The small child stopped as she caught sight of a vehicle parked in front of her home. It wasn’t her father’s car. It wasn’t her aunt’s. In fact it was quite different from anything she had seen before – either with or without wheels. She knew that she should have been home earlier. She knew, but didn’t really understand, that her mother worried if she returned home later than she should have. This was now so complicated. Something told the child that she should not go in. She was unsure. She was nervous – frightened even. She looked at her feet, she looked at the path. She lifted her eyes and looked at the gate to the park. The gate remained fixed within her vision until she went through it. This was where she had played safely since she was very young. That wasn’t long ago but the child didn’t realise that. She walked over to the play equipment and the swings. Sulkily she unlooped a swing from the frame and shuffled onto it. She let her legs dangle and twisted the swing from side to side. She listened to all the sounds around her. Someone was cutting a lawn way in the distance. A mother spoke softly to the baby in her pram, then she was gone. A dog yelled in a strangled manner at another for daring to pass its gateway. The swing’s groanings were menacing. The child was curious about that sound. She speeded up the twisting to listen for an alteration. She bounced on the swing to incorporate the noise of the chains. Then she worked herself up on the swing until she was as high as she dared to go. The exhilaration was intense – so intense that she imagined she was able to hear the beat of her own heart. This must be what it is like to be a bird. Just at that point her inside seemed to flip over – and the child realised she was afraid. She let the swing slow down to a gentle rock but it seemed to take so very long. Her mind and her imagination returned to the alien vehicle parked on the street in front of her home. Before she was able to work out any form of solution, the sound of magic interrupted her thoughts. Through her short little life she had been taught to listen for this sound. Village people all listened for it from April through June. The sound grew clearer and clearer until it rang out from the trees behind the park. Now, I know some very old people who still become animated when they hear the cuckoo, but this little girl was transfixed. She sat, on the now still swing, listening intently with a fluttering in her breast that reflected the freshness and thrill of the grey bird. She couldn’t see it . She didn’t even turn around, wanting not to alarm the bird in case she was in its line of vision. The “cuc-koo” went on until the child thought it would drop from the tree. Then she thought she saw a kestrel fly from the direction of the trees and over the park but, as the bird crossed the strip of moss-smooth cricket grass, the sound picked up again and faded with the flight away from the park – “cuc-koo”, ever fainter. The little child jumped from the swing and ran through the park gates along the path. She passed the strange car, flung open her own home gate, now up the two steps to the back door. She was home.
“Cuc-koo”, she called to her mother. But it was her father who greeted her in the kitchen.
“You’re late and Mummy is worried about you.”
“I didn’t mean to be. Dad, I just heard . . . . . .”
“I know – a cuckoo?”
“Yes – in the park – and I saw it too – and it was so close. It looked like Kes.”
The child’s mother came into the room and held her daughter close. She was unsure whether to laugh or cry. Her anxieties melted away into a peace which is gifted to the parent on recognising, in the child, a love of the natural world. It didn’t seem to matter at all now that her husband, the child’s father, had just started a new job with a new company car. Cars come and go but the seasons go on for ever. Now it must be summer.