Bianca, 5 years old:
Only a few doors from where Mother and I live resides a family with two daughters same age as me. Sometimes the girls come to visit me and sometimes I visit them. We play with dolls, paint with crayons or watch Disney shows. Ducktales, Gummy Bears or Talespin are on TV only once a week. Minutes before the show starts, we look at the wall clock and have a countdown together. Sitting on pillows in front of the TV, eating honey puffs with milk or cinnamon buns and biscuits, we cheer when the show starts. I love the feeling of togetherness I have with these girls, of being like a family.
Later in life I lost touch with them and now I can’t recall their last names. But when I was five years old, I believed all friendships would last forever.
In the beginning of spring term a new boy starts going to my daycare centre. His name is Elijah and he is incredibly fun to play with. He and I are a little different from the other children at the centre. While the other girls and boys build sand castles, we’re in the glade beside the daycare building, attempting to make a campfire. We’ve liberated two of the gardeners’ metal spades from their shed and are now banging those, with all our might, against a big stone. This creates little sparks we try to catch with some dry bark. Elijah has taught me how to be careful so the fire won’t spread – we’ve surrounded our small stack of branches with stones and cleared the area round it so there’s nothing but brown forest soil. Sadly, our kindergarten teachers still believe we could start a forest fire and every time we play campfire they put a sore stop to it.
While the other children play tag, Elijah and I defy each other on the wooden bridge by the jungle gym. First, one of us throws a glove on the ground. The adults don’t like this, we’re not supposed to take our mittens off when it’s cold outside. After that it’s time to throw insults – the more creative, the better. We holler things like ”you’re a farting frog”, ”your mother was a mountain troll” or ”my dog drools less than you” at each other. (If we shout too loud, uncomprehending grown ups will once again interrupt us.) This leads us to the inevitable conclusion: a tournament style duel (what we were pining for all along.) We’ve got our tree branches ready, one is a fearless steed and the other a mighty lance. One, two, three – off we go! The victory has been decided beforehand through an intense game of rock, paper, scissors. The victorious will roar a fearsome howl and stomp the ground. The looser will roll around in agony, screaming ”farewell, oh farewell to this world!”
Elijah wishes to go on an epic adventure, but our teachers won’t unlock the kindergarten gates for us. However, before one goes on a quest one has to know what to quest for. We’ve agreed on searching for a dragon’s egg in the forest. Elijah says it will look like a rock but oval and smooth and when it hatches we’ll be caretakers of the last baby dragon in the world. If only we could leave the daycare centre, that is. Lucky him – I’m an expert on run away games. One cannot simply escape without preparations, so first we snatch some bread and apples from the kitchen. We hide the food in our jackets when it’s time to go out and play. I’ve identified a spot where the fence is possible to climb and surveillance is low. Now all we have to do is wait until the adults are distracted, scale the all-too-easy metal grid and suddenly we’re in the woods.
We walk side by side in companionable silence. There are many stones and rocks here, but none look like a dragon’s egg. For a while we traverse the shrubbery amicably, but then it dawns on us: we haven’t the slightest idea where we are. Each one accuses the other of being incapable of finding their way in the forest. I tell Elijah it’s not my fault there are no bus stops here: if there were, I could take us anywhere. Because Eric taught me how to read the bus map. Elijah responds that it’s not his fault there are no ants nest close by, because if there were, he’d be able to tell north from south. I want to eat an apple but Elijah insists on saving them, lest we starve to death. Our situation looks rather bleak, until we glimpse a road through the fir branches. The road leads us straight back to the day care centre. I feel like we’ve returned from a thousand mile journey, but nobody even noticed we were missing. It’s quite a thrill.
”Let’s do this again”, I suggest. Elijah ponders it for a minute.
”Okay, sure”, he says. ”I’ll bring a hank of yarn tomorrow, like they use in labyrinths.”
The enemy never rests and neither do our teachers. They’re keeping a close eye on us now and they’ve expressly forbidden fires, insults, games with a theme of violence and quests outside the kindergarten fence. Elijah’s parents have read The Chronicles of Prydain to him and he tells me everything of Taran, Hen Wen and Princess Eilonwy. On the big lawn close to the playground we jump and pirouette, waving sticks in our hands. If someone asks what we are doing we shout, a little out of breath:
”Dancing!” Truth be told, we’re busy chopping down invisible undead warriors created in an evil cauldron. It’s thanks to us the clueless staff sleep safely at night and they don’t even know to thank us. Such is the life of heroes.
Losing contact with Elijah later was very painful.
Over the years, whenever he crossed my mind, I often thought of when we learned ice skating. I was so exited I could skate on one leg and ’fly’ like a bird on the ice, with my arms outstretched like wings. I never wanted to stop. At the same time, Elijah had something important to tell me. He was happy and inpatient but I only replied:
”Soon, soon, I’ll listen to you soon!” Finally I felt my legs growing tired, but then he didn’t want to speak to me any more. He was upset because I had ignored him. I wondered for the rest of my life what wonderful thing he was going to tell me. I can still feel the shame over how sad I made him and the despair of never learning what he had to say.
I can help with that, because he told me later! Elijah’s parents were going to buy a puppy for his next birthday! They told him he should forget it so it would be a surprise and he wanted me to hold on to the memory for him. So that I could remind him of the puppy, if I ever saw him crying…