I was about sixteen. It was a beautiful day and we were all there. That had to be rare in itself!
It was before the days of compulsory seat belts so six of us were squashed into dad’s new car and off we went. Seemed to me like they lived far away in the country but that’s a young girl’s mind. In reality it probably wasn’t that far from home.
They had four boys, we were four girls. Our parents were friends. My father, a doctor in a country town, had grown up on a farm and looked like he belonged on one. I think he had the same dream as me…all fresh air, vegetables and animals. Silence for miles, mountains in sight. Their father was a dairy farmer. I heard he got rich late in life, sold out to a conglomerate. What do his boys do now? Men without a herd.
Anyway back to that day.
I can picture myself sitting on a rug. I can see our mothers on outdoor chairs, smiling. We’d had a picnic somewhere in their house paddock, the garden. Four good looking young men standing in a row, under a big old tree. My sisters somewhere behind me, out of view. Our fathers must have been inside or that’s where it would have stopped.
I remember their mother, a tiny woman with such large sons, saying to me ‘what’s it going to be then, horse or bike?’. 50 year old me wonders why she singled me out, why was I being offered any treat at all. None of my sisters would have been interested in either option but why was the youngest being spoken to – unusual in itself.
Jamie was the one I thought was gorgeous but I think it was Dougal who went to get his bike and I climbed up behind him. We rode round and round the big paddock, down to the gate, back up round and round. Down to the bottom again and then he got off and said you bring it back up. I did protest. Told him I couldn’t but he’d heard I could. I rode it up the hill and as I got close I saw the look on all their faces turn from laughs, smiles to what the? Those leaning against the three day old Mercedes scattered just before I hit it. I could ride a bike, I just didn’t know how to stop it see? I missed a cow on my way up though!
Hell hath no fury like a father whose precious toy has been dented. Face of thunder. No sound.
I was whisked into the bathroom by the mothers and gently cleaned up. My knee was wide open, bits sticking out, blood everywhere. The fear of my father greater than the pain. And while still in the bathroom, until we left the farm I experienced déjà vu. The mothers fussed and whispered in slow motion and I knew their every move before it happened. When we walked out the back door I knew exactly where each boy would be standing, the expression on their faces, what everyone would say.
The bike had been hidden away, we got into the car as quickly as possible and drove home in silence.
Three days later my father, the doctor, looked at my knee for the first time and said ‘I should have stitched that’.