Our routine has changed; for the rest of the next two decades our lives will be school-led. In the late noon, I push the pram up the slope to the gate, your brother always sneezes crossing the line from shade to sun. It’s a hot and humid situation outside my air-conditioned bubble and something I associate with The U Route.
Past the gate and past the fuchsia bougainvilleas that droop and curtsey in the mild, occasional breeze outside the homes along the route. Up the pavement or on the smoother tarmac, my mind is always thinking. Past the cleaner who sits at the pavement edge, his broom at rest behind him, while he relaxes with his curry puff and gazes at silent conversation with the mynahs crossing the road, like unofficial companions. Past the laundry shop, the auntie languidly looking out at everything and nothing in particular. Past the Indian restaurant preparing for lunch opening. Past the mechanic, the intoxicating smell of rubber, mechanic hands at rest behind the piles of tire rings waiting for the occasional car that stops by. I always saunter a little slower past the old house with star shapes for iron grilles, clearly empty with grass too long and an old-fashioned silver metal swing in the garden although someone came to mow the lawn last week; I also linger past the house with the tangerine-and-sand-coloured-striped gate, also a house built in older times, with a plan I like – brick walls in front of the car porch and an alternate lane a little bit back to enter the living room via large panelled glass doors that look out onto a lawn; orange roof tiles, a line of dormer windows above what is possibly a line of bedrooms facing the lawn. Reaching the school, I wait outside with the assortment of fetchers – helpers, grandparents, mothers, fathers – under the cool shade of the large umbrella trees, sweltering in the tropical weather, eyes squinting, breath heavy.
Dear daughter, it’s always a joy to see your grin that stretches across your face when you spot me and your bother in the pram, that glint in your eye. Sometimes we sit on the red swing awhile. “Not so fast”, you say. Other times, “faster, faster”. Then the bell rings for the gate to close and we begin the journey home on The U Route, turning back into the parallel lane, this time, beads of sweat making my cap sticky. Out too long in the blazing sun, and we’re not even that far away. We talk about school. I stick a dried brown leaf in a stick you pick up and you pretend it’s your umbrella. You like to walk on the grass. Sometimes you stop at the bus stop and ask for a drink break. You look for a flower – always purple – ask me to pick it, then hand it over to me and say coyly, “For you!”
Everyday little episodes. Fuchsia flowers, black road, green trees. These colours imprinted on my mind of our daily walks. I love. Also, back into our air-conditioned bubble at last.
+ photo credit: playground journal