It’s my birthday, and you ask if I am 29 again.
Without hesitation I say, No, that was a different me.
Right now, I can only be 48, because if not,
then what year would I give up?
Could I forget those hazy early years,
distant fading, almost forgotten times,
that grew my Nordic pedigree,
my ache for long, light evenings?
Could I cast aside sibling filled childhood,
a place in the flock, my rivalry roots,
the desire to whistle,
the instinct for play.
Would I be who I am without an adventurous
father, a brave trusting mother,
a one way ticket to war-raging Rhodesia,
that loss of security that sucked out all fear?
I would not be an African farm girl at heart
if I’d not roamed dusty bush and milked cows,
driven to school in a mud-spattered truck,
watched dancers with snakes, made caves in rough hay.
Would I express myself as I do if I had not lived
a year of new language,
dreams changing tone, new words taking root,
reality’s shades shifting colour and tune.
Deny wild years of youth – blindfolded dive in the abyss,
drank ‘til we dropped, scaled dormitory walls
and laughed tears down our cheeks
at the Nuns pious prayers.
Or the years when I studied and traveled and toured,
with backpacks and boredom,
endless choices and options,
that first breathless freedom to fail.
Should I give up sweet years when I first met my match
significant moments, paths twisting together,
terror and peace of the choice that we made
together to bring children into this world?
Or what of sleepless years of babies?
Would I be me if I was not the mother of sons,
if I had not kicked so many balls at so many goals,
and built so many Lego towns?
Should I cancel uneventful years that we passed
alone in a village, a rowboat at sea,
in company with nomads, in sight of extinction,
just us in a warp of red wind and time?
Deny years in terraced hills, or those by the beach,
picnics on boulders, long walks with the moon?
Clear skies of Kampala – could I give up those seasons;
the school bus, the garden, the cat and the dog.
Or chaotic years among crowds in the delta,
the mysteries of Ministries, intensity crystallized?
Now finally I start to understand,
should I give up my knowledge, that learning I’ve gained?
Can’t be done, shan’t be done -
somewhat scuffed, slightly wrinkled,
I’ve made it to forty-eight
without a day to spare, and I’m happy I’m here.