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, carefully laying out the old dinkies, storybooks and toys just as your parents' car drove by.
I remember your blond head peering through the back window. You didn't giggle in the face of my sudden burning self consciousness. Instead, you made me feel proud, because your face was curious, and most importantly, kind.
I started to love you that day, and even more when I spotted your artwork at the country show, each child's masterpiece 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.
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 father 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 for my father, who was most likely moving cattle or perhaps 'spreading dung'.
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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