It used to make me feel a little bit sad when I heard of the childhood's that the generation before us led. They would tend to reminisce on the “good old days” where afternoons were spent climbing apple trees, holidays were spent in the campervan down the south coast and they would stoically refuse to complain about grazed knees. More or less, their lives epitomised childhood innocence and freedom. It seemed to be that unlike our generation, they were not plagued by problems of obesity, cyber bullying or the inability to perfect the art of small talk.
I wasn’t really one to climb trees, especially not after my cousin refused to come down from the one in our backyard and ended up falling and breaking his arm…
I’ve lived in my current house since I was twelve, almost thirteen. I’m close to the beach, the city, uni and of course, a massive shopping centre. As a teenager, there has been no looking back. I love living where I do.
We recently sold our old house, the one I grew up in pre-teen years. I had not really given it much thought in recent times and sometimes it was a struggle to remember a time when I did live there (I know I’m not old but when you’ve lived somewhere for a number of years, it’s hard to remember living some place else before it).
I’d been a couple of times to see how my parents had renovated it. To us, it was one house, but they had converted it back into its former glory as two semi-detached homes. It was weird being on one side of the house and not being able to go straight through to the other side!
As the orange glow of dusk began to set in one afternoon I visited, it seemed as though I was living déjà vu – walking the same steps that I once did years before. Walking through the house reminded me that although I perhaps never led the “old school” conventional childhood of cheeky rebellion, I had not been engulfed by the issues that surround so many kids these days.
I remember the bike races I had with my brother in the backyard where we eagerly wore a track into the perimeter of the grass, peddling faster with each lap as though we were in a real race. The bikes also came in handy when my brother would ride his bike past our “drive in” at our cubby house where I had prepared a plastic burger in a paper bag from my plastic kitchenette.
We also had a swing that my dad had made between two tall trees in the yard, so close that you had to aim with each swing or you’d bash your elbow hard into the bark. Hot days saw us jumping off the trampoline into our blow up pool, met by super soaker fights and running through the sprinkler.
I still remember the plastic crocodile that sat on top of our shed for god knows what reason, and how our neighbours in the apartment block next-door thought it was real. I remember the excitement from our Beagle, Geordie, when we arrived home from a trip away, where she’d see us at the back gate and race around to the back door on the other side to greet us.
For some reason, I remember the interesting food creations that my brother used to try and encourage me to eat. Being six years older than me, I suppose he realised that I probably would follow what he would do, though I was smart enough to know not to eat his lemonade ice block/tomato sauce mixture that resulted in an immediate bout of illness in the laundry sink…
Still, those were the days when I wasn’t too uncool to be around. Thankfully we’ve passed the teenage years where constant arguing was a sibling necessity, but I also think we’ve passed the stage of fort making with mattresses. I seem to remember it being a common pastime to re-enact the Scar/Simba Lion King battle between our two armchairs that would result in someone falling down the gap in the middle – usually me, though that was inevitable with my insistence on being Scar because I thought he was “prettier”.
Our house also held memories with the extended family. I remember setting up a pop-up tent in our sunroom to have mini picnics on flower-shaped plates with my second cousins, and setting up a “haunted hallway” with my cousin, which we forced my brother and other cousin to walk through – that was prior to the deodorant fights which resulted in a very strongly scented house (probably not good for our health either).
I long for the wisdom that I know my grandmothers would impart on me now, but I am so thankful for the memories that I have of them at that house. I loved hearing stories from my maternal Grandma about her naughty dog Jack, the mutt who I distinctly remembering hearing caused havoc when he jumped out of a car upon knowing he was being taken to the vet for an injection, to interrupt a children’s birthday party, run along the table and spill tomato sauce everywhere (don’t question it, that’s how it was). I remember the times when I was just learning how to write, and so we would write little notes to one another telling each other about what we did that day, some of which I still have. My memories with my paternal Grandma, although different, are ones I also cherish. She emphasised the importance of deportment, as well as spelling and grammar - I bet you couldn’t spell “ophthalmologist” if I asked you to!
Sunday mornings at our house were spent snuggling under the doona watching Video Hits with the family, clips including Britney Spears, Shania Twain, NSYNC, Spice Girls and Sixpence None The Richer with their hit 1999 “Kiss Me”, just to name a few. Waking up was always a special time for me because I associate it with the best time of year when you’re a kid – Christmas! Our household was a different in that Santa used to come a little bit earlier than other houses. I’d go to bed early and wake to hear sleigh bells (thanks family…) still on Christmas Eve to signal the opening of our presents – mine all proudly bought for a total of $20 from the two-dollar shop. They must have been alright though because my brother still has the weird gremlin figurine I gave him, my dad still has the mini statue of a man at a petrol pump and my mum, a mini piano that plays Fur Elise when you open the lid. That house was also the one that I lost my fetish for dummies (the ones babies have in their mouths before you wonder what I’m talking about!) because Santa requested he had them for Rudolph. He even had the courtesy to write me a thank you note with remarkably similar handwriting to my mum's!
These were the sorts of memories that gave me an overwhelming sense of nostalgia when I was back in the halls. It was devoid of our furniture and was no longer one single house, but I still remembered the gravelly sound of tricycles on the pavement outside, the cold winter mornings we sprinted across the backyard to get brekkie when our kitchen was being renovated, and the number of times my dad raced us around the backyard in a wheelbarrow.
In some sense, it’s sad to know that a chapter of my life has been closed, but really, there’s no arguing it was a damn good one - one that I wouldn’t trade apple tree climbing for any day.