• Fiona Martha

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Oversized hand-me-downs from mum’s best friend, her son laughing at how they fit me compared to how they used to fit him. Ruffling his hair as I would jump on his back and have him sprint away with me, shoelaces half-done and dangling. I miss scouting out the field every week to see whether the cows were there, and how we would dare to get within a few meters of them before hurtling away and screaming as they chased us. I scraped my knees, my knuckles, my shins without end, and I miss the sting of iodine and the tutting village women who sorted us out every time we got into trouble. We were always a ragtag bunch, even as teenagers, scrumping apples that weren’t worthy of the name from the garden by the guinnel. My feet would always slip, but there was always someone whose shoulders I could stand on, getting shouts of ‘oi!’ if I shifted my weight wrong. We grew up dizzy on long summers, evenings spent around bucket fires with guitars and drinks that with time, slowly evolved from juice to tea to wine. We would tipsily sing while the chords were strummed out, fuzzy and full of existence. Borrowed jumpers would drown me while I leaned against those dear, sofas crammed with us all, feet next to my face as we belted out opinions and songs and universal truths. Hands bigger than mine taught me how to pluck a string, to punch, to grip a rock as I hauled myself up onto the ledge above. Champagne induced dizziness left us snorting as a piggyback ended with us all in the mud, wet and cold but so warm we might burn. The hills would glow with the evening sun, our shoes not made for the slick grass and loose bracken underfoot. Numbed fingers would brush back stray strands of hair and hoick each other up, grappling for halt as we journeyed . Sunsets would brush us and we’d fall into a daze, heads resting on shoulders or laps as we watched the sky and imagined all the things we would like to see or say or be. We were bigger than the universe and drunk on it, racing down the slopes in the pitch black, stumbling over roots and ourselves, determined to be faster than each other but unwilling to leave anyone behind. We grew up and held hands while doing it, scrapping and fighting and loving more strongly than I have anywhere else. Dog-eared books were passed between us all, pencilled annotations indicating our secret feelings and attempts at being coy. We tried so hard to be everything, and we were. I had my first kiss against the tree with the rope swings, hidden and tucked into the forest by us all when we were kids. I had my first heartbreaks and lessons among the wildness of the woods and the curves of the hills, my comforts found in shared woollen blankets as we crammed ourselves into the attic and listened to music that was at least ten years older than our mothers. None of us knew what the world meant but it meant everything and more and we ate from it like we were insatiable. Love so intense and pure it can never be replicated seeped through every inch of our lives, mothers and sons and daughters, friends and brothers and sisters, one and the same. Family, truly chaotic and messy and euphoric. The skinny arms that used to hug me can now lift me straight above their head, and laugh at my indignance of the height difference. I still know that most problems can be solved with a song, a stolen biscuit or a smuggled cup of tea, that if I trip, the iodine, metaphorical or not, is ready, and that those who didn’t give birth to me, but helped raise me, will always give me shelter. And that there will always be enough hand-me-downs to go around.

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