Destination: Some Place Else

…to get away for if only a moment

43. For Joy

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I watch you on the beach from afar, taking in this new and wild scenery. You do not see me or know me, but one day you will.  You will be so incredibly special and important to me and I to you, but this is not about that.

You are sitting, observing this space around you, quietly so.  The air is salty on your lips and the sand clings to your toes, feet, and legs like old stockings.

You breathe deeply and calmly in a way that you haven’t for years since you all started this journey.  This is a sad truth for a girl so young.   You tip your head back and glide yourself onto your back.  The fluffy, white clouds dangle like on invisible strings above; perched there just for you in curious shapes of animals that you are yet to learn about.

This is nothing like your home before, and it has taken you some time to feel changed.

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But here, right now, you are beginning to feel not so alone anymore.  The sounds of love and laughter from nearby families gives you a sense of ease as you watch your parents talk freely and happily. There is a shared glance between them, that they know they made the right decision.  You see this, and although you will not comprehend the full weight of this decision to leave until you are older; your respect and love for them allows yourself not to be angry at them for it.

You look towards your little sister attempting clumsy cartwheels and you run and join her and laugh giddily. You grab her wrists and you both spin round and round like there was only you and her and nothing in between. Like there was nothing of a past with gas masks and bombs overhead, of long trips on ships where you didn’t know what your destination would bring, to saying goodbye to a family you may or may not see again.  All for an unknown promise of a better life. One day you will know how this shaped both of your lives for the best. You both fall to the ground with smiles for days and you scoop her up and hold her for what seems like a moment too long and whisper ‘I really do love you, you know’ which means something since these were the things one often did not say back then so easily.

She gazes adoringly at you and puts her tiny hand to your face, ‘I know silly’ and then sticks out her tongue and frees herself to the wind circling you both. You smile softly as she continues her now very careful display of expert gymnastics, since she knows she now has an audience of you and her parents.  She is beautifully happy.  You stare back towards the roaring waves and trace your fingers over the sand, finding secret shells underneath the surface.  These will be your little treasures to take, to remind you of how free you are right now. There is an ocean of memories that awaits you and your sister; with love and babies and houses and travel, there will be loss and sorrow; but also joy and kindness and smiles and laughs like on this day.  I watch you take a mental picture and bottle up this moment in a way that I know you will keep it forever; till the day you are no longer here.  You will take it to the wind that you will pass as you leave.

I now see you both in a room and your skin is not youthful like it was on that day. You both have those memories in the lines buried into your faces.  There is a silent knowing between you that now doesn’t need words. I know you want that little girl, your little sister, to know that you love her without having to say it like on that day. You want to thank her for all those things she did for you. All those times she came to just be there with you, the distance she would travel, the phone calls she would make, the washing she would clean, the little ways of showing she cared. All those things meant something so special to you and you will keep them always like the treasured shells you found that day.

It is not a big and free open space you are in, but a room that is lined with photos of your family: your husband that has long since passed and a beautiful daughter who is your world. She is all grown up now.  You look towards your little sister and instead of scooping her up, you hold her hand and stroke her face and say, ‘remember that day on the beach.’

Written for my Aunty Joy who passed away on 27 July 2020. Sometimes in these moments of pain and loss, it is all you need to start to feel connected to a piece of yourself that has laid low.  I thank you for everything you gave me, told me and taught me. I will always love you.

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