There’s a house. In a small town. In the middle of the nowhere that is Africa. I still dream of it.
It is a big house even for a country with enough space that most suburban houses are big. To my sister and me this house is precious. No, it is sacred. You can mess with our past and you can mess with much of our present and future, but do not mess with the memory of that house. We will destroy you if you do.
It is the house where the two of us built a zip line (if you google it, you will find Wikipedia actually mentions the South African version, called a foefie slide) and I nearly lost my thumb because of it. It is where we tried to learn how to walk on our hands (neither of us could even manage that and the hill we practised on might have had something to do with our failure). It is where we learned to roller-skate and where we got drunk the first time. It was where our mom made us push our little brother’s pram up and down the long hallway to get him to sleep and I threw a massive fit when I realised how much my sister was cheating at it. See, it was a very long ‘L’ shaped hallway, with a slightly longer leg near the front door. My mom told us to take it in turns to push the pram ten times each. I reckoned it meant pushing the pram all the way to the front door and back, counting that as a single trip. My sister, on the other hand, only pushed the pram to the end of the short leg and counted that as one. The concept of ‘laps’ seemed to have passed her by.
We grew up in that house. We played and laughed and fought and cried and dreamt in that house. In those times when my sister and I seem to be far from one another, when we’ve fought and we’re not talking to one another for months on end, that house would still be the talisman that binds us together. Even our husbands know that when we talk of the ‘Dahlia street house,’ something very personal is happening. If ever we get a sisters-tattoo, it would have to be of a dahlia, for of all the things that bind us and separate us, that house – one where we only lived for a total of twelve years – is the most important.
My parent also know how attached my sister and I are to the memory of that house, but they can’t ever truly share it. they, both, have other houses they still dream of as I dream of the Dahlia street house. And I’m not sure about my little brother’s attachment to the house. I know he liked it there, but I don’t know if he dreams of it. I’d have to ask him sometime.