“Happy birthday!”

A tiny, tentative voice drifted in from behind the closed door of my room, which was now opening, ever-so-slowly, little by little, to reveal a small cowboy. I rubbed my eyes in case I was still dreaming but when I opened them, there, propping up the door frame, stood my tousled-haired young brother.

“D’you wanna play cowboys ‘n’ injuns? Bags being the cowboy though!”

I laughed. “Yeah, go on then. Give me ten minutes to get up and dressed and I’ll meet you in the garden.”

“I might be up in the tree–house!”

“What would you be doing in a tree-house if you’re a cowboy? I asked. “I thought that was your ‘army command station’ where no girls were allowed – at least that’s what you told me yesterday!” But he’d already disappeared down to the new platform in the fork of the tree that he’d helped our dad build the previous weekend.

A few minutes later I went down the garden to find him. He was nowhere to be found.

“Where are you?” I inquired.

“Right here,” came the answer, muffled by the hummocky wilderness which was much later to become our neat lawn… and we played cowboys ‘n’ injuns, and I had to die – over and over again.

I remember days which began early for school with a quick soak in bubbles in our rose-coloured bath, whilst the mingling aromas of jojoba and sizzling bacon wafted in from the kitchen next door.

Then… Christmas time! Ah, Christmas! Such a special occasion. With all its energy, its excitement, its tinsel-glistening beauty, as we tumbled down the three tiny steps into our split-level lounge, with its cedar wood panels, its coloured stone fireplace, which seemed to sparkle in the twinkling lights of the large fir standing in the window filling the air with the heady perfume of pine, while the flames of the fire lovingly licked the coals, like waves rolling rapidly on to the shore, in whose rosy glow we’d often roasted chestnuts.

“It’s ready! Jan! Mark! Wash your hands and sit down. Quick, before it goes cold now,” and we’d be only too willing to obey Mum’s call and file in through the double glass doors to take our places for our delicious Christmas feast at the G-plan table in the dining-room, before embarking on Mum’s treasure hunt for our presents.

But then there were garage incidents. While practising his driving one day, my brother put a nasty dent in the garage door, that’s not to mention the one on the side of Dad’s car! Not to be outdone, however, when putting Dad’s car away for him after work one evening, I managed to slam my foot on the accelerator instead of the brake! Never an advisable thing to do in your dad’s car…

One day, when my brother chased me through our kitchen and I angrily slammed the door shut on him – the glass door – my poor little brother ended up on the other side of it, feet surrounded by shards of glass. Luckily he was unharmed. Unluckily, I was in trouble…

Years later, on yet another birthday morning, as I drank my cup of tea, golden-brown nectar, which flowed easily down my sleep-dried throat, I gazed out of the window at our lovely garden and remembered those childhood days in our brand-new family home. The joys of rose-coloured memories of a childhood home are precious indeed. Rose-coloured? Maybe not!

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