The things which the child loves remain in the domain of the heart until old age. ~ Kahlil Gibran
Our hill is gone. Do you remember it, that little knoll behind the Catholic church where we used to play? Do you remember how we used to run to get there on late afternoons, just so we could watch the sunset from the top? It was our special place, our hideout. But now it’s gone.
There were several trees on it, but two were special, the siresas and the kamachile. Remember them? We climbed their branches, ate their fruit, and played in their shade. What fun they once witnessed! I remember sliding down that slope on coconut fronds, and piling armfuls of grass to make walls for a fort, and playacting the lives we imagined we would live as grown ups. It seemed so far away then, but we were excited to see how it would be like as adults. We promised ourselves that if we ever got separated, we’d come back to that spot and find each other again.
But those trees are no longer there, either. There’s nothing there now but a flat piece of land with a new building on it. I wonder if anyone grieved for the change like I did, if children from other generations noticed the loss of something magical. I suppose it was a practical decision for those who owned the land, but to me it was a severance of one of the most precious links to my childhood — and to you.
Because you never got to grow up, Lala. You lost the chance to taste the bittersweetness of it when you left us one summer — a ten-year-old girl who died of malaria and taught her best friend an early lesson in saying goodbye.
The hill became a place of solace then. I would go there after school, with the letters I wrote to you, and hide them under a rock. Then I would sit on the grass, under the silent trees, and talk to God, asking him to give you an extra warm welcome. When the sunset came, I would watch it alone — only a child, but slowly, unknowingly, growing up. It was my way of letting you go.
But I haven’t forgotten. I carry your memory with me, Lala, as I will for the rest of my life, and that lost little hill shall remain one of the most visited places in the landscape of my soul.
And I miss you. Even now, I miss you.