‘I remember I remember the house where I was born.’
The letterbox is hip high.
When this was my letterbox I tiptoe balanced to reach inside and collect the letters. Now (my legs as big as tree trunks, my hands like spades) I crouch to finger the bullet holes in the metal. I am going down the rabbit hole and I prepare to take my medicine.
The driveway lined with eucalypts is still there but a new track bypasses it on the left, since the trees planted in about 1929 by my Great Grandmother, are too close together for modern machinery. I want to walk down it now, inside that cool canopy, remembering the hot dusty length of it from the letterbox, the avenue of trunks stretching into the distance like a mirage. Instead I drive beside it, falling in a slow motion tumble into the past.
At the end of the driveway, the old and the new, is the enormous sugar gum that has been struck by lightening three times in its life. Now, as then, I put my hand carefully on the bark to feel its thrum and look beyond the earthing of its shadow to the house where I was born.
There is a small girl here, daughter of the present owners, who live on an adjacent property. She could be me; her thumb is in her mouth and she uses the other hand to brush the hair escaping from her ponytail away from her eyes. She scuffs her small boot marks into the sandy road as we walk towards the house.
She is three and could be me, except her blunt fringe is blond and mine was dark and her boots have flowers and mine were hand me downs from my brother. She has known me for half an hour, but when I turn and hold out my arms to offer her a lift, she reaches up in a way that causes a fragile thing inside my chest to tip dangerously close to spilling. Balanced on my hip she carefully places the flat of her tiny hand on the skin above the neck of my shirt, pressing the way I do with the sugar gum, trying to feel what current is running beneath.