Do you remember?

This is a story from my childhood.

I am nine (though I could be ten, or eleven, or twelve) and it is the mid-’fifties.

It is a warm July late morning (though it could be any day during the summer holidays, or even an autumn Saturday). My mother is in the garden picking peas (though it could be weeding carrots or painting fence or making raspberry jam).

I am making a lunch to take to my father who is working in the fields. I take six slices of bread from the package, on this occasion my favourite, white Wonderbread, rather than home-made tricky-to-cut. Four of the slices are for Dad, two for myself. I zip to the fridge for ingredients for the sandwiches: butter, Kraft sandwich spread and bologna. I find a leg of chicken left over from last night’s supper. I get a little plastic container from the cupboard and fill it with raspberries and cream. I boil water while dropping a couple teaspoons of instant coffee in the thermos. I remember spoons and a paper napkin.

I rip a sheet of waxed paper off the roll and place the sandwich carefully in the middle. I fold in each side, wrap and tuck. It looks just like Mum’s would.

Finally, I put the lot into a small cardboard box. I carry it carefully outside to where my red bicycle is leaning against the fence, and place the cardboard box into its sturdy wire basket (which is well-dented from a few good tumbles it’s taken). I shout goodbye to Mum and I’m off in a flash of pedals and spinning knees.

In the kitchen I might be a bit cautious, but here on my bicycle I know no limits! – I understand everything you need to know about gravity. I know every rut in the driveway, every dip and every rock I might hit. I sharply reverse the pedals to break when I reach the road, checking carefully for the remote possibility of an oncoming vehicle. I’m not keen on the prospect of getting caught in the ruts on the dirt road with a vehicle coming up behind me; it’s happened before and I don’t like having to climb off the bike, drag it onto the soft shoulder and wait like a fish out of water til the vehicle goes by.

Once I hit the road, I fly! I gain speed with every stand-up pedal stroke. The half mile or so to Souke’s Corner is covered in a flash. I lean into the turn and zip around the corner into the side road to our back fields. Here where I know I won’t be seen by anyone I experiment with a wheelie. I practice the world’s sharpest stop, with one hand on the thermos so it doesn’t fly out. I get a good head of speed up and squeeze my feet up onto the handlebars while my machine glides.

Best of all is when I realise I can hear the tractor and I know Dad is close by. I cruise through the gate into the field. He’s down near the creek, mowing (though on another day might be seeding, raking, combining or ploughing). He’s been watching for me, because he sees me immediately and waves.

As soon as he stops the tractor, I run to the toolbox and grab out the blanket we keep there. I spread it out in the shade under a poplar tree. I fish the box out of my bike basket and proudly lay out the lunch. I unwrap the sandwiches so he can get to them easily.

He is absolutely delighted with the lunch, exclaims over the sandwiches, can’t wait to get to the raspberries and cream, and tucks straight into the piece of chicken.

There’s a complete stillness in the air, in spite of the birdsong and buzz of grasshoppers and bees. My Dad and I sit on the blanket, chatting about important things.

I have never been so happy. (I am almost always this happy.)

Mission accomplished.

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