The door was grey. That was a let down, but you can't always have everything in life. It was grey and standard and the paint was peeling off a little bit in parts. But oh, it had vines that creeped along its side, and a big jacaranda tree that seemed to cross the threshold - roots on one side, an unmade bed of purple flowers on the other. But, really, it's never about the door, is it? The door is only a means to an end. And what an end. "It's a secret garden," I would say to friends who passed the test. The test was normally just them wanting to come over to my house and not being mean. But still, I had protocol. "It isn't," they would protest, and I would grin. I would grasp the heavy metal handle and turn, pushing the door open with my shoulder (it was heavy!). The first thing anyone ever saw was green. So much green. And it was shocking, to have that much space all to yourself amidst the space of the victorian sprawl of paddington. There were other exciting things about it - a mangrovey corner perfect for playing cowboys and indians, a vast sprawling underground network of tunnels that provided endless exploration entertainment as kids, and enough space to play a real game of cricket (anyone who hit the ball over the fence was 6 and out). But everyone saw the green first. Lush and slightly fragrant - in the years I have been there I've seen waves of gardenia and tea roses give way to jasmine and lavender and rosemary (in fact my garden smells like this) - but always green.
Even though we share it with other people I've always thought of it as mine. This is the garden where I first played hide and seek, the garden where I climbed a tree and scraped my knee (and I did tear my dress, actually), the garden where I had countless birthday tea parties with pass the parcel and wore a funny hat. This is the garden where I knelt, dirty shins and all, alongside my mum, planting little whispers of mint and basil and coriander and parsley, which now have taken over our little vegetable corner with their proud green. It's a garden of sunshine study sessions - multi-tasking as tanning - and late afternoon stolen moments with ice tea and a book, of whole days spent lying on towels with your best friend, eating mango weiss bars and painting your nails and laughing so hard you start to hurt. It's also a garden of broken hearts and tears and fights with my parents, but that's old news.
Not everyone gets it. Some people don't like the feeling of grass and the smell of dirt under their feet, some people prefer sand and surf and the impersonal tiles of a pool to an impressionist's dabble of colour and sight and sound. But sometimes you find people who do. They'll bring a picnic over to your house and set up shop with bread and cheese and ham, and you'll take loads of pictures and eat loads of things and talk about loads of things and even though the clouds start moving over and even though the air turns crisp they can't bring themselves to move inside and give it all up and lose the garden. It's that special.