So I walk passed this house every morning on my way to primary school and every afternoon on my way back home. The house stands out because the garden is very attractive. I’m always by myself. I’ve always been by myself. I don’t have any friends, not real friends. I’m alone with my thoughts and my feelings. I am six years old.
There are many ornaments in the garden of this house. Garden gnomes, bright coloured ornamental toadstools, little animals and most notably an elephant. The elephant catches my eye and I look at it every morning and every afternoon as I make my way to and from school.
One day I decide to steal the elephant. Coming home from school, I quietly open the garden gate and I pick the elephant up and tuck it under my jacket. It is not a big elephant. It is no more than a foot long and is made out of solid stone or cement. I can feel its weight as I make my way home.
I open my front door, say hello to my mum and quietly move to the veranda. There I take the elephant from my jacket and I place it near the coal bunker with some toy soldiers. I pretend the elephant is helping the soldiers to win a battle. I love the elephant. It has tasks and a long trunk. There is something about it that really captures my imagination.
My mum sees me playing and asks where I got the elephant. I tell her I found it. “Are you sure you haven’t taken it from somebody’s garden?” she asks. I tell her that I haven’t taken it. I know it’s a lie. She knows it’s a lie. It never once occurs to me that my mother would have walked passed the house with the garden ornaments many times on her way to the shops. I was too young to think of all the permutations and ramifications of stealing something and getting away with it.
My mother tells me off for lying. “You must take the elephant back,” she says. I get frightened. What if I am seen going into the garden with the elephant? With great sadness but terrible guilt for being found out in a lie, I tuck the elephant back under my jacket and prepare to take it back. My mother says come here. She takes the elephant and puts it in a bag. “I will come with you,” she says. “But you will have to put it in the garden yourself.” I feel better knowing she will accompany me. At least I had the elephant to myself for a little while. But it wasn’t my elephant. It was somebody else’s elephant.
Holding hands, we walk back to the house. Pausing by the gate, I take the elephant from the bag and very cautiously open the gate. It squeaks. With my heart beating rapidly, I hurry into the garden and place the elephant back in exactly the same place that it was when I took it earlier. Creeping back out of the garden, I carefully close the gate behind me. This time it doesn’t squeak. I am relieved to get away without being seen. My mother and I walk back home. She tells me I have done the right thing. Deep in my heart I am pleased. The elephant never was mine. It is now back in the picturesque garden where it belongs.
I look at the elephant every day on my way to school and every evening as I come home, and I remember what it felt like to have it in my possession, how wonderful it was to feel that for a moment it belonged to me. But it never really belonged to me. It could never belong to me. That doesn’t stop me looking longingly and lovingly at it every day and remembering how it felt to hold it. It was almost as if it had life.