I'm aware that most of my readers are international, so I must include this disclaimer that Australia is GIANORMOUS and my corner of the pointy end is called Queensland. My recollections cover quite a bit of distance too, My version of Australia (Brisbane, Queensland, Gold Coast) could be described as your typical middle class suburbia - I'm fortunate (perhaps?) to not know what it feels like to grow up in the projects/ghetto/slum, but I don't know gated communities or what posh living is either.
Growing up, our electronics were found at Garage Sales (along with an ancient encyclopedia that my parents bought to assuage their guilt that they didn't even ask about my school work) My sister and I spent many hot afternoons bouncing on our Trampoline, the few missing springs made things interesting but we found the best fun was to throw about 20 clothes pegs on the 'tramp' and pretend they were vicious, salivating crocodiles, the object of the game is that you must get all the pegs/crocodiles to fall on the grass, without them touching you on the feet or legs! Of course, you will require an unflappable judge that is capable of handling any misfit children who simply deny said pegs ever brushed their legs (my younger sister was so guilty of this)
I wasn't suprised when I learnt that trampolining is a great activity to stimulate the brain to the Beta phase; because the brain is keeping you upright and constantly landing on a different spot and at a safe speed. I recommend any family to get a trampoline, I've seen the new ones which have a safety net enclosing the trampoline so no little people can be hurt although I much prefer the open air version, cos I live on the edge baby! Growing up with only a little sister to play with and not a lot of fancy toys, I'm kinda proud of using my imagination to come up with ingenious ways to keep ourselves entertained. In the summer, it's just too hot to play inside (one particular hot summer I found my barbie doll's head had melted, there was quite a few nightmares after that let me tell you!) so instead we opted to play outdoors and would get up to all kinds of mischief in the storm drains before it was 5 and we all scurried in different directions in order to present to the dinner table to devour a generous portion of mashed potatoe and crumbed lamb cutlets.
Like my long limbed Dad (whom I used to think was the most strongest, bravest and handsome man alive and I wanted to find a prince just like him - oh sweet innocence!) I have been blessed with a fast metabolism. Nowadays, I'm much more prone to putting on weight, I now have to watch what I eat - which I seem to do as it dissipates into my mouth! However, during my primary school years I managed to always sport a healthy tan and I was long and lean like a racehorse. We never got a fancy lunch box full of pre-packaged smiley faced treats, just the slightly bruised Granny Smith and a buttery pile of jatz. I discovered in Grade Two that you could ditch the tuck shop bag that Mum wrote on with her curling, fat lettering "1 Pie & Strawberry Milk" and use the money for more essential items for the nine year old; pikelets with jam and cream, a cup of popcorn, four chocolate frogs (to share with my best friends) and 3 gianormous jelly snakes to bribe the boys I caught the bus home with after school, so they would carry my bag for the long, dusty hike back to our house. I still remember how sinfully sweet those naughty pikelets tasted, my own little scam that probably was the first little taste of what you could achieve, but only if you had a little nerve.
Our house was more a property than a house, as it was surrounded by an acre of lush fauna and towering gumtrees, and rolls and rolls of grass (all which would painfully need to be mowed, raked and collected by all of us, one unlucky Sunday per month) I was the one that was responsible for picking up the itchy grass clippings - it seems that no children alive nowdays have to do these horrible things our parents invented for us to do as chores back then!
The house's backyard was more jungle than yard, I heard that we had a creek one day and sure enough I discovered we also had a Dam as well! To this day, I still dream about the house I grew up in. I often wonder if I saw it was for sale, would I buy it? I have so many mixed memories from that place, so much went down in that house, but good things happened too.
It feels like it was just last week I was swimming through waist length bull grass to get to the concrete slab that marked itself as the last quarter of the acre. The concrete slab was home to many of Dad's "projects" ; a rusty pile of rejected cars with different coloured panels of yellow, blue and taxi cab orange. Even though I doubted any car could ever see a road again, the exposed engine seemed to snarl as I walked past,the soft padding of my feet scorched by uneven concrete Dad laid down in 1989, when he planned to build a granny flat. Beads of perspiration trickled down my back, as I painstakingly negotiated the unsealed driveway that snaked around the perimeter of the entire property, shards of blue gravel making my toes tingle. I still have a galaxy of freckles on my shoulder, like the sun's rays dusted me with it's cinnamon sugar. Even though the morning started with a soft blue coolness, by ten o clock our lungs filled with the heavy, dry heat of the unmistakable Australian climate. The saving grace for most children who struggled with growing up, is the stability and safety of the landscape that often provided a peaceful and welcome refuge from all the yelling and confusion that reigned over the actual house. Sometimes, even hiding in my bedroom wasn't safe, Dad would bust open the door, the smell of rum almost burning his breath as he yelled mere inches from my face.
I'll never forget the exact layout of our homestead property, the fancy greek columns that served no real purpose but to which Mum thought they looked fancy and royal, beautiful rolls of cool, sweet grass that formed a luscious green carpet in spring. I found so many secret grotto's, the hidden patch of moss covered bark hid behind the overgrown pink frangapani, the neglected dam that I was once deluded enough to think it could be a "poor kid's pool", mud squelching between my toes and swamp reeds threaded through my hair. Ugh, that was a short lived wish!.
Apart from imaginary friends, it was just Sis and I on most days but I never really remember ever being bored? I really did keep myself amused during the holidays, after school and basically any moment I wasn't being stalked by The Stepmother, I'd be out barefoot and fancy free on the property, talking to the flowers and naming all the berry bushes and trees different names and then pretending to be a doctor who made house calls with a pair of scissors (mum's GOOD scissors carefully pinched from the sewing drawer) and a plastic watering can. I could play this game for hours, chatting away to silky elks, congenially shaking a branch as if it was an outstretched hand. Sometimes, when a tree was maimed by one of the magnificent lightining bolts in Summer, I had to perform complicated tree surgery - much to my little sister's delight as she became my trusty assistant, handing me the scissors (the safe way, like Mum taught us.) As far as we where concerned, nothing green or treelike was going to die on our watch. My sister would find me tutt tutting when I discovered the oozing honey coloured sap, drools of crystallized "tree blood" , rivulets that served as highways for the army of ants and stink bugs that traveled across them. If I close my eyes, no matter where I am, I can still smell the sap on my fingers..the spicy scent of trees in my hair.
Many summers ago, we had attempted to build a three storey tree house. The more storeys/levels, the more awesome. Health and Safety didn't exist when we were kids.The "tree house" title is a tad dubious, in fact it's very complimentary about a mere six planks of brittle wood nailed diligently to a reluctant, sagging old oak tree. We could literally hear it whine "Why Me?" when we were constantly scooting up and down the limbs, feet finding nature's grooves and twisted vines soon became ropes to hoist ourselves into the "secret area"- a boys only meeting room where I suspected some serious cigarette smoking was happening. Of course, when the boys moved on to catching snakes and other horrid things for a girl to consider, I would sneak into the empty meeting room, with my best friend keeping lookout. With all the tenacity of a forensic I would lift up the moldy cushions, hoping to find something scandalous, and when you are eleven, that can range from a picture of a naked lady to a suspicious looking cigarette. I was jonesing to find a dogeared copy of one of dad's nudie mags or at least the torrid "Australian Post". My dad worked long days as a plasterer and occasionally on the dusty floor of the van, I would salvage a scrunched up Playboy, I particularly liked the biker women with the huge pendulous breasts, I thought they all looked like they were having so much FUN! While dad tooled around in the TAB one day, I scanned the comics, a shiver of delight ran through me when I saw a cartoon penis or a scribbly that was supposed to mean "vagina".
I wondered why my Dad liked looking at these women, as they looked so different to Mum, who I assumed thathe assumedwas the most beautiful woman in the world. Intrigued and yet also midly scandalised on some pages, the best shock of all was the ladies called "horny housewives". I'd never seenmy mumdusting a pot plant in a maid's outfit with her twat hanging out the bottom of her skirt that's for sure. Once my eyes had gorged themselves on the forbidden flesh, I carefully placed the tossed magazine back into the exact spot I found it, with practised precision. I also knew it was wise to leave a cooling off period before Dad clamboured back into the van, so I'd never be caught absorbed in the soapy porn, throwing the mag down like it gave off flames that burned my sinful little hands.
I always wish that Dad would be sober, but I'll always hold a little hard walnut of regret that my Parents lost our home. Bankruptcy sucks. The house itself sold in three months, for a $3000 loss. I've been back once, but it turned out to be a bad idea because the new owners had made quite a few "home improvements" but to me it was no longer my childhood kingdom with a monstrosity of an above ground pool dominating the backyard as well as mowing down a complete rainforest.
I'm told The big tree in the middle (our famous five story treehouse) fell down shortly after we left. I know our names, Cass, Tim and me are still carved into the Slab of cement
I wonder what the new tenants had made of the kitchen pantry doors where we had religiously recorded our heights, carved into the ply wood. Like beanstalks we grew up, a slow transgression through time, proudly marked with a steak knife and a marker, stretching as much as you could to add another inch to your name. I wonder where all the memories go..where have all of our toys gone to? I like to think they all met up and are living somewhere together, drinking from tiny teacups, wearing those GIANT sunnies and driving barbie ferarri's.