once in a lifetime

There are some once-in-lifetime experiences. Sometimes you know it before or while they happen, but sometimes you understand  it only afterwards. There are small things, and bit things.

See the picture in the side-bar of my blog? The big bales of straw? I don’t know if I’ll ever find myself between such huge bales on a sunny day again.

Some of the few positive memories of school include physics and drama class. I miss the simple fun and beauty of laughing about a frozen hydrogen fuel cell on an experimental model car, or sitting in the grass with our teacher eating ice-cream and waiting for our zeppelin-ballon to get warm enough to float. We played funny games to practise acting, and the second real play we staged was pretty complicated and I got the female lead. Speaking in front of a whole hall without a microphone on two evenings, barefoot and in a simple blue dress my mother had sewn and prepped with some dirt. That weekend? A once in a lifetime experience. (I had to stop acting the year before my final exams, because the physics teacher thought it took to much of my time … I shouldn’t have listened to him.)

Even when I’ll visit Ireland again someday,  I won’t be able to recreate the day during our final school trip when we took a bus tour along the Ring of Kerry, stopping for visiting the remnants of old convents and napping on the lawns in their yards, bathing our feet in the warm Atlantic ocean while eating cheese-strings our teacher had brought (I never had eaten them before and haven’t had any since then), and getting  sunburns all over our shoulders. One evening during our stay we went to the local national park and watched the foggy sunset over Ross Castle and Lough Leane, then on the way back we enjoyed ourselves while hopping like Leprechauns to avoid all the horse droppings on the path.

The funny little events during my gap year? They won’t come back. Secretly drinking alcohol out of tiny clay jars on the meadow behind a shack one night, trying to watch “Underworld” from a computer screen with four or five persons while sitting/lying on the floor of a conference room, having an ice-skate disco with the village on the artificial lake in winter and getting startled by big toads there in summer, talking English for a whole day straight for the first time, learning to play Bananagrams from some old ladies and getting my own set as a gift, being confused by the idea of gluing tacky fabrics into a photo album, and many more tiny moments of wonder, surprise, or plain fun.

Even if I might return to Kenya one day, I can’t replicate the simple magic of the first time drank hot cocoa on the front porch and watched the sun rise over a patch of rainforest all by myself, or chasing off geese with a stick so they won’t bite me while going to the neighbours sugar-cane yard with a borrowed machete, and later getting laughed at for choosing way too young canes.

I don’t know if and when my parents might move away from my home town. But when they’ll do so, I don’t know if I’d ever go back there, as there won’t be anything left for me other than trying to remember how it felt to come home from university after half a year or even a whole one, and discovering new parts of the town. One summer night when I went for a walk in the oldest streets I found trees illuminated by fairy lights in the front yard of a small restaurant. Next summer they still were there, but expecting them I didn’t feel the sense of wonder, the awe of seeing them for the first time out of the midnight blue.

Since we moved to what I now call my “home town” about two decades ago, I have visited my childhood village only once. There’s nothing left for me but blurred memories of a monument by the forest, rows of yew trees, apple blossoms in the garden, and horses some houses away, and meeting people whose names and faces I can’t recall. It was a beautiful day though, both the early morning in the car (I even wrote a poem on the way, you can read it in the poetry section of my blog) and the bright, warm day in the village; we even met my best friend from back then who had also come home for the church anniversary and we took some pictures with her. I’ll always treasure that day.

I don’t know if there’ll ever be a new year’s eve as beautiful as the one right after Darling and I fell in love. We had a party at a friend’s house and went out to a snow covered hill – there’s rarely that much snow in December here – so we were at a safe distance from all the fireworks but completely surrounded by them as we still were inside the city. Again, it was so magical I wrote a short poem.

The first time I wandered under a whole sky of pink cherry blossoms? Priceless sense of wonder, pure bliss. Just like the first sunset over the channel and its ships I watched. First own apartment. Suddenly realising that I had made friends at university. Getting married and celebrating in a room decked in ivy and white blossom, arranged by my own hands. The first time the adorable child of friends from church suddenly gave me a hug and kissed me on the cheek. And way back, the first time I held the small camera I still use in my hands, suddenly being able to create much better visual memories than before.

You see, sometimes I’m a little bit sentimental, but without beautiful memories I wouldn’t be able to dream and create positive things.


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