Jessica’s Tree

We have new neighbours.

I noticed the moving truck as I was wandering towards the playground with my gin and tonic in my travel mug – I know what you’re thinking. Classy.

“Our new neighbours have arrived!” I informed my fellow playground bench warmers.

Our compound does a pretty good impression of the United Nations (without the glamour) so it’s always interesting to see who’s been added to the melting pot.

“Where are they from?”

I had no idea, I was yet to knock on the door.

A girlfriend suggested I just start calling out hello over the back fence in a few different languages until I got a response. We were giggling at the idea of me hovering around the back door calling out “Ola?”

“Ni hoa?”

“Konnichiwa?”

“Bonjour?”

“Ciao?”

“Merhaba?”

If they asked what I was doing I could just pretend the beagle was bilingual.

G suggested yesterday that we pop over and say hello.

I immediately felt a bit of guilt that I hadn’t already. It was the old neighbour factor that had been holding me back.

The children had told me when I was at home having the operation, that ten year old Jessica was moving. And then she floated across my computer screen one day when we were on Skype.

“Is it true Jess, are you moving?”

She screwed up her nose, but in an excited way, there was a grin.

“We’re going to miss you…” and then I stopped, because my voice was starting to give way, I realized they were going to be gone before we got back. We were about to become a childhood memory, those people who lived next door in Doha. Remember them?

Jessica was a regular weekend addition at our house, the perfect drop in playmate. If one of the little travellers wasn’t available, she’d just move on to another one. She wandered through our house with ease and comfort, one minute she was making a movie with the second traveller, the next she was at the dolls house with the fourth. When tree climbing became the thing for the fourth traveller, he announced the tree across the road was his because “that one over there, is Jessica’s”.

For the first week we were back we watched in silence as the painters made their way through “Jessica’s house”, workman wandered in an out, leaving the doors open to expose a lifeless empty shell. What was once a place for piano practice and birthday parties, was now hollow and colourless. I wondered how the fourth little traveller was going with it all.

“Are you missing Jess?”

“Only when I forget that she doesn’t live here anymore and I think about knocking on her door.”

“That’s exactly how it feels when you’re a grown up” I offered.

“Do you think she has a tree in her new country?”

“Yep, South Africa has lots of trees.”

“Oh good, because I reckon I’ll take hers.”

Okay, moving right along.

I’ll go say hi to the new neighbours tomorrow.

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