I gotta igoodea he said under the Frangipani tree that summer and I sat in wonder of him. I still do.
We trawled the soft layers of perfumed petals loosened by time and rain and wind and gathered up falling handfulls of Frangipani. We let them fall soft, yellow-streaked parasols, into the birdbath. What we called the birdbath was actually a large stone that had been hollowed out by the manual crushing of maze over many years in the homes which were scattered throughout the valley. At the end of our childhood we learned that people were crushed too.
There were these warm rains without lightning when we could sit and watch the slate paving change colour and save ants caught in onyx creases from drowning. We called everyone to see but only Sophie came and burst into a song of praise, ai ai yai, sshhoo sschhoo, halala … which startled us both to look again at our handiwork in case we’d missed something. She made us feel like heroes, a good thing to be when you are five and not yet broken.
Then my brother of the igoodea gathered cracked litchi shells to make pyramids on the round concrete steps granpa Jack had made at the garage end of the garden by the avo tree. The rough shells dripped between our toes still purple from sliding the purple river of Jakaranda blooms the rain pushed down the gutters from Lone Tree Hill.
Barberton made brothers of us. Gave us a glimpse of our wholeness before we broke. And now we remember the fractured ones who loved us when they were still gods: Granny Hazel’s tenderness, Granpa Jack’s booming laughter and the smell of paint, Old Granny turning soft and translucent like an exhaled breath of Lavender.
It takes 50 years to unwrap childhood. As long for old questions to be answered. Who taught you to be so brave? I once asked. A memory answered me. You and Aunt Ivy, hand in hand, walking up the road to the shop. She was regal and stern from her army Captain days. You were in drag: high heels, evening gown, string of pearls with ostrich feathers on your five year old head. What a gift she gave you that day!
With you we we’re always on the verge of a very important idea. Brother, you were quicker to see the wonder of the world at our feet. While I imagined things to be done, you would begin walking, and I would follow. We were brave enough together to go anywhere. And we did. You made the world feel like a good place to be. You do that still. I love you for that.