Getting home last night from the first meeting of The Eager Beaver’s Reading Circle (book club) for 2013, I found the path to the back door had turned into a snail mosh pit. It reminded me of the house I did a fair amount of my growing up in. The one in the dusty Free State town. I have a vivid picture of it in my mind and I think it’s because I was at my very happiest there. I remember it as a safe, warm place with lots of places to play – a coal shed in the courtyard, big trees to climb, a vast garden to run around in. We lived there from when I was about three until I was ten. I played a lot. In between playing I went to Nursery School, which I loved, and then Primary School, which I loved more.
From there we moved to a far more conservative (putting it lightly – it was a hotspot of nasty Apartheid politics) Small Town in the then-Transvaal, and things changed for me. It’s not that I was unhappy there, it was just that my eyes were opened to all sorts of things I had been completely (and happily) oblivious to. Whether this was actually to do with us moving, or just me growing up, I’m not sure.
We used to have snail races at that first Free State house, my sister and I. That’s how much time we had. There was a garden tap outside my bedroom window, the local hangout for snails. We would spend an extended period of time choosing which one would be The Chosen One for each of us. Then we’d name them, place them on the painted brick wall, say “Ready… Steady… Go!”, and watch as they sped off toward the finish line ten bricks up, yelling encouragement.
Of course, them being snails, they didn’t really speed off, and we quickly changed the finish line to two bricks up and sometimes to the left, or right, depending on the two snails preferred direction. It was problematic when they went in opposite directions. That is when one realises it’s not so much fun being the younger sister. Sigh.
Snail-racing – is there a more fun way to spend an afternoon?