When I was a kid – maybe 12 years old, if that – my Mom took my sisters and I on holiday to Pretoria. We went by train – a first for me. It was an overnight journey and I was terribly excited. I wore a new dress, in a weird shade of pink, and new shoes. We had lived in the Transvaal until my father had died five years before, and this was our first trip back since then. My mom hired a car to get us from the train station in Johannesburg to her friends’ house in Pretoria. I remember sitting in the back seat of the rental car and watching her navigate from one big, strange city to another, and thinking how unbelievably brave she was. She was my hero. Johannesburg was big and busy and really quite scary, even then when South Africa was still quite a safe place to live.
Pretoria was a bit different, at least the parts that I saw. I wasn’t all that impressed with it, except… well it was Springtime and in between the buildings and houses and roads and the grass that was still brown and dead from the harsh Winter, it seemed the city was alive with splashes of purple. The Jacaranda trees were in bloom and it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen!
We did lots of things on that holiday. We swam in the swimming pool day in and day out. Mom’s friends took us to Sun City for a day and I had my first peek inside a Casino – what a sensory overload that was! We visited other friends, too – my best friend, from when I was two; and went to the Oriental Plaza in Jo’burg and had all kinds of fun.
But that image of the purple Jacaranda trees has stayed with me all these years. What an impression they made on my young mind.
And now here we are in Brisbane, and this beautiful city that has already found a place in my heart has just burst into colour… as if Monet himself has found a shade to his liking and is once again touching the canvas of a city, adding a dash of lilac as the Jacaranda trees blossom. What a pleasant surprise to see them so liberally scattered around the place – peeking over garden walls, lining streets, randomly growing in parks or on street corners. They’re as beautiful here as the trees I remember from my childhood, from that holiday in Pretoria, and it makes me smile.
Because… it’s almost like coming home.