Drat …. I find that I have overslept again. This is the second yoga class I have missed and I know it is good for me. Never mind – I have a long day ahead and coffee is the first necessity. I fumble for my crocs, which have somehow crawled under the bed on their own during the night, wiggle my feet into them and make my way downstairs to the kitchen.
Even though it is well past 7.30 am it is still not quite light outside but the blinds on the kitchen window are raised and I can see the outline of the trees in the back garden. The early morning winter fog has crystallized the trees and bushes creating a scene right out of an old fashioned Christmas card. I slot the Nespresso coffee disc into the machine and while it hisses and heats up the water I lean on the kitchen sink and stare dreamily out into the winter garden.
I remember my African garden in Swaziland. It was always a riot of colour even in the winter with climbing bougainvillea and hiding places for fat lizards. That was the best time of year for the guava tree. Constance Zikalala who looked after us all during the week, washing, cooking, cleaning and scolding children, would send out the gardener to pick a bucket of guavas to be stewed and chilled. Her dinner plate sized hands would peel and dice and chop the guavas. Several cups of sugar would be added with a little water and the whole lot put on to simmer. There was always a bowl of chilled stewed guavas in the fridge and fresh yoghurt to make a special African breakfast.
I look around my kitchen. I could do with Connie being here now. This place is a mess. Does no one ever put anything away? I can imagine her face if she saw this. Whenever she disapproved of something her cheekbones would rise up towards her eyes in a look of great disdain. She would make this strange clicking sound, which any African would know as an expression of frustration, anger or irritation. It was exactly this sound, which would send the boys running. It was not unusual to find Connie chasing them with a stick when they had got up to the usual 8-year-old boy tricks such as making mud pies and throwing them up against the whitewashed walls of the house.
Those boys were wild though and always up to mischief. They practically lived outside all day in the African sun. Hatless, shoeless with sun bleached hair and feet so callused they could run on gravel. They played with blue-headed lizards (they would spit back), frogs and impossibly fat toads and once found a banded cobra in a ditch. In the summer evenings they would swim in the pool at night with haloes of bugs around their heads and always in the background the almost deafening sound of the crickets.
The hissing of the coffee machine brings me back to the present. The little boys are bigger now – much bigger. They have almost forgotten Africa. They love to ski and snowboard and now they know how to tidy up a kitchen. They have settled in Canada – they are Canadian. But as I look out my kitchen window I wonder – have I really settled here? Have I put Africa behind me?