There were shadow puppets on the walls, drawers of trinkets lined the edges. Fascinating objects with an old tv perched on top. Heavy curtains always drawn and an old silver radio playing classical music. The red lines moving up and down as the music played.
The medicine on his tray was carefully measured. It was ordered, like the days. Steady, sameness. He made light of them so I wouldn’t worry. I was too naïve to worry, I felt only curiosity for all the pills and the red lines that moved with the music.
Every morning we talked about the world. He ate breakfast and pills off his tray while the radio played. I asked incessant questions which he answered with endless patience. We discussed our musical preferences and many other things. He studied my toys in amazement, as fledgling technology began to seep into 90’s creations. Our curiosity about each other permeated the mornings.
He grew beans in the back garden and tomatoes in a green house. There was a compost bin full of slaters, which I found endlessly fascinating. There was an epic two story playhouse, full of his old pharmacy medicines. In my mind, it was big enough to live in. There were stairs that adults could climb and everyone could stand up inside. The door was always locked, but my curiosity would always try it. I remember my mother’s face when we went up there after he died, to clear it out. He retired and emptied the contents of his pharmacy into the playhouse. I don’t know what she did with it, I think some phone calls were made. His potions and pills were stored on shelves in glass bottles covered in dust and spider webs. I wasn’t allowed to touch anything. The glass bottles had old fashioned labels that he’d declared the contents on. Words that meant nothing to me; but when they were read we were swiftly removed. Some expletives were uttered. That was the last time I went in the playhouse. The adventure was whisked away just like the lines on the radio, the conversations and the tray of pills.
There was a shed where he made things out of wood. He made us rakes for the school holidays in autumn. We didn’t have deciduous trees where we lived. I remember the earthy smell of decaying leaves, the crunch under our feet and that he saved them for us to rake up and put in the wheel barrow. I used to throw them in the air and kick them. He made me a playhouse that could fold up and come out when we visited. It was probably in response to my endless requests to go inside the big one. It was very skilfully made, but sadly lacked all the allure of the big one. I remember trying to spare his feelings. My childhood efforts were littered with transparency.
We made the trip back to the airport in his immaculately maintained green Tirana. There were always odd fellows in the glove box. I ate them and sang the theme song to the teenage mutant ninja turtles as we drove back to Christchurch to get on the plane. I used the journey to move myself back to the fm tuned radio in the place where the curtains were always open and overlooking evergreen trees.