Sunday, January 6, 2008
Another day at the beach, this time in Narawntapu National Park. Hot sun, cold, cold water - but not icy and so I gathered my courage into a ball and dived in, and it was just so wonderful to be bobbing and floating free. The girls loved it too: Lucy is, in her own words, "mad keen on rock climbing" - she's like a beach goat, scrambling about; and Nell spent the time chasing the tiny blue and red and pink crabs in the shallows.
So many parts of the day hit me with memories from my own childhood: the rockpools with their colours and critters; the sand stinging my face and legs when the gusts blew off the ocean; packs of kids ranging about the campsite, brown and ever-so-slightly feral from days outside, up to adventures and filled with plans to be kept from the parents at all costs; red, red bodies, so red I flinch and stare; the flies (the flies, the flies - gah!) everywhere as we barbecued the sausages, cooking and then eating with one hand, the other in constant motion, waving the buggers away; and then that phrase from 80s Australian television, "Remember the Aeroguard and avagoodweekend" (are we still allowed to roll on chemicals or have they been banned?).
On the way home, I experienced what my Mum and Dad must have had so many times: driving and talking quietly while brown kids slept in the back. It was of those moments when I realised, out of the blue, that I am a parent. Sometimes I forget but so many echoes from my own childhood made me stop for a second with the shock of it all: I am a parent and I've just taken the kids to the beach, like thousands of parents before me. It made me feel more Australian, and more pleased to be Australian, than any flag raising or anthem singing ever could.
It wasn't just the flies hanging about the barbecue. When people ask if I will ever move back to the mainland I burble on about swings and roundabouts and pluses and minuses and give and take and work-family balance but really, this is why I will stay:
Down here, I know where to go so that I can show my kid something that makes her heart stop with joy.