One of my earliest memories of you is when, as a nine year old girl, I was arranging a 'pop up' shop at the farm gate, laying out all of the merchandise - dinky toys, storybooks, home made biscuits, dolls and drawings, and you watched nonjudgmentally from the backseat of your parents' car as your father drove past.
I remember your blond head peering through the back window, and you didn't giggle or make mean faces. You showed kindness in the face of my sudden burning self consciousness as I panicked and thought, 'O God, what have I done...I must look ridiculous'. You didn't do what I'd expected and feared. Instead, you made me feel proud, because your face was curious, and most importantly, kind.
I started to love you that day, and then, even more when I spotted your artwork in the country show, which took place in a nearby farmyard, the masterpieces carefully taped to the galvanised barn door in preparation for the art competition.
Mine was of a girl standing under cotton wool clouds and amongst the glued on leaves and twigs. She was watering the flowers on her bookshelf-turned-flowerpot stand (an image inspired by my mother's garden art). Yours was of a farmyard surrounded by green fields, wooden fences, black and white cattle and a tractor. I remember your large signature in brown marker in the bottom right hand corner, and I knew in my ten year old heart that you had put love into that picture. There was pride and detail in it.
I wanted to talk to you and tell you that I understood, to say it through a smile or side glance, but I was too shy, as I was to talk to you on your Confirmation day, when you were dressed to the nines in your wine coloured suit and black tie (and of course, you had to pick the most unique third name - Carthage).
I was feeling courageous one Sunday evening when my Dad went to visit yours. I tagged along and followed my father into your kitchen. Your sister was sitting by the aga doing her homework (and sporting the most stylish bob), while your effortlessly elegant mother, her blond hair flowing down her back, was making tea. I heard you rummaging around in a neighbouring room, but you never came into the kitchen, and my heart sank just a bit.
I remember with such fondness talking to your father on the phone, carefully emulating his ever so refined accent while my Grandmother yelled across the yard to my father, who was more often than not, 'spreading dung' or moving cattle.
Now your father sits in the next world with Grandma and my precious son whom you first got to meet when he was a toddler, poddling about in the garden, most likely catching bugs or chasing butterflies. He shared that same love for art and nature and was able to see us start to build wooden fences and flower boxes together.
We have been through the wars, you and I. We've witnessed loss and heartbreak, but we're also cut from the same cloth. We know what love is and what it means to finally 'come home'. I love you and thank you for all you have given me and shown me, even before we ever shared a word.
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