Sunday is Dora’s day off. Jasper wakes me and I get up to let him out. I get back into bed and continue reading my book for about an hour before I get up, bath and dress. I notice that Dora has washed my new top and I decide to wear it with my jeans.
Once I’ve fed the animals I make myself a boiled egg for breakfast. There are still no messages on my phone. I suppose a lot of people sleep in on a Sunday or possibly they go to church. Perhaps they don’t even listen to voice messages until the work week starts again on Monday.
Jasper seems to know it is a Sunday. It’s the day when he gets to go for a ride in the car and a longer walk than usual. As I pick some flowers from the garden, he follows my every movement, sometimes getting between me and the flower beds. “Out of my way!” I shoo him away from the rose bush where I am working. “I promise I won’t leave without you!” My roses are doing very nicely and I am able to add three yellow buds to my collection in the peanut butter jar.
Jasper is sitting waiting at the car when I come back from locking the house. His golden tail thumps when he sees me. I carry my backpack over one shoulder and the jar of flowers and my keys in one hand, leaving the other free to open the door. Jasper jumps onto the back seat and settles onto the blanket covering it.
It takes us 45 minutes to reach the Children’s Cemetery. It doesn’t look like a cemetery and the sign over the entrance gate says merely “Addison Park” in bronze metal letters. If you weren’t one of the insiders, you would imagine it to be a nature preserve or botanical gardens. There is a security gate which opens with a member’s tag.
I drive to the parking area next to the small office which looks for all the world like a pretty Wendy House. The white walls are topped by a steep red roof outlined with green scallops. The windows have green wooden shutters with heart cut-outs. Jasper leaps out as soon as I open the door. He leads me to the path he knows so well. From the parking area there are four paths marked like hiking trails with different coloured teddy bears on rocks or trees every 100 metres or so. Peter’s trail is the yellow one. On either side of the pathway are little alcoves, each enclosed by clumps of bushes and trees which hide the barrier fence. Each garden has a brightly painted picket gate. A little sign depicting cute animal characters holding a number identifies each one.
I let Jasper off the lead and he lopes along the winding path, making little sorties into the bushes on either side.
Peter’s garden is number thirty five. Keith chose the site and made all the arrangements, selecting the plants and the tree which now shades a little stone bench. I was in no state to make any decisions and my practical husband had organised everything efficiently with long term appearance in mind. Instead of angels sitting on the tiny grave, Peter had ordered a little aeroplane carved out of different coloured stone and assembled meticulously. Nothing was too good for his son. His dead son.
In the beginning we had both visited every week, bringing fresh flowers to place on the grave. Once Keith had moved on with his life, I continued to visit every Sunday. I began to bring gifts for my baby. The Teddy Bears and fluffy toys soon deteriorated in the open air so I would remove them and replace them regularly.
For Peter’s first birthday I brought a small Peter Rabbit figurine. Then it seemed like a good idea to continue the tradition and each year I added another Beatrix Potter figurine. That is, until the lady who made them got cancer and her little home industry closed down.
I put the jar of flowers and my backpack down on the bench. I grasp the flowers and place them in the vase next to the headstone then carefully pour in the water from the jar.
Getting back to the bench, I take out a little cushion before sitting. Normally I would dwell on what could have been, what should have been. Today I look around. The garden looks well-tended. The ground cover around the stepping stones is neatly trimmed and although the garden looks natural, it is not overgrown. The honey- suckle along the north wall is in bloom. I sniff the air hoping to get a whiff of its scent. About five bees are exploring the blooms and they make a gentle buzzing noise.
My eyes linger on Peter Rabbit and his friends. There are eleven figurines in all, including Jemima Puddle Duck, several bunnies and my favourite, Tom Kitten.
I remember what Dora said about her friends’ children. A girl was pregnant and the boys were into drugs. It occurs to me that I have always pictured Peter as a baby because that was all I knew of him. He would be 30 now, on the 25th November.
“Peter,” I say out loud, “Do you even like Peter Rabbit? Am I keeping you from growing up by babying you?” A soft breeze rustles leaves above me.
“Maybe it’s time to move on. I will always love you. When you died it was like part of me died. Like I’d had an amputation.” My voice falters. “But people can go on living with one arm.”
I stand up and move closer to the grave stone. “If you had lived, you would have grown up already. Would you have looked like your father?”
A picture comes into my mind of Keith when I first met him. His boyish good looks combined with his confidence won my heart over. Peter inherited his blue eyes but not ...