An Imaginary Dialogue with My Son / Scene 5
‘This looks like a maze,’ says Cameron.
‘It does, doesn’t it? Bear would love this! He has a thing for mazes.’
We are standing in the middle of the shell and, no matter which way we look, there are narrow channels winding here, there, and everywhere.
Cameron taps me on the shoulder. ‘Mum, let’s climb into that one and see where it leads us.’ Something in the tone of his voice reminds me of Bear whenever he comes up with an idea.
We pull ourselves over the wall of the channel closest to us. We dangle our feet in mid-air for a moment, then jump down together.
‘It’s not as slippery as I thought it would be,’ says Cameron.
‘I love how smooth it is. And the colour is beautiful. I think I would call this a rusty beige.’
We reach out at the same time to run our hands along the surface. For a moment, we are both silent.
‘It feels like I haven’t seen you for a while mum,’ says Cameron quietly, without looking at me.
My heart lurches.
‘I know it’s been a while, darling. I’m so sorry about that. I’ve missed you. But life has been…busy. Intense, really. But I’m so sorry. I’ve been wanting to come here, but I just haven’t been able to…’
‘It’s okay, mum. You don’t have to apologise.’
‘Oh baby, I know, but I…’ I’m about to say sorry again, but I see that Cameron is smiling at me.
A big, beautiful smile.
It is Rick’s smile.
I take a deep breath.
‘It was your anniversary and your birthday last month. On the fifteenth and the sixteenth of September. Your twelfth anniversary and your twelfth birthday.’
‘Every year, I dread it. As soon as it’s spring, I know that it’s coming up. And to be honest, I almost resent spring for this reason, because I know it means that it’s been another year without you. It’s ironic, right? Spring is meant to be about new life yet, for me, it’s just this huge reminder of how your life was taken away from us…’
I can feel tears rolling down my face. Cameron reaches out and takes my hand. With my other hand, I try to wipe the tears from my eyes.
‘How was it this year?’ he asks, as we start winding our way through the channel together. ‘My anniversary?’
‘Well, the night before your anniversary, I found out that my parents—your por por and gung gung—weren’t going to join us at the Memorial Gardens. I was so devastated and heartbroken. I cried and cried. But you know what? By God’s grace, when I woke the next day—on your anniversary—my heart felt so much lighter. We had a lovely breakfast together at home, and then we drove out to the Memorial Gardens to meet Pa and Nan, your dad’s parents. And God, in his kindness, gave us the most beautiful weather. For almost three hours, we had the most relaxing, peaceful picnic under the big gum tree. The sun shone down on us the entire time, and it was just the most perfect occasion…’
‘What did my brothers do during that time?’
‘The younger boys mainly just pottered about, finding sticks and trying to dig up dirt. Gus, however, brought his chess set along and challenged both your dad and your Pa to chess…’
‘I’m pretty sure Gus won when he played your dad. I think when he played against Pa, they tied because they ran out of time.’
‘That’s brilliant! I take it Gus is good at chess…?’
‘Yup. He definitely gets that from your dad’s side of the family. Anyway, that night, I cooked beef sukiyaki—a Japanese hot pot—for dinner, which is what I did last year on your anniversary. I guess I’m hoping it will become a family tradition of sorts.’
‘I wish I could’ve been there…’
We reach the end of the channel, still holding hands. I look back at the long, winding path that has brought us to this point.
I turn to face my son, and it is my turn to smile.
‘My darling boy, you were there in every way…’
You can read the other posts in this series here.