In my grandparents garden was a tree that for three young boys became the centre of our play universe. There were other trees in the garden, but this tree was special. It had been planted when my mother was a child – a Christmas conifer that had never stopped growing.
We played under it and we played in it. An old vw Beetle roof rack formed a treehouse, a fort and a kingdom. We played there, fought there, slept there. When we woke up, the tree was always there, a sort of benevolent presence that you could always return to.
Long since have we all moved on. I’m not even sure the tree stands. In thinking about the life and impact of President Mandela, I strangely began to think about that tree. In our South African consciousness, the tree has been around for the last decade as a benevolent point-of-reference, a sort of grandfatherly presence that in some way made us all feel secure.
Now that we watch and wait for his last hours, I feel a certain hankering-after the shade of the tree, its presence. I also know that it is not something I have control over.
Maybe the memory in itself is what is precious – its my memory and even if it changes and evolves, it remains a precious memory.