My long-ago, barely-remembered, died-when-I-was-young grandparents grew parsley.
Curly leaf parsley, to be exact.
Butcher-tray-garnish, somewhat kitsch parsley.
The parsley of my childhood.
Magnified detail in my minimalist memories.
I, on the cooler hand, grow flat-leaf parsley.
Infinitely-different, barely-related, gourmet parsley.
To be exact.
The parsley of my adulthood.
Can you see me here?
Eight years old, on my stomach, I think. This patch of 80s suburban grass.
Half-acre, incinerator at the back, Hills Hoist in the middle, garden bed-perimetered backyard.
A Nan and a Papa and a somewhat solid Aunty belong here.
Here are Nan’s snowdrops, white on green.
Can you see them?
And Papa’s staked tomatoes, pushing against their stocking ties.
I might turn some somersaults out here.
Adults are inside. Talking.
“I saw Audrey drop in to take her mum out for lunch again.” – Mum.
Aunty, snorting, “Well, she told David they couldn’t afford to pay their portion of the boundary fencing – but there they go spending at cafes. Whose money are they spending anyway? Audrey’s or her Mum’s?”
“I guess it’s actually David’s money,” Mum, wry smile. “At least she has family who think of her at that age. They’re always visiting her. Think she’s the bee’s knees. Her grandkids were hugging her on the way out to the car, I saw,” leaning to me. I almost lean back. Stop.
That sort of talking.
Grown-ups talking about not us, but somehow all about us.
Them saying one thing, me feeling another.
Best to be out back. Deep breaths.
I would ask you if you can smell it, the parsley. But of course you can. It’s everywhere.
I think I love my Nan, though she’s too old to play with.
Mum loves her. Aunty loves her.
They like to love her more than the other.
Pick some of Papa’s parsley. Have a nibble. Bitter grass.
I’ll have some more. Big munch, curly leaves tickle the roof of my mouth.
“Don’t you think you should be inside with your grandparents?” – Aunty. Staccato. Behind me. Spit out the parsley.
“You’re hardly ever here, they’re very old now. Your mum leaves the caring to me.” Deep breath, looks away. “Get inside.”
And up off my stomach, brush off the grass, no words, back inside.
So hard to know the words the grown-ups need.
She says simple words, now I feel complicated.
Did she transmit something? Can you feel it?
I want to be outside again.
And here I am now. Hello. Can you see me?
All grown up and outside.
Infinitely-different, barely-related, flat-leaf-parsley all grown up now.
I’ve learnt some words, fancy words, words adults want to hear.
Long, gentle sentences that anticipate the listener’s ear. Multitudes of qualifications, equivocations – and syllables.
Here’s where I thought I wanted to be.
It’s safer here for sure. Outside.
I reach for my flat leaf parsley. Have a nibble, Bitter grass.
Swallow it down.