my granny’s arms were soft and strong.

on the floor of my grandmother’s bathroom, there is a heater spitting blue gas flames into the damp air.

i am about three years old.

i am not afraid of winter howling outside, trying to claw its wet way in through warped window frames.

not yet.

my granny lifts me from the warm, fragrant water onto the cold edge of the roll top bath.

‘careful, ouma’s got you’.

small feet happily balanced, i am taller than her for a moment—my favourite part—my arms find the papery curve of her neck. i cling to her; my face inches away from all the softness that walks out of her mouth whenever she says my name.

she covers me in baby powder from my toes to my head—a grandmother’s talisman.

years later, whenever i am asked to describe my favourite smell, i say ‘baby powder and the smell of rain’.

in that small bathroom, her arms are still firm and strong, and i am still able to trust being lifted up and held safe.

— my granny’s arms were soft and strong | i was held.

© Liezel Graham 2020.

Photograph by Siddarth Bhogra.

how to believe in yourself.

of all the words

in the whole wide world,

and there are so many,

the ones

that you

allow

to live

inside your head,

are

the

most

dangerous words

in the whole wide world, so

you

must be

very careful

whose words

you pick up

with

your

bare

hands, and give a home to.

and some words,

especially stray ones,

will try

to make

you

feel

small

and

unimportant, but

you are not small.

you,

are so big

with kindness, and

you,

are so strong

with compassion, and

all your beautiful dreams

have made you

so very tall.

isn’t that amazing?

how big you really are?

so don’t you believe,

not even for a minute,

that you

are not

enough

for your life.

go,

and search for new words,

big words,

happy words,

words that smile at you

when you find them.

eat them up,

one by one,

until the inside

of your heart

is full of you.

—how to believe in yourself.

© Liezel Graham 2019.

Photograph by Orlando Vera.

Never forget how big you really are.

For someone very special down under, but for all of us too.

liezel