Occasionally I allow myself to imagine. It feels a bit like sneaking a chocolate on an enforced diet. Delicious and sweet and comforting…
I imagine the Giraffe Princess as she wanders along in front of me, long hair blowing in the breeze, with a four year old girl’s hand in hers. They are collecting wildflowers, allies in their floral pursuits, GP pointing out the different flowers and Laura inexpertly picking them with ‘too short’ stems and forming them in to a crumpled bunch.
In the real world I stumble on a slippy stone, plunging my foot inches deep in mud to balance myself. The Boy Racer takes my hand and Astro Boy deftly returns along the stepping-stones to guide Giraffe Princess and the rest of us to solid ground.
I imagine a four year old skipping along the road, chasing after the boys and whooping with delight when they let her catch them. The Boy Racer carries himself gracefully, the responsibility of big brotherhood resting easy in his body.
BR and I drop back from the others to search for Cowrie shells in the tiny little cove they secret themselves in. Let’s find two each and if I find four I’ll give you two of mine. We search and search, he distracted intermittently by the pull of splashing stones into the ocean. Maybe there is less of Laura in our lives now and that is why we cannot find the Cowries, I ponder. I retreat back up the tiny inlet, giving up, and spot one. The sea has washed them higher up than usual, but they are still here. The Boy Racer wanders up to me, admitting defeat, and I sneak two into his hand.
There is a steady drum to the wind as it blows past us on the coast. Waves crash and in the quiet moments we can hear the sea birds call – black backed gulls and lap wings. Swallows flying low. The Boy Racer sings to himself as he walks – Who do you think you are? Who do you think you are? We catch up to the others, a comforting weight of heart stones in my pocket.
We pass another rocky cove and Astro Boy, Giraffe Princess and I walk eyes fixed on the stones in search of hearts for Laura’s spot. You know it’s not the shape of them; it’s how you look at them that makes them a heart, the Boy philosopher remarks. Giraffe Princess and I wander on, she carrying a heavy weight of rock. Astro Boy staying back to carry out important earth works with his Dad and brother.
I imagine a four year old, short legs growing weary, and her Dad lifting her high over his head to rest her on his shoulders, her hands catching his and forming awkward wings.
Our friends are looking between coast and field wondering which way to go. This coast looks different every time…
We arrive at Laura’s spot and stop. Giraffe Princess lays her stone among the heart stones we brought last year and in May. I think people take them, she speculates. It doesn’t matter, I think. If people take a heart stone, from a place of heart stones it is probably because it is important for them.
We picnic on water melon, apple slices, carrot sticks and chocolate biscuits staring out at the glinting sea, watching the rain fall across the bay, talking about the passing of time and remembering our visit four years ago when the sun split the stones, our lives were torn asunder and our hearts were burned and raw.
The boys arrive with K, all talk of earth works and dams. We gather ourselves back up to travel on. Astro Boy lingers and empties his pockets of heart stones, turning each one carefully in his hand to work out which is the best way to look at it, before resting it down amongst the others.
Very occasionally I allow myself to imagine…