She lived just up my street

Hinemoa Avenue in Normanhurst

a post-war brick-home suburb of Sydney

her house was at the corner

of Edgecomb Avenue

Her dad was a company secretary

and drove a shiny big black

brand new Humber Super Snipe

it had a radio

and a heater

Margaret Elizabeth Harrison

we were in school together

first grade

Normanhurst Primary

just down Pennant Hills Road

We’d walk there together

except when it rained

and her dad would give us a ride

some of the other kids too

our own private school bus

She was the most beautiful

girl in the world

with blue eyes and soft cheeks

freckles like me

and long blond hair in braids

She came and knelt by me that day

when I lay on the cold wooden floor

of our classroom

after slipping during

a dance we were all

doing in our socks

She caressed my hand

said I’d be alright

as the teacher held

a bandage against

my bleeding ear

which I’d caught

on the back of a chair

as I went down

She kissed meon the cheek

and I tried not to cry

and instead be brave

for her

I remember one night

at a neighborhood party

by the fire in someone’s

back yard

before the fences went up

and all the houses were built

for families like mine

my father a Royal Australian Air Force veteran

and families like the Kars

who lived next door

migrants New Australians

from Holland

A bloke in our neighborhood

holding a bottle of beer

standing in front of the flames

asked me why I liked Margaret

and I said because she was nice

and pretty

and soft and fleshy

I said

And everyone laughed

and I didn’t understand why

because she was

and she was my friend

and I loved her

and she loved me

We came running down

Hinemoa Avenue one spring afternoon

each holding a paper from school

with writing on it

letters from the alphabet

and words

and pictures we had drawn

in class with the colored pencils

we shared

Our first words

the first writing we had done

we yelled and laughed

and shouted we could write

and read

and we waved our papers

in the soft warm air

under those bluest of Australian skies

on that street

border between the city

and the bush

gum trees and their

eucalyptus smells

Hammond Creek

down below

its wet moss and ferns

in the shade

a kookaburra watching us

from a branch above

as we ran and yelled and laughed

and then he laughed with us

Margaret turned off at Edgecomb

went up the path

to her porch

”bye,” she said

”see you tomorrow”

”bye,” I replied

”see you”

And I skipped on home

down the hill

to my house

And a glass of milk

and Vegemite and lots of butter

on a thick slice of fresh white bread

To put my paper

on the kitchen table

proudly show

my mum

what I had written

and drawn

what I could do

and did

and would do some more

at school tomorrow

with Margaret

my best friend

Robert Nielsen

(c) 2019