The plane droned on. Seat lights were dimmed and there was a subdued atmosphere on board. Was this due to the fact that many passengers were heading on home, leaving their loved-ones behind, as she was? Or perhaps this was just her imagination.
Cindy had a window-seat. She had hoped that the seat next to hers would be vacant, like when she was heading to Australia to visit her children and grandchildren. She could flip up the armrest and curl up like a centipede across two seats, dozing in the enjoyment of the warm expectation of seeing them in the early hours of the morning. SA morning, but Ozzie midday. She hadn't slept a wink throughout the journey and was conscious of every movement of passengers, and yet she had not felt at all tired when the plane landed. The row of seats next to the two window-seats was enjoyed by one passenger, a male with long legs who stretched himself across 4 seats and slept with hardly any movement at all throughout the trip.
The slight discomfort did not bother her then; if anything, it added to the exhilaration of her 7 week visit with her closest family. The flight had been good and hadn't felt like a 9-hour journey. In fact, it went by very quickly and at 3 a.m. – her watch still set to SA time – there was much stirring and movement of passengers awakening, going to the bathroom to freshen up, coffee being served and a happy vibe seemed to permeate the air.
Supper had been good but breakfast consisted of, what she could only describe as generic scrambled eggs – not nice at all. Powdered eggs and powdered milk .. eish! But it hadn't mattered, it was all part of the happiness nestling inside of her.
Before she knew it, she saw her two grandsons running towards her with shiny eyes and broad smiles. Hugs were warm and familiar and she felt herself melting joyfully into her new surroundings. Azure blue skies, vast stretches of ocean and clean, white beaches stretched far and wide. Slower – far slower – traffic was evident and within a few days had her relaxing visibly. City life had never been her thing; she had just seemed to ‘happen' in the city and so remained there. Cindy had often wondered why she, after knowing the joys of growing up in the Langkloof and the Little Karoo, and after having enjoyed a decade and a half at the coast, had landed in a dry, large city with traffic which seemed to host the most aggressive drivers known to man.
As a single Mom it had been the work that had drawn her there, and kept her there. But now, what was the reason she stayed there? She made a mental note to ponder this seriously while she had 7 weeks of distancing from her home city. New sights and sounds would give her new perspective and when she returned home, she would know what to do.
Where was ‘home'? Home is where your loved-ones are, people you love, people who love you, people who are friendly and who enjoy knowing you. A place where you know why you wake up in the mornings and why you do what you do. What you wish for tomorrow and what you work at to-day. That is home.
Cindy's fellow passenger donned her eye-pads, her neck-rest and slept for hours at a time. A little friendly interaction took place inbetween. But sleep was a stranger to her during the 11-hour return flight. She felt exhausted, sad and confused. After the eventual landing at O.Tambo airport at 5 a.m. on a Monday morning, finding her shuttle man who couldn't locate his car and made her go up and down in the lift three times before he found it, with great embarrassment to himself, made her even more tired.
The freeway was strangely quiet on this public holiday. Now she couldn't wait to get home. She unlocked her front door to find the lounge all aglow with pale golden sunlight pouring in. The drawn curtains created a homely, ‘welcome home' feeling. The friendly shuttle man connected her car's battery before he left.
Cindy wandered through the house, opening windows and curtains. She felt strangely detached from everything around her. Lack of sleep was catching up on her in a big way. Their flight had left WA at midnight. She switched the main switch and refrigerator on, pondered a moment, got into her car and went to buy milk, rolls and fresh fruit and salads. The shopping mall looked spanky and posh, but simultaneously flat and devoid of any excitement. A tempting aroma of early morning coffee was in the air as she left the supermarket, and on the spur of the moment she entered the seclusion of the coffee-shop; she had breakfast and tried to orientate herself back into her familiar surroundings.
Back home, she unpacked most of her things and tried to cat-nap, but could not. Perhaps the outdoors would make her sleepy. Cindy opened wide the sliding door, trying to analyse her emotions which were a mixture of sadness, tiredness, and the happiness and love which she had enjoyed with her family for 7 weeks. The children were in a good place, a healthy place and she was glad for them that they were there. A beautiful country and a place where she knew she could live.
A vaguely familiar fragrance came to her like the roll and swell of the ocean had come to wet her feet on a beach the previous day; at first gently and then stronger and stronger. She wasn't sure whether it was the pain of being separated from her loved ones that was causing this fragrance – as if pain could protect the bearer of it by cloaking it with a fragrance … a little too sweet, a little too strong. Like the fragrance rose petals exude when squeezed or rolled up while they are still fresh on the rose.
Cindy thought with abandonment, let the longing come, let the feeling come, if this is my burden let me be engulfed by it, dissolved by it – I will breathe the ache in until all the fragrance of it has worn itself out.
She stepped outside and the strong, sweet smell grew stronger, sweeter - until she felt quite heady. She looked up and saw, flowing over the garden wall like a waterfall, small, white, starlike flowers en masse. As if some generous Hand had flung handsful of stars over the garden wall, lighting up the corner of the garden where the big tree cast too much shade and bringing along with it a sweet, strong fragrance.
“Lo and behold! I have Honeysuckle in my garden!” she thought. Cindy stepped forward and smiled involuntarily, breathing in the now familiar fragrance of honeysuckle – a little too strong, a little too sweet.
Turning towards the opposite corner of the garden to breathe in less of the sweetness, she noticed that the birdbath needed refilling. As the water gurgled from the hosepipe into the birdbath, she saw that the birdfeeder was empty also and the Barbet was sitting in the tree watching her hopefully.
She closed the tap. Walking towards the house to fetch an orange to slice up for the birdfeeder, Cindy was smiling to herself.
After all, she was glad she had a life.