Some would say I had the dream childhood: a giant backyard, a room with my own television, a personal jungle gym and an entire play-room piled high with toys. My favourite toy was a phosphorescent pink Barbie radio that was accompanied by 2 plastic CDs the size of my 8-year old fist. They didn’t play any music but I felt very grown-up slipping them into the retractable CD-holder, built into the side of the radio-shaped plastic, and singing as if my voice was the one etched onto the discs. You can imagine my heartbreak when one Saturday morning I awoke to find my prized possession missing. 

My best friend, David, lived across the garden from me on the same property but in a much smaller house made of wood. He didn’t have many toys but I always thought his handmade doll, a bundle of hay tied with rope, was perfect for a game of make-believe. Instead of a television in his room he had a collection of shiny rocks and twisty sticks that he would arrange to make pictures. David was allowed to walk to school by himself while my mom would force me into the car each morning – I envied that. In fact, I was jealous of a lot of what David could do. He was allowed to cook while his mom was at work. He was allowed to eat buttered toast every day for dinner. He was friends with all the kids at his school. In fact, he even told me that one of his friends bought him a phosphorescent pink Barbie radio accompanied by 2 CDs the size of his 8 year old fist. 

Arriving home from school one Tuesday afternoon I was met with a hollow scream emanating from David’s wooden house. Curiosity possessed me and suddenly I found myself approaching his door. With each step new sounds came to fruition. First, the sound of a leather whip being thrown against concrete. Then, the familiar voice of David’s father, full of deep rage. Finally, helpless sobbing. My trance was interrupted by my mother who quickly snatched me by the arm and pulled me across the garden.

I entered my bedroom, mind spinning with upset. Who was the owner of those hopeless cries? All of a sudden my question was answered when my father appeared in the doorway holding a phosphorescent pink Barbie radio accompanied by two plastic CDs the size of my 8 year old fist. “Look what David’s dad found!”, he beamed.

What I neglected to mention earlier is how David and I met. David walked into my life and onto my family’s property when his mother was employed to clean our house. David didn’t have a home so my dad built them one out of wood and it stood across the garden. I envied David and his freedom but the truth was that he never got a chance to be a child like I had. His mother needed to work and so he needed to walk himself to school. He needed to cook for himself every night or he would go hungry. They couldn’t afford much more than toast and butter. David stole my pink phosphorescent Barbie radio accompanied by two plastic CDs the size of my 8 year old fist because he never had a real toy before. 

Once I realised the cause of the shouts, I decided to take my newly-returned toy out into the garden. I sat with it next to me on the grass, under a pawpaw tree. In the distance I saw David sitting with his face tucked tightly away in his lap. I couldn’t find the courage to approach him. After an hour of sitting uselessly, watching him sob, I returned to my room.

I saw my best friend David later that day with the slightest smile on his tear stained face – perhaps he found the plastic CD I left under the Pawpaw tree and knew that I had left it there for him.

Gooseberry Jam

“If we don’t pick them, the birds will!” my granny shouted from the kitchen.

 I had just woken up to the smell of freshly cut grass. It was obvious granny had been awake and busy for a while and wasn’t slowing down any time soon. “It’s already half past eight, Tara! It’s the first day of spring and we have a lot to do!” she continued.      
I lugged myself out of bed and carried my half asleep body through to the kitchen. I didn’t particularly feel like working in the garden today but it was my last week in Zimbabwe before moving so I decided to co-operate as best I could. I had barely sat down at the kitchen table when granny picked up a basket.
“We are going to make gooseberry jam!”

“But Granny!” I whined. “I haven’t even eaten breakfast!”                                                       

“Well you can munch on a few gooseberries while you pick them.” Granny always had an argument for everything. I unenthusiastically stood up from my seat and followed her into the garden.

My grandparents lived on a farm in the middle of Bulawayo. It was a magical place. For some reason while the rest of the town was practically crumbling apart from the dryness, their farm managed to remain lively. It was covered in long, green grass and every bush and tree was constantly bursting with flowers and fruit. This was especially true during spring.

The gooseberry bushes were hidden behind an old, rusted fence located towards the back of the garden. As granny pushed the gate to this secluded area open, I was met with the sound of a familiar squeak. A smile instinctively stretched across my face. This squeaky gate was the entrance to so many of my memories and this moment would soon become a new one. I followed her into the gooseberry garden. She shut the gate behind us and suddenly I was surrounded with unkempt bushes, all dotted with dozens of orange berries.
“Let’s see who can pick the most!” This challenge activated my competitive nature and I was quickly feeling more awake. I skipped energetically to the bush closest to the gate and immediately ate half its berries before collecting the rest. The berries tasted intoxicatingly sweet and addictive yet the tart aftertaste nipped at my tongue and forced my face to scrunch up. Granny noticed my expression.
“Perhaps if you didn’t eat so many we would already be done.”  She stated, dropping a handful of berries into the basket.
“I don’t mind if it takes a long time, Granny. I am having fun!”
Her lips grew into a confident smile. “I knew you would, Tara.”

After two hours of picking, the basket and I began overflowing with gooseberries. Granny picked the both of us up and took us inside. She gently lay me down on the bed that I was so suddenly forced away from hours before. I felt the cluster of berries begin to churn in my stomach. Granny had warned me about eating too many of those berries. Before the wave of nausea could hit me, I felt myself drifting away. The room around me and the dull pain in my stomach slowly faded until I was fast asleep.

I woke up that evening to the smell of syrup wafting through the house. My stomach ache was gone, thankfully, since I knew the source of this smell was the final stage of making gooseberry jam and I couldn’t wait to try it the next day. I sat up in my bed, feeling confused as to how I slept for so long. Granny noticed the shuffling coming from my room and quietly peered around the corner to see if I was awake. Her eyes beamed with happiness when she noticed that I indeed was.

“Would you like to come and help granny stir the jam?” she said.

This was the last time I ever made gooseberry jam with my Granny. Alzheimer’s is a heartbreaking disease. She has forgotten the recipe for it now and doesn’t remember this beautiful moment anymore but it is a memory that will always make me beam with happiness like I remember her doing all those years ago.