My childhood days were full of wonder and glory…or so it seemed. The sun, for me, was always shining, and the barley was always golden. My skin stayed tanned year round and I was happy and warm, breathing perfumed country air.
Of course, as an adult I realise, it must have rained sometimes…but strangely, I don’t remember. To me, it was always summer…even when my Sundays were spent picking blackberries and the mushrooms scented the woods with their heavy musk.
My father, you see, was an excellent parent, and undoubtedly, the reason for my eternal sun. He loved my brother and I more than he loved his life, and it shone from him like starlight. We never questioned that we were his everything.
When Dad wasn’t working, out on our farm, he spent his spare hours by our sides, backing up my brother and I at our latest swimming gala or rugby game. He was always the proudest father in the crowd, even when we didn’t win – and as we got older, he revelled in the warm embarrassment we pretended his attention caused.
My mother, on the other hand, had never been around. Dad said she left when I was three, but that didn’t matter – it only meant he would have to love us twice as much.
I asked my brother about Mum sometimes, when it occurred to me that I ought to…but at barely 12 months older than I, he didn’t remember a lot. She had blonde hair, he said, the colour of our barley fields, and eyes like the blue of the sky. She smelled of earth and fresh bread, and made chocolate chip cookies on Thursdays… That’s how he knew it was Thursday the morning he woke and she wasn’t there - because the cookies were.
My brother remembered Mum’s breakfasts best, he said. She’d made him eggs, just like I learned to when I grew tall enough to reach the stove. Our Dad had never been there for breakfast…because cows need milking when the sun comes up…but my brother recalled that he and the dark-haired labourer who lodged with us, would come in later for cups of tea.
It was around the time my mum left, that my brother also recalled the commotion of an accident. Our labourer, Dad said, when pushed to talk about it, had slipped and fallen under the baler… We didn’t ask for more than that, as Dad found it hard to recount that day. With no neighbours for miles around, the two men were the best of friends…and Dad could never bring himself to hire help again.
Each year throughout my childhood, Dad would take us up to the woods in September, with bunches of summer’s last flowers…which we laid at the foot of a pair of oak trees Dad told us he’d planted there for his friend.
We didn’t understand back then, why the trees were two. You see, I had no memories of my infancy...and through the years, the truth faded from my brother’s mind too. We grew up without thinking about it…content with our wonderful father and our charmed country life… And in the midst of all that sanctuary, we hardly noticed that our raven hair wasn’t red, like our Dad’s, let alone detected the reality of how our true parents came not to be there. Not even when we stood at their graves…in sunlight…each September.