My parents bought their first home, in about 1965, for R36 000. It was a brand new house in a ‘starter suburb’ in Bloemfontein and my grandparents were frightfully cross at the exorbitant debt my dad was entering into. The property verged on the grounds of the Women’s Memorial (Anglo Boer War Museum) and for many years there was no fence at the boundary.
There was absolutely no greenery; our yard was just red earth and builder’s rubble and I remember every weekend of the early years being dedicated to making a garden. Family and friends would come over and pitch in; my grandpa helped my dad build trellises for the first creeping roses, my Uncle Billy helped to build a braai courtyard.
My memory jumps a few years and suddenly there is a sweeping lawn and the willow tree is big enough to provide shade for a pram containing my baby brother; if I skip down the mossy side alley down to the back yard, I can grab a juicy cling-peach from a row of trees. In the Tickey-creeper-clad fence that now forbids entry to the Memorial grounds, I rustle through the leaves to search for the secret note that may have been left there by one of my fellow Strong-Secrets-Girls-Gang members.
Another leap and it’s the early seventies, our nanny hollers from the back door; my mom is home from the hospital and we run through the sprawling flowerbeds; Ranunkulus, Jakob-regops (Zinnias) and Chrysanthemums, to peer into the carrycot at our new sister’s scrunched-up little face.
Ten years later, sitting on a window box in the recently built poolhouse; I get my first, sweet-sixteen goodnight kiss amidst the spicy scent of my mom’s patiently and lovingly cultivated carnations.
I miss them so much.