“Come with me,” she said. We walked slowly down the long, sloping driveway where the cars would come and go all day. I held her hand, her large, rough hand, soiled and stained by many years in the garden. She stopped near the hedge which my father had warned me to never walk beyond. To me it was a like a huge castle wall, much higher than my eight-year-old arms could reach; its branches thick, impenetrable, prickly.
“Let’s just sit here a bit while I catch my breath,” she said. There was a bench that looked towards the house. I stared at the huge building, finding the window to my room on the second floor, far corner, barely catching the noon sun.
“Do you remember anything before you were born?” she asked me. I laughed. She was always asking funny questions like that. I almost always laughed. “Well, I do,” she continued. “I remember lots of things.”
A rabbit came from somewhere and I felt my heart flutter. “Look!” I said. The rabbit was about ten feet from us, not moving now, its ears twitching.
“Be very quiet,” she said. We sat for a long time watching the rabbit. It relaxed before our motionless silence; then began to hop across the grass in starts and stops.
“Is it lost?” I asked.
“Rabbits don’t get lost,” she said.
“But who does it belong to?” I continued (which is what I really meant to ask).
“Rabbits belong to earth, just like you and I. Rabbits don’t get lost because they never forget where they belong. We are the only ones who get lost,” she said.
We watched the rabbit move closer to the hedge and then suddenly disappear inside.
“Where did it go?” I asked.
“To the other side of the hedge,” she said.
Something bristled inside of me.
“Papa says I should never go through the hedge,” I said.
“Why is that?” she asked me.
She looked at me with that deep, penetrating gaze she had. I felt as if there was a “right” answer to the question, but it was an answer I was tired of hearing.
“To keep me safe,” I sighed.
“Is the rabbit safe?” she asked me.
I didn’t know how to answer that question. We were quiet for a bit.
“Come with me,” she said, and rose slowly from the bench and took my hand again. We walked along the hedgerow until we came to an opening I had never seen before. It was a small gap, and if you turned sideways it was just enough to slip through. That’s what we did.
On the other side of the hedge we were out of sight of the house. I had never been here before. There were trees and hills and long grass — and more rabbits. I saw the rabbit as it disappeared into the brush and then I saw two more. I could hear water running in a stream.
It felt very different here on this side of the hedge. I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to go further. I wanted to get farther away.
Now I am almost as old as she was then. I can remember lots of things. I can still feel her rough hand holding mine and it seems I can feel her gaze watching me. There are hedges all around. I see them everywhere. I search for the breaks, the openings, the places where I can step through to the other side. I turn sideways. I push through the thorns.
There is another world over there. No one is lost. Everyone belongs.
Come with me.