What I remember most is green grass and muddy boots.
I’m standing in our park. How long has it been now – thirty years – since you first brought me here? I was seven, I think.
Mint ice cream and science talk. Long words and funny images. Guitar strumming and poems made into songs. Laughter …
Round and round we go.
“Are we travelling faster than the speed of light?”
You laugh at me when I say it and run your fingers through my hair. “Not quite.”
You jump from the roundabout and throw the football in the air, the one you brought especially for today. Taking my hand you lead me away from the playground, to an area free of people and dogs. You place your jacket and jumper on the ground for goal posts.
“I’ll be goalie,” you say and position yourself between them.
I’m laughing. Happy. Running after the ball as fast as my legs will go. I catch up, track around it and kick it back. It rolls towards you, over the uneven grass, and stops short. Scooping it up in your arms, you drop it onto your foot and kick it high above us. I shout with gusto and set off after it again.
The playground remains the same, but the grass where we played football has been dug up and replaced with a track for skateboards and mountain bikes. I’m on the periphery of it now, watching, and wondering whether to move on because I’m getting the evil eye from some of the kids and I don’t want to be arrested for loitering with intent.
Ten minutes go by before I’m outside the café on the seafront where we’d sit and eat ice‑cream sundaes and talk about football and later about music and writing. And about the speed of light. We never tired of talking about that.
Not many years left, though we didn’t know it then.
A magpie lands on the roof and caw caws at me, stomping a rain dance. And I’m reliving the stories we made up about a woman. And about a magpie that flew into her garden and crept through the open window of her bedroom, while she was out walking her dog. The magpie would steal her jewellery and all the shiny things that lay on her dressing table. And when she was getting ready to go out with friends, or on a date, she would wonder where her pretty necklace had gone.
We’d laugh and make that magpie a bad bird. And we’d have the dog take on the role of detective and scheme and plan and lay in wait, but never manage to apprehend the feathered bandit.
The memory of those stories take me back further to when I’m lying in bed, laughing at you and the different voices you have for the characters in whatever book we’re reading together. You evoked my desire to write and I’ll be eternally grateful for that.
Acoustic music wafts out through the door of the café when someone leaves, bringing me forward to the present like Marty McFly in Back to the Future. The strains of a guitar and the memory of all those songs we wrote together. Remember? A melody for Mum on her birthday: ‘I will always be around …’ She loved the words to our song, written especially for her. My cheeks are wet as I revisit the smile in her eyes.
It’s a pity we couldn’t make it happen for her. The ‘always being around’ bit. But you’d have to be immortal or a god and we know that’s impossible. Right?
Later, when I think I’m all dried up and there can’t be any more tears left in me, the air is moist with them. I slip my arm around Mum’s shoulders and she leans into me, shaking, as your favourite song fills the chapel.
Life, we’re led to believe, follows a pattern. If that’s true, my one hope is that my children remember me as I remember you.
See you on the other side, Dad.
Copyright (2018) M J Christie