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A Walk Down Memory Lane

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By Gaynor Faulkner

Wilfred George followed the same routine every morning. After waking up, he had breakfast, showered and promptly dressed. When it was warm he donned his fawn twill pants and a crisp white short sleeved shirt and tie. On cooler days Wilfred could be seen in his immaculate black woollen or navy pinstriped suit teamed with one of his fine silk shirts. There was a kaleidoscope of shirts to choose from in his wardrobe and he took great pride in selecting just the right tie to team with it, just the right silver or golden cufflinks to adorn it. With a flourish, almost as if he were adding a final cherry to decorate a cake, Wilfred donned his smart tweed hat with its little maroon feather on the side. Then In a cloud of Old Spice he was out the front door at precisely 8.30 am.

Wilfred proceeded to walk the length of Figtree Lane, left onto Harmony Crescent and right off the roundabout to the long sandy stretch of Sahara Drive. Half way along the road, nestled amongst a cluster of willowy pepper trees, Wilfred always turned off to walk the length of Memory Lane. He prided himself for his ability to brisk walk – it certainly defied the pace of most eighty five year olds. But, on Memory Lane, he always allowed himself to slacken the pace a little. Smell the roses. Memory Lane was like a lush oasis compared to the parched straw yellow dust and gravel of Sahara Drive. Verdant parkland surrounded both sides of the lane and flowers and trees dotted the grass like fine lace sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.

Every stroll on Memory Lane was for the sole purpose of collecting just the right flower for Violet George, his wonderful wife. Presenting Violet with a beautiful flower had been his daily ritual for fifteen years. It had only been after he retired when he fully realised what a diamond he had in Violet. She had kept a pristine house for him for all these years, provided crisp, clean shirts for him to wear at the bank day after day, year after year. Violet had been a wonderful loving wife, an amazing mother to their three children, a doting and indulgent grandmother and then great grandmother. So, the flower he presented each day had to be exceedingly special – just like Violet.

Wilfred would have denied it out loud of course, but he believed in his heart of hearts that each day’s special flower sung to him to be selected. They called to him to belong to Violet. ‘Pick me!’ a Sturt’s desert pea had serenaded him in the soft summer breeze on Monday. A cluster of them were half hidden under a sea of forget me nots. They were feisty red fire hydrants with hearts of the blackest coal. Wilfred doffed his hat when he presented Violet with it afterwards. ‘A Sturt’s desert pea just for you, my dear,’ he said clutching it lovingly to his chest. ‘For all the wonderful festive Christmas’s we’ve had together. For the midnight tango we danced– you so beautiful in your red sparkly dress, that night we heard the war had ended.’

On Tuesday Wilfred was absolutely certain he heard a bawdy ballad by a black –eyed Susan. A little patch of them appeared to be cheerfully busking, harmonised by some overenthusiastic buzzing bees under a tall eucalypt. One seemed to wink at him cheekily in the dappled sunlight. When Wilfred presented it to Violet later he told her, ‘It’s for the gold that sparkled in your hair when I first met you. It’s for all the glitter and golden sunshine in my life ever since. It’s for the gilded sunsets we shared when the kids left home…’

Wednesday was unseasonably cold. Walter had to wear the navy pinstripe on his walk for the first time in the season. It was the sort of day that made it easy for thoughts to tarnish a little; grey and oppressive like the fat damp clouds above him. That is when Wilfred thought he heard the sweet daphnes serenade him in the wind. They scurried like mice over the rockeries near the creek in an explosion of pink – salmon, watermelon, blush, rouge, strawberry and magenta. The sight of them calmed Wilfred, reassured him. It was like they scribbled the sun back into the sky.
Wilfred blushed when he presented the sweet daphne to Violet later on – but he knew that there were far too many years when he hadn’t bothered to vocalise how much she meant to him at all. ‘A Sweet Daphne today, my love. It’s for the becoming blush like fairy floss on your cheeks the night I was lucky enough to wed to you. The feel of your lips on my skin. It’s for our beautiful baby girls that we’re so proud of. And the soft satin ballet slippers you hung away in the wardrobe the day that you married me.’

On Thursday the sky was azure blue with white fluffy clouds like newborn lambs. Wilfred crossed the creek at the end of Memory Lane and wandered through the pergola. Bursts of white sky flowers cascaded over the pergola like a flock of white cockatoos in flight. ‘Pick me!’ the white sky flowers appeared to warble in the gentle breeze. A sudden gust of wind made their leaves whisper together in anticipation, their flowers dance like ballerinas in Swan Lake. Later, Wilfred told Violet,’ A sprig of white sky flowers for you this time, my dear. It’s for the world’s most beautiful and beloved bride. The gleam in your smile like diamonds. It’s for the white silk nightie you wore on our wedding night and the glimmering pearls you wore with pride on our anniversary.’

On Friday Wilfred was sick. His felt both boiling hot and freezing cold at once. His chest felt tight and it was difficult to breathe. Despite having a hacking cough, Wilfred resolved to still go on his daily walk. He tried to dress after his shower but it exerted him and he had to rest once in a while to get his breathe back. His Old Spice made him feel nauseous. Determinedly, he dragged himself to the front door and attempted to take a step outside before he realised that he just was too ill to go.

Thankfully, the following Tuesday Wilfred started to feel more like his old self. He donned his fawn trousers, his crisp white short-sleeved shirt and fine tweed hat. In a cloud of Old Spice and with a purposeful spring in his step he walked the length of Figtree Lane, left onto Harmony Crescent and right off the roundabout to the long sandy stretch of Sahara Drive. Half way along Sahara Drive, Wilfred turned off at the willowy pepper trees to Memory Lane.

This Tuesday seemed different than other Tuesdays. Wilfred found that he wasn’t attuned to the magical music of the flowers to give Violet a song in her heart. Instead, he felt drawn to the repetitive raucous refrain of another melody – loud and invasive like the craw of a crow. He kept thinking about a particular flower he’d looked up in the library once. He was sure that he’d seen it growing in abundant knotty bushes by the kerb on Memory Lane. And there they were again, tangled together like unruly boys fighting in the schoolyard. Off white with a blood-red line of in the centre. Unremarkable. Accusing.

‘Asphodel, Violet,’ he said later. Wilfred tumbled the flower in the air as if it had no consequence. ‘In other words just plain old onion weed.’ Wilfred’s eyes glittered with silvery tears. ‘Did you know that Asphodels represent deep regret? Every day for fifteen years I’ve plucked a flower for you –bouquets and bouquets that represent our love.’ Wilfred glared at the onion weed with disgust then stubbed it hard into the red dust as if it were a cigarette. His tone softened then, grew wistful, ‘Such a simple and beautiful, thing a flower. I just wish… I just wish that I bothered to do it for you when you were alive.’

Wilfred rearranged the flowers on the cold, silent marble. He’d be back tomorrow to see his beloved Violet in Memory Lane Cemetery. He wondered which flower would weave its melodic magic, would croon a song fit to honour his beautiful Violet tomorrow.

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