A Treasure Trunk of Memories
by Aimee Penman, 11, winner of the NZ Book Council’s inaugural ‘Speed-Date-An-Author’ contest.
‘Just stretching my legs, son. Won’t be a mo.’
A door slammed and the elderly figure of Susan Moana hobbled into the large backyard, where lush green grass rippled in the wind and bright, gangly sunflowers turned their heads towards the sun. She bent down and rubbed the delicate petal of a rose.
‘A beautiful pukapuka, as my mother would say,’ she whispered softly. Then her eyes focused totally on the tall, weathered tree standing in the middle of the lawn.
Susan limped to the bottom of the trunk and, leaning heavily on her ornate, wooden cane, she craned her neck to gaze up at its majestic branches. This tree was the bearer of so many memories, but it had been so long since she had climbed it.
‘Might as well,’ Susan decided, proceeding to squish her cane into the mud and then splaying her fingers on the tree’s gnarled trunk. Using various foot-holds, she steadily clambered up the tree, her straggly, pure white hair falling into her eyes. With a loud grunt, she heaved herself onto a flat, ledge-like branch and instantly, long-forgotten memories flooded through her mind.
She laughed as she looked down at a long, interesting word wobbily carved into the wood. ‘DISCOMBOBULATE,’ the first, big word she had learned to spell. She remembered the pride she had experienced as she had written the word permanently into the bark, determined to remember it when she was old and wrinkly.
Another distant memory sparked in her head, that of her and her best friend, Spencer, playing wizards and witches in the tree’s graceful branches. They would use tarnished, metal pots to mix a concoction of crushed leaves, stale bread, dead bugs and outdoor materials to make what they had called a ‘magical elixir’. It was something that never grew old.
Sighing tiredly and rubbing her chest, Susan suddenly saw a small heart etched into the branch. Her breath caught in her throat as she read the simple, yet to-the-point words inside it. ‘Susan & Spencer 4 Ever.’ She traced a frail finger around it, tears spilling down her wizened cheeks and, for a moment, her finger seemed to become slender and tanned. The finger of her teenaged self.
Just then, she looked down to see her son walk out, cradling his baby, Susan’s grandson. ‘Come on Mum. Time for lunch.’ Susan patted the heart, crudely shaped, yet speaking of a special bond and smiled sadly. ‘Our 50th wedding anniversary, Spencer,’ Susan whispered softly. ‘How I wish you were still here.’
As Susan climbed down the tree, a small, colourful fantail fluttered onto the heart, Susan and Spencer’s favourite type of bird because of its magnificent colours. It cawed gently and seemed to kiss Susan’s name. Then with a screech, it opened its wings and took off, leaving the tree alone yet ever royal in the backyard.