the clock struck

My earliest childhood memory is of my second birthday.

It’s a sunny winter afternoon. The dry grass smells stubbly and brown. The pelargoniums smell interesting too. I know what they are called because Nana always shouts at me when I pick the glowing red flowers. The slasto paving is warm and there are stripy lizards that scuttle away.

Mommy has made me a Hickory Dickory Dock cake, and set it on the outside table (which is white moulded asbestos/concrete in the shape of a faux slice through a tree trunk…I remember this well because it was around for several years). Standing next to the table, I am only able to see the side of the cake. Pink and white marshmallows encircle it, magically turned into mice with little cardboard ears and liquorice bootlace tails, and when I am picked up to blow out the candles, the clock’s face on top of the cake is made from liquorice too, and glacĂ© cherries. The liquorice doesn’t taste very nice. I like the cherries.

Yes please, thank you very much, Nana. I say it after her because if I don’t she won’t give me what I want. Don’t put your feet on the table. No. That’s very naughty. If you do it again Nana will smack you. The threat makes me dissolve into tears. The frustration! I’m learning about manners. Manners are annoying.

I feel very big. I have a brand new baby sister, a month and a bit old. She is in a navy blue vinyl pram nearby. If I pull myself up on the side of it, I can juuust see over into her tiny, swaddled world.

Pelargoniums. Photo by Rosemary Lombard

2 thoughts on “the clock struck

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