She is four and a half.
Today she discovers lantana growing wild by the beach. She fingers the slightly tacky leaves and the pretty flowers.
There is a tank and a bunker in the distance, but it is the clusters of yellow, pink and fuchsia trumpets in perfect little bouquets that captivate her.
She bends to smell one and the purple ribbon of a pigtail unties.
The little flowers are soft like baby powder but the bouquet is stiff. It smells funny. She explores its contours, plucks at a few, and notices lots of different colors.
She moves closer to the bush, her bare feet burn on hot sand.
A lizard appears on a twig. She doesn’t mind sharing. It is hot and muggy. Bugs are buzzing. The sky is pure white heat. Sweat trickles down her neck. Her little red skirt hangs below her belly, catches on dry branches.
She starts to pick little bunches for maman. The white shirt is untucked and gets dirty as she reaches for the prettiest ones.
She hears sand crunch behind her and turns around.
Two soldiers with guns are coming. She doesn’t know them but she knows others just like them, so she smiles and shows her dimple, blue eyes squinting in the sun; she is not afraid.
They say nothing and walk on by.
All of a sudden she feels alone and looks for maman and papa on the beach.
She doesn’t see them. She looks where they should be but they are gone.
Clutching her lantana blossoms she begins to run towards the water. May be they went swimming. She starts to cry. Her foot catches a buried rock and she falls on the wet sand, skinning her knees.
Maman! She cries out. Maman! She screams and wails, muddy, hot, lost and scared senseless. She closes her eyes to shut out the world and sobs.
After an eternity she hears maman’s voice coming at her. Maman is angry because she is screaming and is dirty.
The child opens her fisted hands to offer her crumpled lantana blossoms; they fall to the ground and are dismissed in cross words. She cries some more.
Today she came looking for me from that forgotten moment so I held and rocked the child I was. We often play and dance together but today we wept.
Picture stolen from http://mylifeamongthelithops.blogspot.fr/