It was a beautiful sunny day today after almost a week of rain so I decided to walk to New Market this afternoon to catch up with an old friend of mine. It was a 5.4km walk and along the way I passed my Primary School, Intermediate School, High School, and two old workplaces, which brought back lots of memories which I didn’t even know I had. It’s amazing the way that places can jog our memories and bring back thoughts of feelings we had as a child, and even dreams.
I left home at 3pm and walked down St. Andrews road, past a school for children with Cerebal Palsy and I remembered working with a woman 4 years ago who used to work there previously and found it really hard to deal with it when two of her students passed away. I never knew those children but I always feel sad when I walk past that school. I went on up the hill and I remembered previous runs up the same hill from a few years ago and what I wore and the sound of my breathing, and the reason why I am still walking and trying to get healthy which made me annoyed with myself. I saw a car turning into landscape road with two pink kids bikes on the back and I remembered driving past the road once and watching a father carry his daughters pink scooter over his shoulder while she walked along slowly and I wondered if by some chance it was the same family. How do we remember these things that stick in our memories 3 years later? It’s crazy. As I kept walking down St. Andrews road I walked past the church where my friend’s parents funerals were and I remembered the services, they were the first funerals I went to in New Zealand and I’ve been to a few since. It’s sad how as you get older, you go to more weddings but you also go to more funerals.
As I kept walking down St. Andrews road I remember driving past at one point and picking up a boy I liked and giving him a ride home so he could pick up his skateboard (LOL) and what I imagine my face looked like judging by how shaky my driving was. I remember it all and wonder if it was all worth it, the tears, the worrying, the anguish, was it worth that look on my face? Probably.
I reached the bottom of St Andrews road and turned right onto King George Street, after catching a glimpse of Windmill Courts where I used to play Saturday Netball and was a Goal Keep, back in the day when I was taller than all the boys in my class. I remember the wind in my hair and pivoting with a ball in my hands, the Velcro on my stick on goal keep bib. I remember it all. I walked up to the traffic lights on King George Street and I remembered being in a car at those traffic lights with tears streaming down my face, clutching the steering wheel like my life depended on it, crying over the only boy I think I’ve ever loved and feeling my world caving in around me. And the sight of a child crossing the road and stopping to stare at me was the only thing that made me stop. Children shouldn’t have to see something like that.
I kept walking down Gillies ave and remembered Cross Country runs that cut through the park and walking down past Kohia Terrace with my big blue ANI sunhat with Shamili and Christina, my friends I walked home with. We would stop at the playground and play for what seemed like hours after school, eating an apple on the way home and feeling the static in the plastic slides giving us electric shocks in the sun, the flying fox was never too low back then, and we didn’t know what most of the graffiti on the playground meant though we knew it was something bad. When did we learn and who taught us, how to love and lust and hate? When did we learn with an adult awareness, what longing is and what it can do to us? There were children playing there today, boys taller than me but younger than me laughing and throwing dodgeballs at each other across the playground. When will these boys realise their strength and their manhood and look at me like I could be desirable? 5 years from now? 10? When do children stop being children. I hope never.
As I walked past the playground I remembered a vivid dream I had as a child about walking through a pine forest in the domain that went on forever, in my dream I could smell the freshness and the scent of the pine needles and it was cold, I couldn’t find my way out. I suddenly came to a clearing where there was a huge playground. There was bark on the ground and a huge climbing thing made of rope that was a maze to get through. I looked up in awe thinking, this is the best playground ever. But further along there was a group of children who looked scary who were bigger than me. And I remember being afraid to play on it, in case it was theirs. How do children have an entire dream that revolves solely around a playground? And what a playground it was!
At the Traffic Lights at Epsom Ave I remember being stopped by two boys when I was 11 years old and being asked where I come from. I said India and they said go back to your own fucking country. I froze and didn’t know what to say. Their teacher happened to be in a car at the lights and she told them to shut up and leave me alone. There’s things you remember and there are things you forget. This wasn’t one of them. I feel sorry for my eleven year old self, the me that felt I was encroaching on land, on rights, on heritage, simply by existing. I kept walking up the hill and under a bush of overhanging hydrangeas on the hill. I remember being 13 going on 30 and thinking that I wanted the flowers next to it at my wedding and that I had to remember to look up the name in case I forgot later when I was old. It has been 11 years since then but I still haven’t forgotten so I don’t think I will anytime soon. I never looked up the name of those flowers but they don’t seem to be there anymore.
Further along Gillies Ave I walked past the daycare where I used to volunteer. I clearly remember the faces of Oliver, Armani and his little brother Milan, my three favourite children at the daycare. I ran into Armani with his mother at Circus Circus about 2 years ago and he was all grown up and had forgotten me. But I remember the grin on his face when I used to push him on the swing and he would come towards me growling with a rawr face as I said ‘Where’s my tiger!’. These children I loved don’t even know my name. Next to it was a house I’ve admired since I was 10. It looks like something out of the secret garden. I remember walking past it and thinking I would like to play with a skipping rope and plant something like the little girl in The Secret Garden. As I walked past, now 23, I was disappointed that they’d moved the stone table with little stone chairs like something out of the stone hedge or a druid convention in Asterix and Obelix and having an unjustified sense of betrayal that they had moved it since I was a child, as if time should have stayed still in this house, while I changed and grew and moved on.
I went on to cross Brightside road and remembered that it was the first road I ever crossed alone by myself while my mum and brother watched from a distance to see if I could cross the road by myself, before I could be trusted to walk home alone from school. I failed miserably. It took me a long time to cross roads confidently and I was still struggling this year in Thailand. I went on to the diagonal crossing at Owens Road and remembered running to school late with my socks sliding down my legs and my school bag banging on my back. I can still hear the school bell in my head, like a fire alarm siren. As I walked past EGGS I had this strange urge to walk on the white wall of the low bushes next to the school like I did as a child and so I did, very self-consciously, balancing on the wall as I walked. 14 years later, my balance is terrible.
Walking on past Alpers Ave, I thought of our old apartment down the other end and the waterfights I had in the garden with my friends. I kept walking up the hill and had visions of myself as a 9 year old sitting with my whole school on the footpath, waiting to see the Queen as she drove past in year 4. Under the motorway and down the other side, the driveway of my primary school where I went running down the terraces flying with my feet barely touching the ground. I remember doing a lot of stupid things and getting into trouble, and being (self-proclaimed) King and Queen of the Monkey bars with my friend Lukas. Turned down Mortimer Pass and went to 277 where I used to work for 3 years before.
Although it was only 5.4km, during my walk I revisited the last 16 years of my life in New Zealand at some point or another. Its interesting how memories overlap and places and dreams intercede with one another. How does one remember so much? How much more will I remember in my lifetime, if my mind already feels so full of the past?