Mostly during primary school my chosen prospective career was saint.
Ah, but then there was the period where I discovered Heidi
and as I read and reread it a bunch of times, I most fervently wanted to become a goatherd, with all that this entailed. The bell. The sleeping snuggled into warm hay in the attic. The eating of too much cheese.
So taken was I with the idea of Switzerland that when we were asked, about grade 6, where we were going for the term holiday, I – who had never been on a holiday because we were way too poor – said Switzerland. I just might have gotten away with this but for the fact that my mother taught in the senior school. Since I had further elaborated when pressed, that we were going by boat – another fixation I had throughout childhood, seafaring – and the term holiday was a mere fortnight, news soon spread through the school that my mother was leaving her teaching job. In case you don’t get the plot so far, I was weaving this fantasy in Australia where I was born and raised.
Never mind the trouble I got into for this, it didn’t in the least affect my taste for anything Swittish.
Since then, as an adult I’ve been able to visit Switzerland five times, mostly Geneva. By no means goatherd territory, but still. You can see Geneva as a straightforwardly beautiful city. You can see it through Australian eyes as having that aesthetic qualities of age that our cities so lack, not to mention the mountain backdrop the like of which we would never see at home. Or you can see it, I discover, as a young child would whose dreams were always of other places. I confess as I’ve wandered about the city, staring at those snow-capped mountains, to feeling that I have come home in some way that I’m sure derives from the profound effect this utterly magical book had on me when I read it so long ago.
I don’t know if other people wonder if they have let down the small bundles of hopes and dreams they once were, but I do. It breaks my heart, the idea that I might have disappointed that little hopeful dreaming thing I was once, and I have found it a very emotional experience being in this dream I once went to sleep with every night. I really can’t remember, but I hope she – I – did always believe dreams come true. Yeah, well. Sometimes they do.