I could not resist blogging again today. It is Saturday night, after all and besides that, it has been a while since the last instalment in this series.
Maternal influence is undeniable. We can lead quite different lives from our mothers as adults, hold very different opinions, eat different foods and even dream in different languages. There comes a time, however, when we look like our mothers and sound like our mothers some of the time. This happens gradually, and we get used to it. Then suddenly one day, we hear ourselves saying exactly the same thing using almost exactly the same words as our mothers while in conversation. It is great when the person you are talking to has never met your mother; they are none the wiser. None the wiser. Oops. That’s a mother-phrase. Oh, well. At any rate, I know with certainty that I have never said what my mother conveyed to my sister and I in the story. That’ll be the frosty Friday! Oops, again.
ME TARZAN, YOU JANE
There was a huge jacaranda tree in our back garden. My dad got the gardener to climb right to the top to secure a rope around a strong branch.
My sister and I used climb to one of the lower branches and take turns swinging like monkeys for hours every day; we drew complex maps in the sand below, and sang things like “Who’s in the strawberry patch with Sally?” Sometimes we tied an old tyre to the rope, and swung on that.
Sometimes, we squealed with the excitement of it all. Or did our best Tarzan impersonations.
That’s when my mother would appear at the kitchen door and scream at us, “Don’t scream! Only scream if you’re dying!”
The image above, and the one below are two of my favourite illustrations in the book. This next one appears on the book’s cover, but unless you have actually bought the book, you will not yet have seen the full cartoon. I love it, and I hope you do too. I wrote a story called On being barefoot not so long ago about another experience in the bush as a child. To this day, I still feel more closely aligned to the natural world than any environment involving concrete.
WALKING THROUGH THE BUSH
None of the kids would ever admit to being cold, sitting in the back of the truck with all the fishing gear and picnic things as we sped along to the local national park and lake in the soft light between the false dawn and the real one.
We became experts at threading worms onto our own hooks. Worms are the favourite food of fresh-water bream. We fished from the banks of the lake, and felt lucky when we found a decent spot on a rock.
These multi-family affairs taught us to talk in muted tones so as not to disturb the fish, or the birds. If the fish were not biting, we kids would go for a walk through the bush, and poke at duiker* droppings, follow trails of ants to find their nests, gaze up at the sun, pick up the old shells of birds eggs, chew the ends of long blades of grass, look for snakes, and birds, and other animals.
The adults told us when to get back for lunch. They never really worried, and they let us go by ourselves. They trusted us. Only, we did not know that. We were too busy toughening up our feet by walking barefoot to care.
* A small buck.
I still do read dictionaries, and invariably end up playing the dictionary game. It gets quite frenetic these days, but years ago, the dictionary in the story was a source of wonder, day-dreaming and delight:
MY FAVOURITE BOOK
It was for many years the Chamber’s English Dictionary. Faded red, cloth-bound, with the spine long since parted from the rest of the volume.
It had a round stain on the front cover from a coffee mug, and a burn mark from a cigarette about an inch long.
Its yellowing pages held such riches! It was always my mother’s book, but she was happy to let me read it as long as I was ever so careful with this precious possession, inscribed with her maiden name in her neat hand on the flyleaf.
She once told me that she would not mind being the owner of a bookshop.
The seasons are changing once again, and whether you live in the northern or southern hemisphere, I am sure you can find an excuse to convince yourself that you are now sorely in need of something in hard copy from Amazon which can be read really quickly, and then a second time really slowly – all in the space of a single afternoon. To order your own copy, click on the picture below:
© 2015 Allison Wright
We used to play the dictionary game and now I sometimes play it with my grand daughters. I use the MacQuarie Dictionary now but used to use Chambers – probably the same edition as yours.
I do enjoy reading your blog!
We play our version of the dictionary game thus: one of us is the quiz-master and in charge of the dictionary. Taking it in turns, one person picks a page – a random number – then “left column or right column”? Next, how many words down? Finally, the Q-M reads out the word and the competitor either knows it (and defines it in their own words) or, if they don’t know it, Q-M spells it and reads the definition. This is really good to improve vocabulary, spelling etc.
Thank you, Eleanor for both comments.
I used to play the game you describe with a couple of friends at school and university, although I suspect a certain amount of cheating went on in an effort by the quizmaster/mistress to pick the most obscure word in the vicinity of the one intended.
The other variant is to pick a word which has several definitions and then add a fictitious one of your own, and get others playing the game to tell you which is the fictitious one. Not always easy to get those right!