The Elephant in the Room

I am describing the wildlife on the farm to Mum. I tell her I have had to curtail my walks, I walk less on the wild side now, for fear a buffalo will emerge from the bush.

‘A real buffalo?’ Mum wants to know.

A real one, I confirm.

We have a ton of game on the farm, I tell her – they make a menace of themselves in Ant’s vegetable garden.  The porcupines, the pigs, the dikdik.  Even the elephant – which picked their way surprisingly daintily through rows of beans and across beds of carrots.

‘How do you know you’ve had an elephant in the veg patch?’ I ask mum.

How, she wants to know.

‘Because of the footprints in the dust as big as dinner plates’, and she hoots with laughter.

I tell her I remember a dish towel we had as kids (I don’t say, ‘do you remember that dish towel we had as kids …’) It was lined with crazy riddles and I repeat some of them to mum now.

How do you fit four elephants in a Mini Moke?


Two in the front, two in the back, I say. More laughter.

‘How do you know an elephant has been in your fridge?’


‘By the footprints in the butter!’

More laugher – and ‘oh Anthea, how silly!’

OK Ma, how do you fit four giraffe in a Mini Moke?

Two in the front, two in the back?

Nope – it’s full up with Eles.

And mum laughs a deep rich real belly laugh.

That was a good day. Today’s call was a good call.

When the children were little we often used to escape up into the cool of the forests that cloak Mt Meru’s shoulders.

Up there, arching over the road to the summit, is a huge fig tree with a massive hole through its middle.

Ant used to tell the children it had been made by an elephant who came racing down the hill so fast it couldn’t find its brakes in time.

The kids loved that story.

When we looked at a picture of the tree recently, they were astounded.

‘Oh it’s so much smaller than I remember!’ Said Melie.

And they are all so much bigger.

I place photos of the tree side by side. All that separates the pictures are a few centimeters. 

And decades. 

They grow up so fast. Our children. One minute you look and they’re tiny and clutching at your hand. And they next you can lean into them because you’re the tiniest in the family. 

How did that happen? When?

One Response to “The Elephant in the Room”

  1. Addy Says:

    I grew up with those jokes too! Your descriptions of your poor old mum are beautiful even if very sad. My best friend’s mother is in a similar state (she is 100 after all) and it is very sad to see the decline. You must seek comfort in those small glimmers of memory she has and the laughter you can share with her.

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