September 14, 2016 Comments Off on Pigeons

In one of my childhood photo albums there’s a grainy picture of me next to a small boy with knobbly knees. The knees belonged to Derek, my great friend. He lived a few blocks away, just past the primary school, as I recall, with his parents and younger sister.

Derek and I were in preschool. Our mothers were firm friends, even after Derek’s family moved to another town. But if I remember anything at all about his  family, it’s that they kept pigeons.

I was fascinated by them; astonished that you could take a homing pigeon, release it somewhere across town, and then be sure that it would find its way home. I loved their soft cooing in the aviary, the flurry of feathers when there was a skirmish over a prized bit of food. I was mesmerised when the birds were released and they swept across the sky in graceful circuits.

Whenever I hear pigeons today, though, I’m immediately transported to Stellenbosch, where my grandmother who lived in Stellenbosch in a block of flats – an impossibly glamorous place called Skoroda Court. Or so it felt to primary-school me. 

I loved our trips from Port Elizabeth to visit my grandmother not only because she was an amazing cook who spoilt us rotten with delicious meals and the best milk tart in the country, but because there were tall conifers across the road from the flats that played host to more pigeons, and every morning my eyes fluttered open to their soft chorus. 

Earlier this year I moved from my home of almost 17 years to a new neighbourhood. It was a move fraught with emotion and a kind of grief. There were many stresses, and I can’t remember when last I was as exhausted.

But when I drew back the curtains on the first morning I woke up in this house, I noticed a familiar sight – racing pigeons taking leisurely laps in the patch of sky outside my window.

And I felt that I, like them, had come full circle. And that this time, I was the one coming home to roost.


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