You are 10. Go out your front gate, turn right, and tell us about your walk.
It’s the first time I’m allowed to walk to the shops on my own — the big shops down in town, not the little one on the corner where I have always been allowed to go. Mum has given me an errand; I am to bring back nails from the hardware store. She has an air of suppressed or restrained impatience as she gives me the instruction. It’s momentous that I am being trusted with this task, and it’s even a kind of test. I know this and she knows it, and we both know that the other knows, but we are not saying so; we pretend it's all casual and normal.
As I go out the gate and turn right, it is as if the very air is holding its breath. Well, it is quite a warm day, not much breeze. There is that stillness of summer afternoons, beautiful afternoons with the warmest part of the day still to come. I walk swiftly, feeling self-important and indulging it now that I’m away from Mum’s eye and the pretence. A magpie struts on the nature strip, its beak raised. It’s a fine, plump bird and seems to know that by its stance. I start to feel excitement, and give a little skip. The magpie warbles as if in accompaniment. A breeze begins, a very light breeze, just enough to ruffle my hair and the leaves in the trees in the gardens I pass.
Wellington Street is a long street, but ‘your little legs are younger than mine’ adults always say when they want me to fetch something for them, so I rejoice now in my young legs and walk along almost singing with happiness (except I never sing in case someone hears me and tells me to keep in tune — I never know what they’re talking about when they say that. I am in tune to me.) But I sing inside my head, and smile secretly to myself as the clouds ripple across the sky in the breeze, and change their shapes.
The sunlight sparkles, the lawns in the gardens I pass are a fresh, bright green. The flowers nod and bob gently in the breeze. I touch all their different colours. A little dog rushes a fence, behind which he is safely shut in, not aggressively but with playful little barks, his stumpy tail wagging. ‘Hello, boy,’ I say to him as I go on past. I think that on the way back I might see if he’ll let me pat him. I know I have to get him to sniff my fingers first.
I straighten my back. I am alone, I am responsible, I am confident. I walk int the hardware shop and go straight up to the counter. When it is my turn, I speak in a strong voice. The man smiles at me. I am 10. I am big now. I am almost grown up.