Friday, April 20, 2007

Going Home - Part 1 (by Michelle)


(It's been awhile since I've written here. Real life got in the way too much. Hopefully this year I will have more time.)


Going home..

I haven't thought about that in a long long time, but last weekend my husband found Google Earth and we spent the whole weekend looking down on my old hometown, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I showed him the school I went to. How to get from my grandmother's house to mine. My favourite shop where they sold the ice creams dipped in crushed pink sweets that tasted like breath freshener. I have no idea why anyone liked those ice creams except the colour pink was so pretty and back then there was only one flavour of ice cream cone - vanilla - so ANYTHING to change that was exciting.

Then this week I come here to catch up and read prema's Coming Home. Now I keep thinking about the last time I went home.

I am eleven years old and I’m going Home for Christmas. I'm so excited. We have been living in
South Africa for over a year now. Driving North I start to get the same stomach-tight excited feeling I used to get when we were returning from holiday. No matter how good the holiday was, home was always better. Now I watch out the window of the car for the first true sign I am close to home - baobab trees. They always make my heart sing. Some people think they are ugly trees, but I think they are beautiful. I wave to them as we pass. I tell them I'm going home. Through the tunnels in the mountains, back out into heat that shivers above the road like oily steam, and on to the border post and then the long incredibly hot road from there into Bulawayo.

We pass the hotel where they used to have the pet giraffe that nagged the guests for snacks by putting its head through the windows and staring at them. I wish we would stop there. I've never actually seen the giraffe, but it is too hot to be out here in the car. We need to get into town and out of the sun. I don't know when exactly I started noticing the changes. I know things feel different, but at first ‘different’ has no name. Streets, houses, shops pass by the car…it all looks the same as when I was last here and yet it all feels different.

At my gran's nothing has changed. Nothing changes in her house. This is what I love. The Christmas tree will always be in the dining room by the kitchen, dropping dry dusty pine needles on the parquet floor. The hanging things will always be up no matter how old, faded and tired they become. My gran's idea of Christmas decorations is "eclectic" (read that as tactful way of saying sentimental and eccentric). Chinese paper lanterns hang from the ceiling with spirals of foil that were once brightly coloured but now have faded to shimmery pastels. There are balls and bells made out of hundreds of folded and glued pieces of tissue paper. These were once bright too, but in all my childhood the reds have been faded pink. On the tree there plastic baubles that date from the 1950s which have "Coca Cola" written inside them in white and red glitter.

When I was much younger gran would let me put out the nativity scene with all the farm animals and the little baby Jesus, but then the world discovered that lead toys were dangerous and now I can only look at my old friends sitting in a box in the bottom of my grandmother's cupboard.

"Don't touch! They are poisonous!"

I miss the donkey the most. I look at him sadly, stuck forever upside down in a shoe box between the third King and Mary. His brown paint has chipped off his legs, but he's still my favourite. I will miss him. We close the box and leave them to rest in peace.

Later my cousins and aunts and uncles will all be arriving. My grandmother's house is the centre of the wheel of life in my childhood memories. Here I am HOME even more than in my own bed. It is a good feeling. A feeling that only several decades of hanging up the same Christmas decorations every year in the exact same places can bring… security. I have it here in a way I will never have again. I don't know that yet though. Now I am eleven and all I know is that later we will all be going to town Christmas shopping.

"Jenny is here!" My mother calls from the kitchen. Jenny, my best friend, who I haven't seen in almost two years. She lives just around the corner from my grandmother's house. I run to the door and… she has breasts?

I stand in shock and cannot stop myself from staring. She is a year older than me, but even so. Breasts? She smiles a strange new smile. Smug. She is different and I can see she is pleased with this difference. She is wearing little gold hoop earrings in her ears and a T shirt over those .. lumps. I will NOT think the "b" word again! She was my best friend, but now I don't want to see her. She reminds me that I am eleven and my body is changing. I can't see it yet, but I can feel it and it scares me. I have been the girl who was as brave as a boy. Now my body whispers of womanly things to come and I feel only horror. I do not want to become a woman. Women are mothers and grandmothers and teachers. They wear strange underwear and they do weird things to their hair. They have breasts and they complain about their body parts when they sit together drinking tea. I do NOT want to become a WOMAN.

I do not want to change. I do not want to become different. I want to be like my grandmother's house, where everything stays the same... except for poor lead donkeys who now live in shoe boxes forever.

Ok, so maybe becoming a woman is better than being a lead donkey?

We'll see…

1 comment:

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