The holidays are here! Mum tells me she has a great, big surprise for me. I pack my tiny suitcase and manage to squeeze in my school uniform, eager to leave and meet her at the school gates. Trembling fingers, nervous energy gets me moving faster the. I can think. Is that our car horn I hear? Pulling my jumper over my t-shirt, I free my face into the warm, fuzzy dorm air. Other students in my dorm are packing their clothes and books, desperate to get out into the world of warm sunshine, families and community.
Minutes later, I run across the grounds, my thin legs struggling under the weight of the small suitcase and duffle bag. Heart pounding, shoes thudding, as I make my awkward way to the school gates, only slowing down to meet the gaze of my class teacher, quietly beckoning me to a graceful walk, with her warning stare. As we fall into step, marking the register, as we leave, I glance back and wave goodbye to my teacher. She continues to stare, as if to warn me detention would be my first punishment the next term.
I swing through the gate, undeterred, daring her in my head, as I pick up speed towards my Mum. There she is, leaning against our little car, smiling, with arms open wide. In minutes, our brief embrace is over and we climb into the small white Japanese car, already weighed down with our light luggage. Mum swings her legs in, ignoring the stares of the other Mums, and envious of her independence as a single mother and ability to buy her own car, just as she runs her own life. Leaning back, I turn and wave a friend goodbye. She smiles and waves back, as our car lurches forward. Mum’s driving has not improved over the term, but we speed off into the long drive to the main road.
“Are you excited to visit Grandpa?’ Mum asks, with a glint in her eye. She is humming before I get to answer and I smile, eagerly watching the road ahead, as we speed across the outskirts of town. Before I fall asleep in the warm, hazy sunshine, we turn into Grandpa’s road. I sit up, watching the trees and fields glide by. Within minutes we arrive and I am craning my neck out the car window, laughing as Grandpa races out of the cow shed towards us. My door swings opens, as I leap out and embrace him with both arms, taking in the smells of soil, manure and fresh cut hay. His fists are full of hay and he laughs as he picks bits of the hay off my hair and shoulders. Mum comes round and greets her father. His eyes mist up and he hugs her too. We walk arm-in-arm into his old little bungalow and the air cools as we step over the threshold. The tin roof creaks as twigs and leaves drop onto it. The rooms are bright and airy.
As we sit by his old fireplace, we sip mugs of strong tea with milk. This is the only place in the world where the tea tastes as good as ice-cream. The slices of bread are fresh and taste heavenly. Everything has been prepared over a wood fire. The tea burns and I gulp down some more, unperturbed by the heat. My body adjusts to the heat of the tea, cooling my whole being. Mum and Grandpa catch up on all the family news. I watch my very sweet and quite domesticated Grandpa spoil his daughter and grandchild.
This is a world I love, filled with open fields, small single-storey houses, some thatched and others with tin roofs. Cows bellowing out to one another and the children herding and chasing the goats back home. The sheep are back and the bleating quieting down. I begin to doze off on the arm of the chair, lost in a world of dreams. Grandpa gently places a small soft blanket over me, barely touching my frame. Mum watches and smiles. Their voices fading into the background, as the sounds of the fire crackle back to life. I drift off into my land of dreams and freedom. Tomorrow brings new experiences and a perfect beginning to my school holidays.