That was it; I was running away from home. Due to some minor altercation – perhaps having to tidy my room after breakfast or comb the knots out of my hair after swimming before lunch – my idyllic childhood life had turned topsy- turvy and was no longer worth living. There was no alternative; if my family did not appreciate my presence, I was going to deny them it and leave home. That very afternoon.
Such a momentous decision at the age of five takes some careful planning. I definitely needed a conspirator and the only and obvious candidate was our long-standing and trust-worthy nanny, Jofina. Dad was out on the farm all day; Mum was temporarily enemy number one for enforcing the rules which were instrumental in my decision to leave home anyway; all three of my siblings were away at boarding school, and farming in Africa meant our nearest neighbours were miles away, so my constant companion and confident was Jofina.
I outlined my plan to her and she, wise from having been round the block a few times, to my surprise, agreed enthusiastically. She sagely said that for such a long journey we would need food, so she helped me pack my little brown square suitcase, (covered in stickers from the local garage), with a honey sandwich; a handful of raisins (no miniature boxes in those days); and a banana. Being the rainy season, gumboots were donned, but I should have smelt a rat that the trip was not going to be as long as I expected because she did not advise my taking a raincoat; – in my excitement I overlooked such detail. The final essential item was “Pookie” my pink toy rabbit (named after the eponymous flying version) which my parents gave me for my first birthday and from whom I was inseparable. And thus we ran away from home; Jofina, Pookie and me, with a banana and a honey sandwich.
My goal was the Shola Road. That was the boundary of my known world. Of course I travelled by car far beyond; – to Karoi village hall next to the library for ballet lessons with Mrs White; to Ronnie Saints butchery for a taste of biltong and to the Tropaz café for a brown cow. But on foot, I could only conceive getting as far as the black simbi sign shaped like a tree saying Pelele Park which was our gateway to the wide, dusty Shola Road.
We traipsed down our drive, past the point where green mowed lawn turned to brown scrubby bush; past the fledgling jacaranda and drought-resistant acacia thorn trees; past the turning that branched off to the tobacco barns and stopped at the first culvert. It had rained in the night and there was a little water still trickling in an interesting rivulet through the ditch and newly hatched chongololos squiggled and squirmed in the mud; it was always fun to poke them with a stick and watch them curl up in a swirl. Such activity makes a runaway hungry, so the suitcase was opened and sitting cross-legged on the dirt road we had a little picnic.
We had been gone about two hours and gazing skywards Jofina commented on the dark clouds rolling in. “We’ll get wet Shamwari” she said; “we should go home”. “OK Shupa” I meekly agreed. After all, knotty wet hair and the tidying-my-room incident were long forgotten and there was supper, stories, a hot bath, a warm bed and kisses from Mum and Dad to look forward to. I had made my point, successfully run away from home and Jofina was sworn to secrecy. Mum would never know and my life would return to its blissful innocence, – until the next insurmountable hurdle in my five year old life which would tilt my world off its axel and coerce me to pack the little brown suitcase with Jofina once more and run away from home towards the Shola Road and big wide world beyond.