The X Page: A Storytelling Workshop
I am ten years old.
It is recess at school and I’m walking with Mieke, my best friend. We met last year in grade four. We like each other just because. I accept Mieke, as she is. She has asthma and can’t run. I’m chubby and don’t like to run. So instead, we walk, arms locked back and forth over the school yard, and we talk. What I like about Mieke is that we have fun and laugh about the silliest things.
The girls in grade six are jealous. They say things like, “There goes the conjoined twins” or “Peggy and Mieke sure like each other” and then burst out in laughter.
Our friendship mainly exists at school. We never hang out outside of school, but she knows where I live, Pikien Rio street, second house on the left with the big avocado tree in front of the house.
Every morning Mieke picks me up at 7.30 am. She calls out my name; our dog Tarzan starts barking which tells me that she has arrived. She then waits in front of the fence near the avocado tree for me to come outside. On the way to school we talk about what we did yesterday. Sometimes we guess who at school will leave Suriname, our country, and emigrate to the Netherlands. We are soon to be an independent nation. Many people are leaving in order to keep their Dutch citizenship. They are afraid of what the future holds if they stay, and prefer to choose an uncertain life in the Netherlands instead.
I don’t know if Mieke has a secret spot at her home, but I do. My secret spot is in the corner of the fence by our avocado tree. I like to sit there and daydream, watch other children play and neighbors go by. The tree is a year younger than I. Mom planted it from a seed when we first moved here. Like me, the avocado tree grew bigger and bigger each year. Its branches are strong, and the leaves are deep green. But it never grows any avocados. I ask Mom why. She shrugs: “At least it gives us shade.”
I want to climb the tree, but Mom says: “Girls don’t climb trees.” I ask: “Why not?” She answers: “They will never bear fruit if you do. Besides, you could fall and break something!” That doesn’t make any sense. The tree doesn’t bear avocados anyway! I think it’s ridiculous that girls are not allowed to climb trees!
One day Mom asked my brother to pick up his clothes from the floor. When she came home they were still there. Frustrated, she flung his underwear into the avocado tree. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t bear fruit!
One afternoon, while Mom is napping, I go to my secret spot. It’s hot and there’s no breeze. Our country is a quilt of many cultures. I hear the neighbor’s radio playing Hindustani music which means it’s after four o’clock. I look up and think, shall I….? Nah. But my urge to climb is strong. I pull myself up on the lowest branch and sit on it. I carefully move towards the tree trunk. The grey-green bark feels rough. I reach for the next branch and stand up. My legs are shaking, and my heart is racing. I go up one more branch. I feel beads of sweat on my forehead and upper lip. When I look down, I am overwhelmed by the view from up here. What if mom wakes up and starts looking for me? I don’t know how to get down! I decide to jump from the lowest branch.
I feel triumphant!
Then, one Saturday morning Mom is out raking the yard. I am inside eating breakfast. She comes in and asks if I have seen the small avocados on the tree. I nearly choke on my tea. No… no… I have not… She says, “I’ve thought about taking the tree down, but it was worth waiting.” I nod approvingly but think: “I should have climbed it sooner.”
I tell Mieke what I did. She laughs and pinches her nose. She always does that because she doesn’t want to make any noise while laughing. She shakes her head: “Ai boi, you are trouble! But don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.”
At age ten I believed that it was my superpower as a girl which made the tree finally grow avocados. Only in adulthood, I discovered that it takes between ten and thirteen years before an avocado tree planted from a seed will start bearing fruits.