Being little gives you a different perspective on life from all angles. Being closer to the ground enhances this resonance to an even greater extent. I was about three years young when I was taken to a small crèche in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs to stay from Monday to Friday while my parents went to work from early in the morning to late at night. I was picked up on Friday evenings to be brought home and then taken there on an early Monday morning. It was a part of our lives in my parents’ early marriage and ended once we were firmly established in our new home in Sydney’s Western Suburbs. It is something I remember snatches of here and there. As I said, it was a part of our lives.
So, being this huge grand old house that stood on the side of a hill, with a very long driveway (remember the different perspective of being little) I was filled with wonder on a daily basis. Everything was so different to the little tiny flat that we lived in and shared with other families. In this big grand old house, there were huge bedrooms, large bathrooms, and long hallways that seemed to go on forever. Of course, that was not the case, it just seemed that way.
There were other children who stayed there during the week as well. At that time (in the early 60’s) many parents worked long hours to bring in an income before they even purchased a home for themselves.
So here we were. A group of about seven of us youngsters, ranging in age from two to four years young. Each of us thinking we knew everything there was to know about life and the great outdoors. We were all in a circle this cool spring morning, having been ushered outside to play. This was, presumably, for us to get some vitamin d. I wasn’t sure. Although it could have had something to do with the fact that the lady of the house was busying herself with cleaning the house. Whatever it was, we were there, gathered together and discussing the variant in the colour of the leaves of a cassia plant. We were fascinated how the leaves were turning yellow from green.
Someone yelled out “Fire in the sky” and pointed northward. I don’t remember all the names of those other children who were otherwise boarding friends to me. I do remember that someone was a boy. So he looked up to the sky and pointed to a rolling cloud that seemed to be larger than life to us little people. “Yes, fire in the sky,” someone else said. Yet another mimicked “Fire in the sky” and pretty soon we were all looking up, stretching our necks and pointing to the rolling white clouds high up in the sky. To us, they looked like some kind of fire. Rolling smoke. Albeit white in colour, the fact that the clouds were rolling, did nothing to take away the fact that this must be what a fire looked like.
Deep in mesmerising focus and concentration, we hadn’t noticed the old witch walking down the long driveway toward us. Oohing and ahhing, we all jumped in surprise when she came up and told us to “Beware of the fire up in the sky” She must have been reading our minds. We looked at her, then at each other, standing stock still, hardly daring to breathe.
She stood around five feet tall and had long ginger-red hair that frizzed out in a static electric breeze. Her black dress only added to the air of her witchery. Her wrinkled body, face and arms all added to the fact that she was indeed a witch. Her bright blue eyes, a stark contrast to her suntanned skin, honed in to stare intensely into each and every one of us. We were afraid. We were very afraid. She had read our very thoughts. She had seen us watching the fire up in the sky. We had no way of escaping.
Then something strange happened again. As if we were all one entity, we turned tail and ran screaming into the food fall of this grand old house. We ran fast and furiously and slammed the door behind us so this wicked witch could not intrude into our lives again.
She did intrude once or twice more, but I will leave this story for another time.