When I was nine years old and my little sister, Catherine, was five years old, we had a lot more freedom than modern children have today. My mother would allow us to walk to the beach from our house in the village of Fishhoek in the Western Cape. She was housebound as I had two even littler sisters, Hayley, who was one year old, and Laura, who was a newborn.

It was quite safe for two little girls to walk the long road to the beach and I was given strict instructions to only cross the railway line at the level crossing. The first day we had been given permission to go to the beach I did not heed those instructions. I lost my way a bit and we came out further along the beach than I had intended. We were quite a distance from the level crossing. I didn’t want to walk all the way along the road in the blazing heat to get to the level crossing, so I decided we should cross the railway track where we were.

I took hold of Catherine’s hand and we walked across the tracks together. I was very worried about crossing in a place other than where I had been told to cross, even though I had decided to blatantly ignore my parent’s directions. The railway lines were double and much wider than I expected. It seemed to take forever to cross those lines and imagined I could feel them shaking as a train raced towards us along the line.

I had heard a terrible story about the father of a girl I knew at school who had been killed crossing the railway line. We were told that his car had broken down and he couldn’t get it restarted and move it off the line.I later learned the awful truth that he had committed suicide in his car by parking it on the railway line and waiting for it to be smashed into by a train in the dark. A terrible story and frightening for a small girl who was crossing the railway lines with her younger sister in a most naughty and disobedient way.

I never forgot the anxiety of that crossing and I never attempted such a thing again. I never even told anyone in my family and I am quite sure my sister doesn’t remember this. You readers are the first to hear this confession.

This was not the only mischief Cath and I managed to get into during these long walks to the beach and back. One hot day we were walking home through the village when we saw an old lady walking home in the heat carrying big bags of groceries. We had been taught to be helpful, so I offered to carry the bags to the old lady’s flat which was not far away but was on the fifth floor of the building. The old lady was happy to accept my offer and Cath and I trudged up five flights of steps with all those heavy bags. Cath was a bit better off as she only carried the bag with the bread in it which was light even if it was awkward for her to carry with her small hands.

The old lady was grateful for the help and she invited us both to visit her for tea the following day. Catherine and I arrived at the appointed time of 3P.M. and had a delightful tea with the old lady and her visiting friend. We had tea and a selection of delicious biscuits. The old lady also put out a bowl of fruit sweets for us to enjoy. I only allowed Cath to take two sweets and I also took two as we had been taught not to be greedy when visiting. The two old ladies showed me how to make a knit a pincushion which is a skill I have never forgotten.

At 5P.M. it was time for us to leave and walk home. The old lady offered us the bowl of sweets and said we should each take two for the walk home. My little sister, Catherine, said “Thank you, but I already have some.”From the pockets of her skirt she pulled out a handful of sweets. I was so embarrassed I never went to visit the old lady again which was really a pity for everyone involved.

This post was written for Irene Water’s Times Past challenge. You can join in the challenge here: https://irenewaters19.com/2018/12/01/im-sorry-times-past-challenge/