Here we be, rolling into the last week of the school holidays. Me, I'm limping to the finish line a little. This last week I want to really try and find my inner domestic goddess and rise above my currently toxic relationship with the soul-crushing nature of housework. I want to ignore the damn pain in my body. And mostly, I want to focus on the charming, sweet and wondrous moments that pepper my days with all these tiny buddies, rather than the challenging ones.
Last month our local paper the Illawarra Mercury asked me to write a piece for them on 'my favourite childhood holiday spot.' It's so fascinating to explore childhood memories with an entirely new perspective. Now I am a parent I realise what brats we were. Oops! Sorry! I laughed my head off writing this piece, even if nobody else will.
Dedicated to my beloved Dad, Frank. Sorry I dropped all those tent poles.
For a decade of my childhood, my family spent every January at the caravan park at Narrabeen Lakes, even though we lived only half an hour inland in the Sydney suburbs. When I was a young adult I found this hilarious and bizarre, but now I have three small children, the logic of the plan seems entirely clear. A swift escape home from a tent stuffed full of fighting, farting children: sheer brilliance.
I remember constant packing and unpacking, the smell of sausages and sunscreen, and the misery of setting up camp, with my father shouting as his three children sulkily held tent poles upside down or dropped them at inopportune moments. ‘Hold it! Just hold it! What is the bloody matter with you kids?’
I remember the orange tent with three rooms. It was very complicated to erect. We dropped a lot of poles and pegs and my dad would need the afternoon to recover, sleeping on a banana lounge outside the annex with a Jeffrey Archer novel over his face.
Two rooms in the tent were for sleeping, and they were jammed full of canvas stretchers and damp pillows and overflowing suitcases. The outer room held the esky and the zippered pantry (full of Coco Pops and long-life milk), bikes and boogie boards and fishing poles, and the dustpan and broom with which my mother tried hopelessly to stem the tide of sand.
One night, it rained so mercilessly that by morning, water covered the floor. It had soaked the Hypercolour t-shirts and the Okanui shorts and the Coco Pops and the Jeffrey Archer novels. Everything was wet and my dad was too miserable to shout. There was nothing for it but to pack up every last sodden, squeaky item, load them into the Tarago and head for home, just half an hour away. There we found a hot shower, a washing machine and a room where each separate member of the family could be blessedly, delightfully alone. And when the sun came back out, we went camping again.