Judges' commendation - Grades 4-8
Judges’ comments: The judges were impressed with the maturity of Annika’s theme, and the depth of emotion they portrayed in this story. We felt they deserved a special commendation for the thought put into their work, and their emotive writing style.
by Annika J S
An old, tattered teddy bear lay helpless and alone in my garden. It’s eyes stared up at me, as if asking, pleading, yearning for a hug. I sat down, knees crossed, on the towering, immense pile of dirt that I’d just taken a million years to dig up. The empty time capsule, still half buried in the ground, seemed in perfect condition, despite the fact that it must’ve been buried decades ago.
Grinning at my new finding, I picked up the teddy bear and held it close, stroking it’s old, delicate fur gently.
I wonder what your name is... I thought to myself.
“Aurelie! We’ve got to leave for soccer training soon, okay? Make sure you’re ready to go in five minutes!”
“Yes mum, I know!” I groaned, flicking my messy braid onto my back.
Making sure not to damage it’s ancient body, I slowly placed the teddy back into the time capsule. But before I could take back my hands, a beaming flash of yellow-white caught my eye; I lifted the bear back up out of the capsule and placed it on the ground. My sight was met with what looked like someone’s notebook. Glimpsing my watch, I felt my eyebrows furrow. But eventually my curiosity took the better of me — I cautiously picked up the frayed, battered book, flicking the cover to the first page, and read what was inscribed.
Curly, old-fashioned handwriting was sprawled across the ink-stained paper. It reminded me of my great-grandmother’s recipes that my mum and I always used. When I first learnt to read, understanding the almost-illegible handwriting seemed daunting and impossible, but I’d gotten used to it by now.
January 1946, Unley, South Australia
I was right! The time capsule was old. As I read on, I felt as if I was being transported into another time, living as another person…
I felt tears flowing freely down my icy, frigid cheeks as waves of melancholy washed over me. Gripping tightly onto my mam’s hand, I pleaded for the unfortunate reality to somehow become a dream. But it wasn’t; I’d learnt that by then.
Desperate for somewhere quiet to mourn alone, I watched the clouds above me waft across the idyllic, crystal-blue sky. What I figured to be a crow squawking snatched my thoughts straight out of my head. I sighed, the bags of bricks hanging beneath my eyes feeling so heavy that they could potentially pull my entire head to the ground.
Suddenly, I felt a wet droplet splat on my nose. ‘How amazing, rain has come to visit!’ I thought to myself sarcastically — ‘It’s not at all like the weather now fits the mood perfectly.’
I grasped onto Maggie, trying hard to focus solely on her warm, familiar fur (Maggie has been my favourite teddy since I was three months old, after my papa gave her to me. Her full name is Magulo, which means scruffy in Filipino.); she is now one of the last true things that I have left of papa. Beloved , cherished Maggie, and you, diary, my reflection of my love of words.
That was all.
“Sammy darling, come here!” I looked up and saw mam peering back down at me, tears streaming down her frosty cheeks. Hurling myself into her until my face was fully enveloped within the folds of her blue jacket, I breathed in her unusually calming scent. The strawberries and cream perfume today, I thought. My mind flickered back to the day papa bought it for her, a few months before the war— he had winked at me multiple times before telling mam he had to go to the bathroom. Secretly, he had been buying the perfume. Later that day, after stopping by my all-time favourite chocolate shop (Haigh’s, obviously!), he sat down beside her on a patch of lush, green grass, and surprised her with it. Her face — as beautiful as a sunset, as papa described it — bore a smile that reached from ear to ear.
But that was then; not now, I realised after being snapped out of my past self.
Because now, papa was gone.
And he was never coming back.
I felt my eyes begin to burn as I watched every other child at the station throw themselves into their papa’s arms. I would give anything to do that once more — anything to see him again.
Jealousy and selfishness swiftly clouded my mind; why do all these spoilt little brats get to see their dads again? After years of waiting for this stupid war to end, why do we, mam and I, get happily greeted with open arms by a death telegram rather than papa himself? Why, of all people, does this have to happen to me?
As the ominous, raging storm clouds inside me gave way, I was left, clutching on to mam and Maggie, hands trembling.
I realised that what crossed my mind before was the reality, and no matter what, it couldn’t be changed.
Papa was dead.
Within one blink of an eye, I found myself back, sitting cross-legged in the middle of a familiar, colossal pile of dirt.
“Aurelie! Do you want to be late for soccer?!”
Gathering all my things, I began brushing all the dirt off myself. “Don’t worry mum, I’m coming!” I groaned whilst sprinting up towards the house, diary and teddy bear in hand. Stopping by my bedroom, I carefully placed both down on my pillow.
“Honestly Aurelie! If you leave it one more second you’ll be late!”
“Jeez, calm down!” I complained. “I’m 13, not a dumb toddler!” Ignoring my mum’s bossy, domineering voice, I changed quick as I could into my soccer uniform, shoved my feet into my soccer boots and grabbed my ball, finally ready to go.
“Goodbye Maggie!” I whispered. “Love you!”
The second I said that I knew I had just made a pact. I would cherish Maggie, because now, I was her new Sammy.