come play with me

The light of this reminiscence is cast in pale yellow. The sky hovers high above me and the Dublin Mountains lie beyond my bedroom window. I am seven. I swing on the garden gate and play outside on the road. My childhood affords me plenty of space, wide pavements with grass verges, the road lined with cherry blossom trees. This is quiet suburbia, off the main Dodder Road, up a steep hill. The sun shines and I am lost in daydreams on my way to see a friend.C. lives a few houses further along. I will call on her, uninvited, on the off chance she is free to play. Today is the most boring day of the week, it is a holy day of rest when nothing ever happens and all the shops are closed. It is mouse quiet, lunch has been eaten, plates cleared and I can hear the church bells ringing time.

I begin to walk the short distance, my restless fingers picking at leaves poking out from tended hedges, ripping them from their stems. I pass the judge’s house.  I have heard about the judge but never seen him, only his housekeeper. She has been with him years. Once, she offered my sister and I some lemonade and biscuits. We followed her inside and she showed us the beautiful sunken Italian garden out the back.

I cross the road before the bend so I have a clear view of all oncoming traffic.   On the verge, I stand. I look right, left, mindful of the green cross code then step out from the pavement.

My friend’s house is hidden from view, behind a wall and barrier of mature shrubbery. Their car is parked in the driveway; a sign they are in. This makes me happy. I skip up the pebbled drive and present my uncalled for presence at the blue-grey front door and press the bell.

My friend is the youngest child, her elder siblings long since left home, her parents older than everyone else’s.  I have been in their house only once, for a birthday party. It was old fashioned and had a musty smell.

The door remains unanswered, yet I hear the television from the front room window.  I am persistent and ring their bell again, in case they hadn’t heard the first time.

I wait and wait. I move toward the windows of the front room, they are curtained in lace and I cup my hands around my eyes to try to peer in. As I do, I am caught, the curtain pulled back by my friend’s father. He stands with a glower on his face. I have disturbed him. I wave a friendly wave, ‘Hi Mr D…   and ask if C. is allowed out to play, punctuating the end of my request with a hopeful smile.

He tells me, no. He tells me to go away and not to call again. He doesn’t like our sort. He dismisses me with a wave, ‘Go on piss off.  Piss off, you little Jew.’

Off I go…  something has happened that has never happened before. At home, I tell my dad.

‘Understand,’  he says, ‘We are different.’. By ‘we’ he means, Jews. He says, ‘We will never be fully accepted by them,’ by ‘them’ he means everyone else. I understand. I am different.

I am seven and my head is full of dreams… still, there is no one to play with.