I devourer the various casseroles and salads that are beginning to sog my paper plate. My short, slender child-legs swing slightly beneath me, and my hand is printed with little white and red dents from the bumpy white washed wall I sit on. My blue eyes, bright and twinkling in the mid afternoon sun gaze out hungrily at the sea—pure, blue and wide. I heard that a man on vacation drown recently in a beach not far from here. Flashes of memory swing through my mind at the thought of the sea. The roar of water. The cool sucking sand, making liquid-filled dents where my feet were. The way the roar becomes dull when my head is in a sandy pit I’ve just dug. The day a wave knocked me over and I lost my flip flop to the sea and was wrapped in mom’s big read sweatshirt. This memory includes a few frightening nightmares I had afterwards.
But all that is far away in the gritty sand of the beach. Here, living, growing around me is another house of memories and warm sunlight under blue sky. It is everything about this place that makes it special.
The shouts and laughter of my friends echoes in my ears as I dash along the red brick pathways between tall orange flowers and blooming shrubs. I push aside a palm branch and squat down in the shade to hide. It does not matter when I am found, because that only signals a breathless dash up along the path beside the wall—a wall so covered in vines that its white surface is barely visible—to the little grove where the rope swing rests. And I am safe. I have always been quick on the dash.
There is the empty ruin of some previous little house, where a cricket sunbathes. There are moments gazing over the wall at the red brick mansion across the grassy lawn and wondering who lives there.
There is also the little bit of indoors that I only enter for food and toilet. It smells of old wood and cool summer shadows. And at the far end of the garden, before you reach the mysterious wooden door, low, dense trees crowd out paths and catch on unsuspecting tangles of hair. Nearby is The Ditch in the grassy field. Old branches and bits of rusty metal are dumped there, and my sister says we mustn’t go down, although it looks like a wonderful place to explore and collect.
Once my sister and I took many little yellow and pink flowers of this particular bush and linked them all together—they slot into each other in an amazing way—to form delicate chains.
There are two doors into the garden. The large gate that we always enter by, on the road side, and the wooden door at the far end of the garden. That one opens onto a wild stretch of beach, populated by strange things the sea has brought up and yellow-eyed gulls. I know because we went out once, with the grownups. Or perhaps that was only in a dream.