I was looking at Prema's name "KOMBAI - THE HOME TOWN" and it got me thinking. I have lived in several towns, but there's really only been one that felt like home - the town I was born in. And yet I've lived in some very nice places. I can't say my home town was prettier or bigger or had more shops. So why is it the place I still think of as "home"?
What place do you think of when I say "home"? Is it where you were born? Where you lived as a child? Where you live now? What makes a town a home town?
I've sat and thought about this for three days now and I still can't find an answer. So instead I started to write down what I remember about my home town. The things that still make me homesick after all these years. The thing that stood out was - sand. Home is sand.
My home town is where I was born and spent my childhood. It is called Bulawayo, which means "place of slaughter". Not the best of names! It is where King Lobengula built his capital city in 1870. He named it after a great battle he won in 1872.
My most earliest memories of Bulawayo are of sand. I still miss sand. Red sand, orange sand, golden sand. Baked hard by the sun and wonderful for playing games on. Grass was a luxury you saw in parks and the gardens of rich people. Our house had grass in the front yard and sand in the rest. My dad did try growing grass down the side, but it never worked. I grew up with sand and I still love it. Grass always looks dirty to me. It's fussy and itchy and it has insects hiding in it. Snakes hide in long grass too. Nope, I don't want grass. I like sand. :)
Our back yard had a vegetable garden with chickens and behind that there were the fruit trees. A pomegranate, an avocado, an orange tree with dark dark green leaves and two sad skinny wobbly pawpaw (papaya) trees. The sand was so hard that my dad never got root vegetables to grow. the carrots were too weak to push through the ground and they always came out small and crooked, but the green beans were tougher and they grew ok. We ate a lot of beans! And sometimes I'd eat a pomegranate. It only got a few fruit, it wasn't a big tree, so fruit was a treat. I'd sit against the kitchen wall in the shade and peel away the thick skin. Eat the seeds one by one, spitting out the centres on the sand. There was something magical about those seeds with their clear red flesh. They were so shiny and pretty. It was like eating beads.
Outside our house the pavement was sand too. All pavements were sand. With big trees spreading out wide and keeping you cool as you rode your bicycle or walked to the shops. In town the park had grass, but the town hall had wide sand pavements with huge trees. The flower sellers sat there in the shade. When my mother went to town we'd stop there and look at all the flowers. Behind them there were fountains that hissed and spread cool mist in the air that you could feel on your skin as you walked past. I loved the trees in town as well. Silver oaks, flamboyants and Jacarandas mostly. I never understood why they called the ones with the beautiful glowing gold flowers "Silver" oaks. Grown-ups were so stupid. Everyone could see the flowers were GOLD, not silver! And they were full of nectar as sweet as honey and so thick it was like tar. The grown-ups hated them. If you parked your car under a silver oak the nectar would drip on the car and set like tar too. It was almost impossible to get off. I loved them, they were pretty and tasted good, but my favourite were the Jacarandas. In spring they'd flower and it would be Jacaranda festival. The shops in town would decorate their windows and entrances with paper and tissue flowers to match the blue and lavender Jacarandas. And outside the trees would be covered in flowers that would fall down and lie like carpets on the orange and red brown sand. My mom's favourite were the flamboyant with their huge "umbrellas" of deep red flowers, but I loved the soft blues of the jacarandas.
My grandmother had grass. I'd forgotten that. There was sand at the back by the kitchen, but grass around her fruit trees by the bedrooms. She had peach trees and apple trees, grape vines and guavas. The grass was thick there for some reason. The back section where it was sand was a strange place for us grandkids. It was where gran buried her pets. Rows of tiny wooden markers for all the cats, dogs, birds that had passed through that house for two generations. We'd kneel in the sand and read the names and dates of animals that had died before we were even born. There was even a monkey grave. My mom had raised it from a baby after it's mother was shot by a hunter.
At school we had more grass. The boys played cricket on it and we girls watched from under the trees.. where the sand was. We'd draw in the sand with sticks or play games. It was nicer under the trees in the shade than out on the grass where the boys were. And your lunch was safer too. Out above the grass the crows kept circling watching and waiting. Every day there'd be screams and yelling as some kid forgot to watch and had his sandwiches grabbed by a crow. Much safer under trees on the sand then on the grass.