I have a small, black and white photograph of my granny holding me as a baby. It’s the only photo I have of her. She’s wearing a cloche hat reminiscent of her days as a young mother in the 1920s that she must have had for many years. She is sitting on a chair in front of the large weeping willow in the back garden of the house where we lived until I was six. I am about four months old so it’s late spring, clearly a warm, sunny day. I’m wrapped in a shawl but I know I’m wearing a Christening dress underneath. The tree is not quite in full leaf. The tips of the branches gently brush the earth. I don’t remember the photo being taken but I do remember the tree.
Hiding behind the curtain of branches and feeling safe from my marauding brothers.
A place I could take my doll, in her pram, and not risk having her sacrificed on some cowboy campfire.
I could see out through the drapery of green leaves but it was harder to see me, if I kept quiet and still.
A place I could play house, or sit, back against the broad trunk, and feel hugged.
I can still feel the rough bark of the tree: small fingers able to trace between the grooves and hug the tree back.
The gentle farewell brush of the leaves on my cheeks when I was called in for tea.