And then, suddenly there they were, Papa’s cousins. Dreams are timeless. They hadn’t aged. One with his son on his shoulders (or was it grandson?) walking away from us on the road, towards the dam. His wife walked beside him, her head thrown back and the profile of her infectious laugh came across the dry grass to us.
It was said there was a crocodile in that dam. Those stories had mixed curiosity and terror into the confusion of childhood imagination. It was true; we lived close to dangers that overshadowed the strange tales of Strewwelpeter. My aunt had told us of the local girl who had been attacked by a python in her bed. She had complained of a bad smell and her parents had thoroughly checked. They found nothing there. But at night the python crept in for warmth and slept undetected, until, one night it attacked. I always checked my bed for snakes and slept in a foetal position, too scared to stretch out my legs, in case I touched a snake at the bottom!
In my dream, I took the family to see the tree that spat out lucky beans, orange and black. What made them “lucky”, I don’t know but they were exciting to find. We were charmed. We would collect as many as we could and count them out. I’m sure it helped me learn to count! But the tree seemed smaller to me than I remember it.
Not as small as my nursery school. This, past the art school and swimming pool. It was tiny! The place I had spent so much formative time growing and being shaped into who I had become. Looking at it I wondered how ever did I fit? When I was there, the days were long and mostly comfortable; the years were slow. When did time speed up?
Ruthie, my daughter, tried out the swing. The same swing I would swing till my toes touched the trees. Josiah, my eldest boy, climbed the jungle gym. He is older and more agile than when I fell from there and was sent home. Simeon, my other son, had spotted something beyond the gates and, with his interest in animals, I could guess what he had seen: The Snake Pit. My brother and I would dare each other to take a peep in that old dry well when we passed! I dreamt that today the pit was empty of snakes but was a passage out into another place.
A rougher place; where people couldn’t be trusted to keep their word and they stopped you at road blocks; where corruption ruled and you never knew which side of the coiled, barbed-wire fence you were on. We were on the up and down dips of the road into town, going past the old burnt out house that had haunted me for months with nightmares of fire.
The signs were easier to change than the mindsets of many of the older people. I was young so at that time I never wondered. My cousins grew up to think differently. A new era had been born and grew well until it could no longer bear the burden of its heritage.
And there I awoke, just past the sign. In my dream we didn’t get any further than the railway line. We never made it into the town. Dreams are a strange play of our imaginings, with time juxtaposed. But I was left with a very real longing, a sense of wanting to go back and to take those I love most to the place where my life began. Only, I knew I would never find it as I’d left it. As I have changed so has that place. There is no Marrondellas anymore and me, with my maiden name, no longer exists except in history.