Our tomatoes are ripening.
On our window ledge.
Waiting for the red that means sweet and delicious.
When I was growing up on the mountain, we went to a tiny country school in the next valley.
We would clomp down the mountain in our gumboots and, careful not to slosh water into our boots, wade across the creeks. All the while watching for any little passengers, leeches, “quick can you get it off!”.
The dusty gravel road to school took us across several old wooden bridges. They were made up of hefty sleeper like planks butted up against each other, bolted into place. As I write this I can hear the sound of the bus hitting the bridges at speed and feel the vibrations.
Our teacher loved music and sport. When he first started, we’d play sport every afternoon after lunch. Every day! Outside. Heaven. Playing rob the nest, Aussie Rules (football), soccer, softball, cricket…
And music? He played the guitar and taught us songs, “Horse with No Name”, “Sandman”, “California Girls” (though we changed it to “Collins Creek Girls”), “Muscrat Love”, “Christopher Robin”, “Di Di Di Di”…I loved the singing. I’ve always loved to sing.
Our school, little and country, maybe 25 children?, kindergarten to year 6, large grounds, surrounded by huge luscious camphor laurel trees, with an ‘out of bounds’ forest down the back (that we’d play in anyway). The front gate, in those early years, I remember an arbor with a ratty climbing rose that hadn’t climbed very far and the cement footpath that lead to the front entrance of the little weatherboard school, first opened in 1918.
There was a little fish pond on the left as you walked toward the school (covered with chicken wire) and a large tree, its canopy had a weep, a beautiful pink/purple flower and big fat rounded love heart shaped leaves that started their life folded perfectly against each other down the spine and would open with age. I remember a goanna up that tree one day and our teacher going off to get his gun.
At that time the school had a verandah and inside, a wood burner, “don’t stand too close or you’ll get chilblains”. A pile of shoes & gumboots at the entrance.
There was a school house, where the teacher lived, up the ridge a little, across one of the playing fields.
One lunch, I think I was about 9 years old, I walked out of the class room to the front steps, and there at the bottom of the steps, on the cold hard cement, was one of the boys with blood pouring out of his mouth.
Not a sweet and delicious red. A scary red.
I didn’t take a breath, I just ran (to get the teacher from the school house). Or was it flew? I didn’t know I could move so fast.
Watching that little girl running in my memory, my heart tenses, I choke up and tears sting my eyes.
Words tumbled out on top of each other when the teacher came to the back door. And we quickly headed back to the school.
There was no one at the bottom of the steps.
We went around the back of the school to where the water fountains were, he was leaning over a bubbler, some other children were hanging around but they quickly made themselves scarce. The boy looked up from the trough. He smiled.
I felt confused.
He’s okay now?
I know words were spoken but they all jumbled up in my brain.
It was a trick?
Fake blood. What was that? There was such a thing?! Where did it come from?
I know all was being answered with the words coming out of his mouth, one minute loud, the next quiet, and then no sound at all but his lips still moving, the world didn’t feel steady.
But it did slowly sink in.
Fear turned to mortified embarrassment.
Enough adrenalin pumping through my little body to last a lifetime. Maybe that’s why I have never felt the need to jump out of an aeroplane?
The saddest part of this story is that we lost this friend, at just sixteen, a terrible motorcycle accident on their property. I wasn’t there, but if I was, I would have done the same thing, run with all my heart and soul to get help, my legs would have found that same mysterious power to move at a speed not usually possible.
He was a trickster and cheeky. He made people laugh. And scared the jebezzies out of them!
He told me once he didn’t need to learn to sew, “when I grow up I’ll fix my clothes with a stapler”.
It was a sad day when we lost him.
Favourite moment at our house this morning. My daughter put on “Eye of the Tiger”. We turned it up loud (and even louder). I followed her moves. Her smile and laughter filled me up (he he, to bursting!).
Wishing you a wonderful day!